There is no denying that Thai coach Tai Bundit is the main reason why Ateneo has turned its women’s volleyball team into arguably the best in the country in the last 2 years.
Though the Lady Eagles have already made a name for themselves as a new force to be reckoned with even before Bundit took charge, it was in Season 76 when the Katipunan squad finally toppled powerhouse La Salle in the finale and repeated the feat a year after.
However, the 24-game invincibility of Bundit and his girls in the UAAP ended last Saturday when an inspired La Salle crew finally solved the puzzle, sweeping Ateneo in Round 1.
Aside from it being the Lady Spikers’ first win against the Lady Eagles in their last 7 tussles, the victory, according to UP head coach Jerry Yee was also for them—the Filipino coaches—proving they can stand toe to toe against their foreign counterparts.
But first, a disclaimer from Yee saying, “Sabi ko nga, Tai is a friend. Coach Ramil (de Jesus) kilala naman natin. It’s not naman na may kinakampihan tayo.”
“Kaso minsan mabigat din ang dating when people clamour for foreign coaches na pumunta dito. Para namang hindi tayo marunong mag volleyball,” he said.
True enough, with the emergence of Ateneo as one of the top volleyball teams in the country, many fans have been hoping for their respective teams to tap foreign coaches to boost their chances of dethroning the back-to-back champions.
Minimal exposure for Filipino coaches
For Yee, though, the problem lies way deeper than just knowledge about the sport.
“Kasi karamihan sa fans natin out there, hindi naman sila aware sa situation ng volleyball sa bansa,” he said frankly.
“Thailand in comparison to the Philippines, malayo ‘yung grassroots program nila. Malayo ‘yung national team program nila,” he added. “They get exposed. They get tournaments and they can travel abroad. Dito sa atin ‘yung pag form ng team, minsan lang at 3 months before the competition saka tayo magfo-form.”
The lack of exposure blew the gap between the Philippines, who used to be the best in Southeast Asia, and Thailand, a team that is dominating its neighbouring countries these days.
Making ends meet, local mentors find sponsors who are willing to send them abroad to learn new techniques and to be updated with the latest developments in volleyball skills-wise.
“Malayo talaga ‘yung exposure ng foreign coaches sa local coaches pero ang local coaches, they are trying their best,” shared Yee, who was recently in Thailand with Bundit for a coaching seminar.
“‘Yun lang paglabas nila ng bansa minsan lang naman ‘yan may sponsor eh, private sponsors pa,” he added. “Not to take anything away from Tai Bundit, he is a good person and a good coach. Pero talaga namang malayo ‘yung exposure niya compared sa Filipino coaches.”
Send them abroad
These are sentiments that new UST head coach Kung Fu Reyes supports and understands fully, having been a coach for many years now.
On what the country needs to become competitive again internationally, Reyes says, “Ang kailangan mo diyan magpadala ka ng coach na Pinoy papuntang abroad para mag-aral. Uplift natin ‘yung local talents natin. Ayusin natin ang resources.”
“‘Yung mga local coaches natin kayang tumapat at sumabay. Bigyan mo lang ng resources, malayo ang mararating niyan,” he added.
Going back to the big Ateneo-La Salle battle but setting aside the rivalry, both coaches looked at the positive implication of de Jesus cracking the code of the brilliant mind of Bundit.
“The win is very, very big for us dito as local coaches na kumbaga, kaya naman natin provided the right training, the right people and the right players,” shared Yee, who mentored the likes of Melissa Gohing, Illa Santos and Jem Ferrer.
“Volleyball is the same. Marami lang iba like ‘yung structure, ‘yung genetics ng players nila,” he added. “Ayan nakita natin na not all the foreign coaches na pupunta dito eh hindi na natin kayang talunin. Maganda ‘yan at least kahit once natalo na and hopefully, makabawi pati ibang coaches.”
Filipinos are capable, indeed
For both coaches, it is not about local versus foreign talents but an explanation as to what PH needs to be at par again with the rest of the field in the international scene.
“Madami namang Pinoy coaches na nag champion na ang nakalaban ay foreign dati,” said Reyes. “Redemption for coach Ramil ‘yan na na-redeem niya ulit ‘yung team niya at na-prove naman na kaya natin makipagsabayan.”
Perhaps more than just making Ateneo a dynasty, Bundit serves as a good reminder of what PH volleyball athletes are capable of if given the right attention.
“Sponsors come from private groups eh. I pay for half of my trip and then minsan pag swerte, may makukuha tayong private sponsors na gustong tumulong sa’yo,” Yee shared. “‘Yung ganyan, hindi ganyan ang struggles ng foreign coaches. Mas maganda ‘yung support sa kanila.”
But for now, with zero complaints and 100% hearts, Filipino coaches will do their best to keep up with the changing times while hoping for a solid support to come sooner rather than later.
“We love it. It’s our passion. Okay lang naman na gumastos kami. Wala naman kaming nirereklamo,” Yee assured.
“‘Yun lang mabigat lang na parang paminsan makakarinig ka na palitan na agad ang local coaches at puro foreign na lang ipag-coach dito. Mabigat ‘yun,” he closed. — By Mac Dionisio