Armed with a bright and sunny personality reminiscent of her hometown Los Angeles, Airess Padda flew to Manila hoping to make a difference in the embattled women’s volleyball team of Adamson.
Wreathed in smiles, the former California Collegiate Athletic Association standout took on the challenge as new head coach, taking the reins from Sherwin Meneses and signalling the dawn of a new era for the San Marcelino crew.
But if you think she will be the second coming of legendary coach Minerva Dulce Pante—at the helm of Adamson during its glory days—and apply a motherly approach, you are dead wrong.
“(It’s been) brutal. They hate me. I’m just playing,” Padda revealed with a giggle when asked about the training experience so far.
She may be kidding but based on players’ reaction to the mentor’s ‘perfectionist’ approach, the hours they’ve spent in training have been nothing short of rigid and detailed.
And with the way the Lady Falcons have been performing as of late, finishing in seventh place in Seasons 77 and 78, this, perhaps, is the best way to wring the girls back to their lethal form.
On first impressions not lasting, Padda shares: “It is tough. I’m tough. From Day 1 they saw me as a woman so they automatically thought it was gonna be easier. It turns out, I’m probably tougher than a lot of the male coaches out here.”
“I just believe in working hard and you play like you practice. I’m a lover but I’m also very tough on them,” she added.
So far, the tough love is working.
Having broken the cultural differences and getting straight down to work, the new coach, through agility drills and conditioning, has cultivated a culture of hard work amongst her wards, making them ‘stronger and a lot faster.’
Biting her tongue at the slightest taste of slacking off, Padda takes a step back and says: “I think overall I’m good with our progression but because I’m a coach and I always want more and I want perfection, it’s still not enough for me.”
“I know that we can go harder. I know that I can be harder on myself and the girls but overall, it’s been a great experience for them,” she added.
The preparations for Season 79, Padda says, does not end after she and her wards come out of the 4 corners of the Adamson gym.
With little knowledge about the competition she is set to face in 2017, the coach has spent a big chunk of her time watching videos online and scouting the opponents currently participating in the V-League.
Before people start riding on the hype train, however, she admits: “I don’t think it’s competitive enough but this year is gonna be a rebuilding year for us.”
Taking the challenge one game at a time, she adds: “I think for this year, my goal is not to come out here and beat everybody. I think my goal is get them to compete every game, every minute of practice.”
Already getting the feel of being a part of the UAAP community, Padda attended Adamson’s first salvo in the men’s basketball tournament Sunday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Witnessing the thousands in attendance and experiencing the electric atmosphere, the heiress to the coaching throne can’t help but feel excited for her and her Lady Falcons to take centerstage and pull a couple of surprises.
“Hopefully we can represent our school in the best way that we can. My goal is to finish better than we did last year which was seventh. If I finish sixth, I just stepped up,” she told FOX Sports.
Maintaining a sunny yet feisty demeanor, she closed by saying: “It’s gonna be a great season for them. I’m excited. I’m exciting.” — By Mac Dionisio