Amidst all the turmoil in the world of Philippine volleyball, one conclusion is certain: We will get nowhere as a nation if the status quo continues. Allegations here, accusations there. This is the prevailing theme in the sport today. Players are now commodities that attract revenue, as they are treated like vending machines with the most popular product inside.
What is happening? If you follow the news, the LVPI is now recognized by the FIVB, and the PVF is now suspended as per a letter from the FIVB. What are all these letters and orgs? The FIVB is obviously the governing body with regards to volleyball in the world. Their mission is to give every country representation on the world stage, i.e. our hosting of the World Women’s Club Championship. We would never qualify for that tournament with the current state of affairs, but we played as a courtesy for hosting the event. That should have sent shock waves throughout the volleyball community of what we need to shoot for. Look at Thailand! They had no hope of winning, but they played correct volleyball. The fact that their opponents were bigger and as fast as they were was an irrelevant fact. The point was they qualified for the right to represent their country/club in a world class tournament.
Now let us address our governing bodies. If we trace the history of how these groups came to be, that is a waste of time in my opinion. One fact is certain, the LVPI is now the recognized body for Philippine volleyball. The PVF is not. That is pretty simple to understand. The FIVB now grants the recognized body the authority to conduct volleyball tournaments and put up a National team. Here is where it gets a little sad.
The culture of athletes nowadays is just so different from when I played the game. I never was good enough to represent the country, but I played hard to be the best I could be. There were no monetary incentives at all, and I played because I loved the game (still do). If you wanted to make a living playing, you had to make it to the National Team. That was it. The dedication and commitment of the players back then was admirable. The effort they put into training, along with the sacrifices of a social life showed how much they wanted to represent the country.
That was what it was about back then. Now, the sense of entitlement prevails. Coaches’ hands sometimes are forced into situations that compromise their principles as sponsors now dictate what happens in most instances. Players are held hostage by people with leverage threatening to take this or that away if they play for another league or team. The game has become bastardized. The love of the game has faded, and has become more of “what I can get from the game?”
I spoke to some of the National Players of the medal years and they are very saddened by the prevailing politics of the sport. They all say one thing and that is to unify the factions and come together to produce one national team. Tony Ladimo was interviewed and he was pleading for unification. He also stated that there is no room in sports for politics, that is when the athletes suffer. Tony was a great player who never wanted the limelight. He wanted to win for the country and was willing to make the sacrifice needed to achieve it. The other players like Joanne Tomacruz and Grace Antigua were seeing a lack of heart and commitment from the players.
Now let us address player issues. In the Clash of Heroes, the purpose was to raise funds for the national team. The fans did their part and really supported. Some players were not present. Wasn’t this fund raiser to mutually benefit fan and player alike? What happened? Prior commitments here and there. This event was for you and your team, and you did not even have the courtesy to show up! I know, some players were prevented by their mother team from participating. What can a coach do in this case? This is the pressure a coach goes through when management is in control. But to me, if your prior commitments interfere with the NATIONAL TEAM activities, then I have to question your commitment and heart as to its location. It is not with the national team obviously.
Commitment to showing up is step one in the process of discipline. The coach has to reward the players that work hard and are present for practice. He would rather field a committed team of second stringers, than field a star-laden line-up who think they deserve to be there. The committed team will play better and most importantly show the younger generation that hard work and dedication are the keys to success and not star power and backers. We have to show the young kids that no one player is bigger than the game. If a player thinks they are bigger than the sport, then by all means play an individual event and not a team sport.
Let us not waste what the past players have worked so hard to achieve. Jane Buquid, Mayi Prochina and Nene Ibanez were also present to show that medals are not achieved without paying the price. Put your egos aside and place God and country first. Absent from the event were Thelma Barina and Josephine Vasquez. These two ladies struck fear in their opponents because they seemed like they were ready to die before they would accept defeat. That was the attitude the national team exuded back then, and that is why we were never taken lightly back in the day in both Men’s and Women’s events. We need to rally behind the recognized body and unite as a nation. If we cannot come together, we are doomed to mediocrity. The status quo is not working and the athletes are the collateral damage.