Last week, I discussed how volleyball, most especially in the women’s collegiate level, has become one of the nation’s beloved sports. From being held in half-empty school gymnasiums to sold-out twenty thousand-seater arenas, it proves to be one of the rising sports in our country today. We’ve seen participating schools of the UAAP modernizing their programs, sending their teams to different provinces, even to neighboring Asian countries to train and master the higher levels of the sport.
It is strange though that even with the sport’s increasing popularity, there is a lack of will and effort in unifying programs apart from the collegiate level. We have yet to create a formidable senior team to debut internationally, a Team Philippines that comprises only of the finest athletes that our country boasts of. I believe that we could have jumpstarted this program sooner and been more prepared coming into the Southeast Asian Games this August.
From the standpoint of volleyball veterans as in the likes of Nene Ybañez-Chavez and Rosemarie Prochina, who were part of the roster that won the last gold medal for the country in the 1993 SEA Games, it is wonderful to see that the sport made a reawakening during the past five years. Yes, some may say that the Philippines has recently formed teams that competed internationally, but none of those teams were part of a program built neither for continuity nor for excellence. These were all fit for a short-term plan and some would even claim that it was done all for business. I’d have to agree with the idea that the Philippines could be at par, at least, with some of our neighbor countries were it not for the politics involved in our system. I wouldn’t want to point fingers and stir things up even more, but instead I want to challenge the authorities to unite and translate the sport’s strong presence in our country to creating a sustainable program for national athletes.
I write this letter as an athlete, appealing to the authorities who were once athletes themselves:
AN open letter to the NSAs
It is truly heartbreaking to see how, once again, we are going unprepared to the Southeast Asian Games. It is unfitting to claim that we are more ready this time compared before. Reality check: a few months preparation isn’t enough, conducting the try-outs eight months prior to the tournament isn’t enough. Other countries have been preparing for this in years. Volleyball is a team sport; it goes beyond selecting a coach to pick outstanding athletes, grouping them together, and sending them out to compete. We need to have a substantial program with a transparent system of creating our national team.
As an athlete myself, or just being a proud Filipino, I wouldn’t want someone who’s wearing my flag, who’s representing my country in the international arena simply because she was given the opportunity to do so. I want her to be there because she is qualified to do her job, because she truly deserves to be there. I don’t want other countries to recognize us for our culture of mediocrity, how we send athletes who were merely chosen because of affiliation or by close relationship. I want my Philippine Team athletes to be there because they are the best in what they do.
I want to have athletes that pour themselves day in and out, in all of their practices and tournaments because they know that this is what they’ve been waiting for all their life, because this is their life. I want them to see, understand, and eventually reach their full potential without any issues or political motivations stopping them from doing so. I don’t want them to be sent out with limited funding because no one believed in them yet. And I don’t want people clamoring for their attention only after proving everyone wrong after winning a medal; I don’t want them to be an afterthought.
I am writing not only in behalf of women volleyball athletes but also for all Filipino athletes. I truly believe that it is time to harness the innate athletic abilities of our countrymen and show the world what we are truly capable of. We need to spend more time and effort into working together instead of being divided and staying disconnected. But for now, it is only a matter of trusting in our officials that they may unite and work for the best interest of our country.