Playing volleyball in school skirts and blouses with piping

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Watching the Ateneo-La Salle women’s volleyball championship last Saturday turned into an exercise of before and now for me as a matter of course. When one sees the past juxtaposed with the present, it is certainly a sign of times gone by when the memories light up. I couldn’t deny that a lot of water has passed under the bridge.

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But first it is to be commended that at last women’s sports are being taken seriously enough by the schools, which now form teams, acquire coaches, allow room for supporters, provide the right venues and hold meaningful competitions with other schools. I am speaking here of girls’ schools, particularly the convent schools.

As for the universities now giving time and resources to women’s sports, it is a matter of gender equality and it took them so long. I suspect this new state of sports affairs was not voluntary. Guidelines and standards have been imposed by Education authorities to bring us to the age of common sense, equality and serious attention to sports. It is about time we keep up with the rest of the world.

And so back to the past. I was in the volleyball team in senior high school in a setup light years away from the women’s volleyball circumstances of today. We had no coach and we had no outside competition. Our games were strictly intramural and our perennial competitors the junior class that followed us. The school was new and the playground was a patch of earth that turned to mud when it rained in front of the main newly-constructed high school building. We just dug in two poles temporarily into the earth and strung a net. There was one volleyball. And so it went all year. It was really Physical Education, a requirement, not exactly a promotion of sports. Yet we did enjoy competing against each other at occasions like the feast of St. Theresa of Avila (our school was St. Theresa’s College, Baguio), the annual school fair, the day just before Christmas and summer vacations, on Mother Superior’s feast day, etc.

And we paid for our uniforms which consisted of a blouse with blue piping (the juniors had the same blouse with red piping). Note it was a blouse, no convent girl wore t-shirts at the time. It was the period of strict parameters for proper dress, no exposure of limbs, etc. Shorts may have been heard of but never seen in public. That sportswear or leisure item was not in our universe. So, we played volleyball in our school skirts with the blouses with piping. That was our sports uniform.

Who were interested to watch? The whole school from the grade school (boys up to 3rd grade only), the teachers, the nuns, the school administrative and maintenance staff, the occasional parent who strayed in by accident. There was an outside umpire who was called to perform during these competitions. He was an older brother of one of our schoolmates (studying Physical Education, I think) and must have spread the word around because suddenly we had a small number of high school boys pretending to be interested in their sisters’ sports activities coming around to watch if they were free from classes. But otherwise, it was a strictly school affair with no outside competition or meaning. It was Physical Education.

Now my granddaughters’ convent school has an indoor swimming pool, a splendid basketball court in a sports building. They have a soccer team, a volleyball team and more. And they were one of the last to build their sports center. All the other girls’ schools were ahead, they must have had to keep up to the new standards. Changing times have brought on positive results.

When my daughter was in that same school, I do not remember what sports she indulged in. If she did, she did not mention it or I don’t remember. Then she went to university and the next thing I knew she was in the track and field team doing sprints and hurdles. It was hard to believe but the opportunity must have come encouraging her to join a team which had a track and field venue and the NCCA competitions (now UAAP) to take on.

A granddaughter is now in the grade school soccer team and loving the competition with other schools. She is in school in an era that encourages her to take sports seriously with all the support necessary.

Now the teams are provided with everything–coaches, uniforms, shoes, cheer brigades, top of the line venues and serious competition. How else did women’s volleyball attract an audience 21,000 last Saturday? I am sure they had more than one volleyball along the way to that final game.

But nevertheless, it is not envy that drives this discussion. We had no complaints in our day and I enjoyed my volleyball experience just as much as the present day volleyball belles are doing.

Our experiences echo. When we were the senior volleyball team, we swept all the games against what we considered the hapless juniors. Until the final game of the year turned up, the definitive one that would make us the undisputed champions. W e trotted into the field all proud and confident that another victory was near. Except we lost, the underdogs whipped us decisively in front of a disbelieving school crowd. It was real, tragic, a dreadful come-down. So, we cried as the new winners wordlessly watched in disblief at their victory and our sorrow. I knew exactly what La Salle felt last Saturday and my heart went out to them. Girls, you will soon come back to sports joys in this new world of women at play.

miongpin@yahoo.com

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