One of the most powerful words in the universe — words that you and I and anybody else wants to succeed in anything, sports or otherwise, ought to memorize — were said by a wise man: “I say if you believe, you can do it. You play happy, you can do it. You believe to win, you can win. I talk to players everyday to believe they can win.”
Those words came from the Ateneo volleyball coach Anusorn Bundit. He’s from Thailand. But he’s now here in Manila and has turned the Ateneo Lady Eagles into the toast of Philippine sports.
We were at the SM Mall of Asia last Saturday night. Just hours after Ateneo defeated La Salle in the UAAP Women’s Volleyball championships, the blue eagles soared while the green archers missed the target. You could see it from the faces of the hundreds that swarmed MOA: those wearing blue sported smiles from ear to ear; those in green endured frowns of shock.
The La Salle girls carried a 30-game winning streak when they met Ateneo in the finals.
They lost the first game. Shocker! In Game 2, they recovered to force the duel. Sadly, La Salle lost the last two games, including the winner-take-all last Saturday. After 30 games of being undefeated, they lost three of the last four.
Alyssa Valdez of Ateneo stood not only as the MVP of the season and the finals but also as hero. We spotted a few in SM MOA who wore, like we would NBA stars like LeBron, jerseys with ‘VALDEZ’ printed at the back. In the front pages of the newspapers here in Manila, her charismatic smile adorned the newstands.
‘Heart Strong’ and ‘Play Happy’ were the by-words that carried this Ateneo to clinch their first-ever volleyball women’s title. These are words we should forever remember: Be strong. Believe. Be happy. Smile.
I watched the previous games of these two squads on Balls HD channel and the nice thing is, the girls are always smiling. After a spike and a point, they group together, slap high-fives, commend each other. They’re a team of closely-knit players whose mantra says… we’re-in-this-together.
The major reason for Ateneo’s win: their mentor. “Coach Tai’s arrival was a big factor for us,” Valdez was quoted as saying. “If we’re gonna rate it with 100 percent as the highest, I’d say he’s at 110 percent.”
The funny thing is, if you watched the TV games, Coach Tai was difficult to comprehend while he huddled his players. His English is not as good as ours, and so you’d think, “How can they understand their coach?”
They did. And more than that, the coach’s belief rubbed off on the girls. “He never stops pushing us, giving us confidence. So on our part, with coach’s vote of confidence, there’s no reason for us to doubt ourselves,” said Valdez in the Phil. Star article, “To Lady Eagles, heart-strong means ‘if you believe, you win’.”
Someone once said: “It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.”
Who said that quote that fits the Ateneo story? Muhammad Ali.