Will former DLSU Lady Spiker Cha Cruz and other prominent volleyball players see action in the Philippine Superliga? (Photo courtesy of Arvin Lim)
4:45 a.m. You hear your alarm clock. You turn it off and stay on your bed for a while. Here we go again, another day in the making. You get up and get into your training clothes. Shirt, shorts, socks, kneepads, shoes. With a sandwich in your hand, you fill your jug with cold water. You head to the bathroom to brush your teeth, wash your face and put your hair in a bun. Call time is 5:30 a.m. at the gym. You know your coach hates late so you rush out to avoid punishment. You’ve got exactly 15 minutes to walk right from the dorm to the gym.
For the past eight years, you’ve been doing the same routine. Training-School-Dorm. Training-School-Dorm. Sometimes you even train twice in a day. Life as a volleyball player has always been that simple. No late night outs with friends. No weekends with family when there are practices and games. No boyfriends or partying during the season. No other extra-curricular activities. Just school and volleyball. You’ve sacrificed a lot for this kind of life, but it’s worth it. Volleyball is your passion. You even took a lighter course to have a flexible schedule for practices and games. After all, it was volleyball that got you that scholarship so you owe a lot to the team.
Even though volleyball has taken most of your time, you have no regrets in choosing this path. Your passion has taken you places, gotten you through high school and landed you into your university. Though sometimes you can’t help but wonder, “What’s next for me after college? After all of the hard work on the court, does it just stop there?” Yeah, you can look for work with your diploma, but how the hell can you beat all the other graduates who have been very active in school and in organizations? You brush off those thoughts about your future. Bahala na!
This is what most volleyball players go through. After all those years of hard work and sacrifice, can they really make a career out of the sport? The answer to that has always been indefinite.
There are some who are able to make a living from playing volleyball, like the legendary sisters from Letran, Michelle and Marietta Carolino, who are both working and playing for the ARMY. A former UE standout, Suzanne Roces, plays as a guest player for different teams in the Shakey’s V-League and does part-time coaching in the off-season.
On the other hand, there are also those who have stopped playing and have pursued another track, such as DLSU star Cha Cruz, who now teaches special education in an international school. She maintains that, “Volleyball as it is today cannot sustain a livelihood”. For her, playing volleyball has never been a lucrative option and she can only do it part-time at the most. But is asked if she’s willing to go professional, she says, “If katulad siya ng PBA or other professional leagues, internationally, it’s gonna be worth a shot”.
But will the Filipino community finally take a shot on professional volleyball?
Rumors about a professional volleyball league spread during the month of September 2012. It was supposedly called “Philippine Volleyball League” or the PVL. Teams were formed, players were recruited and sponsors were called in. But after a few months, the excitement faded with the unsuccessful negotiations on the TV network sponsor. It was only until recentLY that news on a professional volleyball league came out again, but this time not on the Philippine Volleyball League, but on a “Philippine Superliga”.
According to Dr. Ian Laurel, one of the main organizers of the league, the Philippine Superliga is an invitational tournament that will start this July 6 and will span for only three weeks, having game days on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. There are currently six teams on the map and 14 players for each team. Coaching some of these teams are Roger Gorayeb of ADMU, Sammy Acaylar of DLSU, Vilet de Leon of UST and Jerry Yee of Hope Christian High School.
Finally someone is willing to take a shot.
“The aim of the Philippine Superliga is really to bring up the level of volleyball in the Philippines”, Laurel mentions. He says that a professional volleyball league is the only missing piece in the pyramid that has the grassroots program at the bottom and the high school and college programs in the middle. Establishing a professional league will pull the level of playing up since college players will have more motivation to perform well with the goal of getting drafted in the professional arena. A professional league will, in turn, help us build a stronger national team since the players would be in their tiptop shape. Laurel claims that college is just the time when players would build on their strength and skill, learn how to deal with pressure and play the game maturely. College ultimately leads to the peak of a player’s career and readies her to play at a higher level, but the problem is, it ends right there. The player peaks and is gone. There is no next step.
Will the Philippine Superliga offer that next step?
Just imagine watching the volleyball greats like Michelle, Marietta, Suzanne and Cha playing together or against each other on a whole new level of volleyball. Just imagine seeing your favorite players like Rhea Dimaculangan, Aiza Maizo, Kara Acevedo, Karla Bello, Maica Morada, Nica Guliman, Joy Cases, Joy Benito and Steph Mercado returning to that court. Just imagine a league where these players can be traded and shuffled to form the best teams. Done imagining?
Good. Because this will really happen in the Philippine Superliga this July 6 and we need YOUR support to make it work. Be a witness to a huge milestone in Philippine volleyball and come watch the games.
We, volleyball players, are ready to wake up to a better morning and a promising future ahead.
Follow Gretchen Ho on Twitter at @gretchenho.