Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Reinventing Myla Pablo

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Reinventing Myla Pablo
by rick olivares pic by richard esguerra

Minutes after taking down title favorite Ateneo in the recent Shakey’s V-League tournament, it was announced that Myla Pablo, National University’s Myla Pablo was announced as the Finals’ Most Valuable Player (she scored a total of 27 points during her team’s Game Two and Three victories). She ran to her coach, Roger Gorayeb and hugged him tight with the tears streaming down her cheeks.

A little over 10 months ago, Gorayeb was asked to serve as a consultant for National University’s floundering women’s volleyball program. They had a power packed lineup that wasn’t only under performing but they were underwhelming. Within days, there was a coaching change and Gorayeb found himself installed as head coach. The veteran coach put the girls through their paces. He though the team had too many bad habits and were lazy. After less than an hour’s practice two players sat down in the middle of the drills. Pablo and libero Fatima General.

“Kaya niyo pa ba,” asked an incredulous Gorayeb. “Ayaw niyo na?”

Pablo nodded while General took a seat by the sidelines.

“Umuwi na kayo. Hindi ko kayo kailangan dito. Kahit anim lang kami lalaban kami.”

That evening, the two girls texted their new coach and asked for forgiveness. 

The Lady Bulldogs went on a tear and managed to make the Final Four where they were ousted by La Salle. A few months later in the V-League Collegiate Conference, they looked nothing like their old selves.

Balls that normally would drop in — especially from Alyssa Valdez’ spikes — were received well. The defense was fantastic that they swept the Lady Eagles in both Games Two and Three. Aside from the sterling floor defense, Gorayeb had Pablo positioning herself where Ateneo smallish setter Gizelle Tan was situated. “Sumunod ka lang sa akin,” he would always tell not only Pablo but his wards.

Pablo was an enigma. She was very quiet and timid off the court yet on the court, especially during her debut with NU, was close to being a villainess especially with her penchant for dancing and those irritating bang bang gestures of hers after scoring a point. Gorayeb was the Ateneo Lady Eagles’ coach when they went up against those brash and loud Lady Bulldogs teams. “Akala nila that we will be intimidated by their antics,” said Gorayeb at that time. True enough, Ateneo had its revenge and NU floundered. 

As NU crashed and burned following their initial V-League title three years ago, the reconstruction of Pablo under Gorayeb begun. He got her to ditch her on court antics and instead concentrate on the game. He placed her in a leadership position as second to Jorelle Singh who captained the V-League winning side. “When I need to know something, I only ask Jorelle and Myla,” underscored the coach. “When I was coaching Ateneo, I had the girls (the Lady Eagles) carry their water jugs and equipment. Nagagalit ako kapag yung mga driver o kung sino sinong alalay ang nagbubuhat ng gamit nila. Sila yung nagkakabit ng net and nagliligpit ng gamit. It is all about learning to do the little things and discipline.”

In the early days of Gorayeb’s tenure with NU, one of the drills was to go after the ball. But they had to touch a marker before going after the ball. Pablo time and again refused to touch the marker. Gorayeb railed at her and threw her out of practice. “You cannot win a championship without discipline,” said the coach. Privately, the coach wondered about Pablo’s dependability but the girl's resistance eventually broke. 

She then began to follow the coach in everything he said. Soon enough, the young lass from Tarlac made the national team, a feat she never even thought possible. In the days preceding Game Three of the V-League Finals, Gorayeb kept telling Pablo to stick to what he was instructing her to do. “Gawin mo yan at siguradong MVP ka.”

In the post-game awards, the two girls that Gorayeb threw out of practice told never to come back were feted awards. Fatima General was the Best Libero and Pablo, the Finals MVP.

Come the UAAP season, Pablo will take over as team captain from Singh. “In volleyball, hindi ka pwedeng tahimik sa court. Bilang beterano, time niya mag-shine. Forcing her sa leadership role will help her especially when she is done playing the game."

Two nights after the win, the coach waxed eloquent about Pablo and the rest of his girls. "After a few years, these girls will stop playing and will be doing something else. They will have their studies and their volleyball careers to look back on. What they do on that court is something they will cherish forever. And I couldn’t be more proud of the girls."

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