MANILA, Philippines – A grueling, exhausting 17-day training camp in Japan was all worth it for head coach Francis Vicente, who on Wednesday touted the improvements made by the national women's volleyball team.
"Happy ako, kasi 'yung gusto kong mangyari, nangyari," Vicente said upon the team's arrival in Manila on Wednesday afternoon.
"'Yun ang kagandahan – 'yung disiplina ng team, andoon. In terms of camaraderie, 'yung friendship nila, nagmahalan sila doon at nag-uusap sila. Walang isnaban," he added.
[I'm happy because what I wanted to happen, happened. The team's discipline was there, and in terms of camaraderie and friendship, they also improved. They talked to each other and they didn't snub each other.]
The team opened camp in Okayama last July 17, and played a series of matches with the Seagulls. More than the scrimmages, however, the Filipinas learned plenty from the Japanese coaches who took over the practice sessions.
"At the beginning, natatalo kami kasi hindi kami maka-cope sa bilis ng mga kalaban namin," Vicente admitted. "In the long run, noong nagtuturo na 'yung Japanese coach, medyo nagbabago 'yung pace ng laro nila."
"So, kino-correct lahat ng mga mali, pati 'yung mga bad habits ng mga players," he added.
[At the beginning, we lost because we couldn't keep up with our opponents' pace. However, when the Japanese coach started teaching them, their pace improved. They also corrected our players' mistakes and their bad habits.]
Even the Philippines' coaching staff, led by Vicente, learned a lot from their Japanese counterparts. "It was a good thing for us, that we learned also as coaches," Vicente said.
The Japanese coaches not only helped the Filipinas play at a faster pace, they also taught them how to be smart inside the court and worked on their fundamental skills, such as spiking and blocking.
Though the Philippines were unable to beat the Okayama Seagulls during their time there, their hard work bore fruit by the time they got to Osaka.
In the second leg of their camp, the Filipinas managed to win two matches, including a four-setter over Kansai University before they left for the Philippines.
"Noong lumipat na kami sa Osaka, iba na 'yung nagiging outcome ng mentality nila," Vicente said of his players. "Ayaw na nilang magpatalo."
[When we went to Osaka, their mentality became different. They didn't want to lose.]
The Filipinas were also more composed and relaxed inside the court, as opposed to how they played in Okayama where they had a tendency to become rattled whenever their foes started to catch up or build a big lead.
"Sabi noong Japanese (coaches), your team has improved in service and movement. Bumilis sila," said Vicente. "Hopefully, ma-carry nila sa susunod na liga nila."
[The Japanese coaches said the team has improved in service and movement. They became faster, and hopefully we can carry this to the next league.]
Aside from the progress made in the team's skills and conditioning, Vicente was thrilled to report that the Filipinas' chemistry greatly improved over the course of the camp. With several members of the national team playing for different teams – and even different leagues – their 17-days abroad helped them to get to know each other better, especially as Vicente and the coaching staff imposed a cellphone and social media ban.
"These are all superstars," said Vicente. "Napakahirap hawakan niyan. Pero nakita mo 'yung superstar, nag-uusap sila, walang isnaban. 'Yun 'yung biggest improvement nila. 'Yun 'yung biggest improvement – na 'yung ego, bumaba. Nakakatuwa."
"Hinahayaan ko sila. Walang mangi-isnab, mag-usap kayo. Sabay-sabay kami nagdi-dinner, sabay-sabay kami nagla-lunch. Kapag may nag-away dito, 'Ano problema niyo?' Wala namang (away), walang nangyaring ganoon. Naging mabait sila sa isa't isa," he added.
[These are all superstars, but we saw them talking each other. That's their biggest improvement, their egos deflated. So I just let them be, I let them talk to each other. We went to dinner together, to lunch together. No one fought; they were all nice to each other.]
The national team will take a brief break on Thursday before going back to work on Friday. On August 9, they will open their campaign in the 2017 Asian Women's Volleyball Championship against Hong Kong at the Alonte Sports Arena in Biñan, Laguna.
Vicente is confident that all the lessons that his team learned in Japan will be of great use to them when they compete next week.
"Hopefully, 'yung natutunan nila sa Japanese, ma-adapt nila, 'yung technique and technical side ng Japanese in terms of playing the sport," he said. "Kaya naman. Confident ako na kaya nila."
[Hopefully, they can apply what they learned from the Japanese coaches to their games, the technique and technical side of the Japanese in terms of playing the sport. I'm confident that they can do it.]
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