MANILA, Philippines -- The architect of the most dominant collegiate sports program in the UAAP is far from done.
Winning has yet to get old for coach Ana Santiago, who has turned Adamson University's softball program into the gold standard in the UAAP. Under her watch, the Lady Falcons have won 14 championships -- including a run of nine consecutive titles.
"I feel young every time we win," Santiago said in an appearance on the "So She Did!" podcast recently, where she spoke along with some of her former team members both in Adamson and the national team.
"Siguro for the past, almost one decade na ano, mag-10 years na, hindi pa rin ako nakakaramdam ng pagkapagod, or 'yung tiring sa ginagawa namin," she added.
Aside from producing 14 titles for Adamson, Santiago's team also once authored the longest winning streak in the UAAP -- a 73-game unbeaten run that has since been eclipsed by National University's women's basketball team.
Even when their winning streak was snapped, however, the Lady Falcons kept marching on and collecting titles, fending off challenges from University of Santo Tomas to show that they are still the bar.
For Santiago, this is exactly why she has never gotten tired of working even after more than 15 years in charge of the Adamson program.
"Every year, every UAAP, it's a different experience eh, and sometimes you encounter different problems," said Santiago, who has called the shots for the Lady Falcons since 2004. "Sometimes easy, sometimes hard."
"But part 'yun ng lahat eh, because for me, kapag wala ng challenge sa 'yo, parang wala na eh, 'no? So para sa akin, every year is a challenge. Kasi nga, lahat ng UAAP team siyempre, gusto na kaming matalo, 'di ba?" she added.
One particular challenge that Santiago has to tackle repeatedly is the cyclical nature of college sports, as her players only spend five years with the team before graduating. The coach knows that she has to keep developing her players and encourage them to step up and fill the shoes of those who have left the program.
This kind of continuity is not easy to maintain, even for a coach of Santiago's caliber. She admits that at times, she looks at her roster and thinks that it will be difficult for them to win a title that year.
"Kapag nababawasan ako ng player, iniisip ko parang ang hirap manalo ngayong taon. But ang importante, gawin lang muna namin 'yung job namin, then tingnan natin kung ano ang result," she said
It gives her a special satisfaction when the Lady Falcons win despite the graduation of their "star players" -- such as what happened in Season 81, when they admittedly struggled before sweeping UST in the finals for their ninth straight crown.
"Another achievement na naman, na despite nawalan tayo ng magagaling na star player na tinatawag natin, nagko-continue 'yung pagiging champion namin," said Santiago. "So talagang iba-iba 'yung feelings na 'yun."
Santiago is also determined to keep improving as a coach, to make sure that she -- and her team -- stays ahead of the curve.
"Ang sa akin is always na sumasabay sa new trend," she explained. "Hindi ka pupwedeng dahil nag-champion ka ngayong taon, ito ang ginawa mo, 'yun na lang ulit ang gagawin mo."
"Kailangan natin sumabay sa mga pagbabago sa bawat taon na dumarating," she said. "Siguro 'yun 'yung isa sa mga dahilan kung bakit name-maintain namin siya."
The Lady Falcons' bid for a 10th straight softball title ended before it could begin, as the UAAP season was cancelled because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. It was admittedly difficult for Santiago and her team, who were all ready and determined to extend their dynasty for another season.
But health and safety take precedence in these uncertain times, and Santiago said her team has accepted the decision made by the league.
"Makakasanayan din natin ang lahat-lahat," she said. "Ang kailangan lang din is always positive lang, na matatapos din itong lahat."
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).