Language not an issue as Thai coach gets message across to Lady Eagles
MANILA, Philippines — Thai coach Anusorn “Tai” Bundit could barely speak in English. A man of few words, he didn’t even have to construct a sentence to make his point across.
“Heart-strong,” “unity,” happy,” “do,” and “believe” are the only few words he seem to know, but it turns out he didn’t need to say more to steer the Ateneo Lady Eagles to their first ever UAAP volleyball championship.
“He is a really effective coach,” said season and Finals MVP Alyssa Valdez, the Ateneo skipper who seemingly couldn’t say enough about his coach. “He really motivates us to play with heart-strong, happy and united.”
“[When he says] happy we play with a light mood. Unity, he’s reminding us to stand by our teammates no matter what because we’re a team. And heart-strong, that’s really what matters because every time you attempt to hit the ball you see to it that you give it your all it gives us that killer’s instinct,” added Valdez, who led the Ateneo’s conquest of heavy favorite De La Salle in what could be the biggest upset the league has seen so far.
Communication plays a vital part in a team sport but interestingly, Valdez thinks the language barrier between Bundit and the players even worked to the team’s advantage.
“I feel that it’s actually effective. Just think about it if he knows how to speak in Filipino, he’ll point out all the wrong things we do and it will just affect our morale. But he really can’t so all that he can really say is heart strong, happy, no problem so how can you not be inspired to play and push yourself to do your best?”
But there were still times though, where their differences got in the way of what they’re trying to do.
“Minsan, naiinis din kami. Minsan kasi yung instructions niya hindi namin naiintindihan so naiinis din siya (Sometimes it gets irritating because we couldn’t understand his instructions) so we’ll say ‘coach we cannot understand’ and eventually sasabihin niya (he’ll say) ‘we did last time,'” said Valdez.
Despite the differences, Bundit and his players will always find themselves on the same page.
“Lagi kong sinasabi na meron kaming (I always say we have a) common ground, common denominator and it’s volleyball,” Valdez said.
All the work and sacrifices put in during arduous practices also paid off for the Lady Eagles.
“If you guys could just see us during practice, you’d know how hard our practices were. Sometimes we’d lose patience because it’s really hard and tiring but at the end of the day you’d see the result,” said Valdez.
Ateneo played with nothing to lose when it dethroned La Salle in four games but easing more of the pressure was the Lady Eagles seeing their coach commending every good play with an unusual celebration — skipping at the sidelines while pumping his fists.
“He knows when they need to be of higher energy level and he also knows when they need to relax so he’s very, very good with that and I think the girls listen to him. The girls are very happy when they see him running around so he does whatever it is to make them feel light. The thing that he hates most is pressure and that’s what he wants to take away from the girls,” said the former Ateneo star and now assistant coach Charo Soriano.
“So if he can run around and dance around and laugh around to make them feel lighter so that’s what he will do. He will do anything to make the players less stiff,” added Soriano, who steered Ateneo to its first volleyball title in any league when the Lady Eagles captured the V-League crown in 2011.
“If you believe, you can do, you be happy you can win, you believe, you can win,” said rookie UAAP coach Bundit, who also serves as a national team coach in Thailand, after guiding Ateneo to the title in straight-sets Saturday.
Bundit was asked a few questions during the post-game interview following Ateneo’s improbable championship run and he simply answered “happy” almost every time.
Bundit, who orchestrated Ateneo’s turnaround in such limited time, may sound like a broken record but actually those simple words resonate like music to his players’ ears.
“It has a psychological effect. That’s what his words do. Just words, simple words from him and he changes the way we play as a team.”
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