Rald Ricafort knows no ‘shortcut’ for success at PLDT, but players thirsty to bounce back
MANILA, Philippines — Rald Ricafort had a promising first stint as Premier Volleyball League head coach after steering Petro Gazz to its second straight Reinforced Conference title last December.
While he knows that the breakthrough doesn’t guarantee instant success for his new team PLDT, the youthful coach vows to light a fire under the High Speed Hitters to finally get over the hump this 2023 PVL season.
“As I mentioned to the team, there’s no magic trick or shortcut, we just have to bring that fire inside the [players]. And bring back their enjoyment in playing the sport we love,” Ricafort told Inquirer Sports. “Aside from the tactics and strategies, we just want to help these players to improve and take to the next level.”
When asked what he can offer to the PLDT team that only reached the semifinals round once out of its four tournaments played in the PVL, Ricafort answered: mental toughness.
“I think in every conference there are a lot of factors that affect a team. Not to take away the efforts of other teams, but for one, I think if we can work on their mental strength or how they can have a mindset that will help them to stay focused during difficult situations,” he said.
THIRST FOR SUCCESS
The former Petro Gazz coach took over the coaching reins of PLDT this month and his new team and its players have been receptive to the changes in training.
“So far, it’s all positive. From management to the players, they are very welcoming to us,” said Ricafort in Filipino. “We enjoy our practice. Everyone’s going all out, you can see that everyone is thirsty to bounce back. We’re still finalizing the lineup and we’re introducing the system we want to use this year.”
The core members of the High Speed Hitters, bannered by veteran setter Rhea Dimaculangan, Mika Reyes, Dell Palomata, and libero Kath Arado, make the job easier for Ricafort, who brought his deputy Arnold Laniog on their new journey.
“The core players make a huge impact on the team. Aside from the skills, these are the leaders that the team’s been looking up to. So far everything’s been great, they are all coachable,” Ricafort said. “Hopefully, their improvement will come out in our games. So far, Ysa [Jimenez] and [Mich Morente] are our new recruits. We’re still looking to get one or two players to complete the lineup and the management has been very supportive.”
Leaving his team for the past four years after winning a championship wasn’t easy. But Ricafort keeps his faith in PLDT’s long-term plan for his growing coaching career and the High Speed Hitters, believing they can work on the same page
“After our championship, PLDT was quick to reach out. They told me the long-term direction that they want for the team and also for me. At that time we were still enjoying our championship so I didn’t think about it first,” said Ricafort, who has been part of the Angels’ coaching staff since they joined the PVL in 2018 before getting his promotion last year.
“It was very difficult, of course. I’ve been close to the players and staff. I’m very thankful and grateful to Petro Gazz. It’s just that PLDT and I share the same direction. That’s why I decided to take on a new challenge with this team.”