(From The Freeman)
Life in sports should be more than just about basketball. It must be a way of life. This was the main message that Batang Gilas head coach Sandy Arespacochaga relayed to the Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu basketball team in an online forum via zoom recently.
Breaking down the school’s mocker “Magis Eagles” as his guide, he said that this was already a bar set for all to reach. Referring to ‘magis,’ “The name itself carries something heavy, a responsibility, right away. Without even playing, you’re already held to high standard,” Arespacochaga challenged. This challenge was to live lives whose impact was to be made not only in basketball but more importantly in life. “Magis should be more than a name on your jersey. By the way that you act, by the way that you behave, by the way that you are as persons, as people,” he added.
When referring to “eagle,” Arespacochaga, who once played for the Blue Eagles basketball team of Ateneo de Manila, used the eagle’s trait as a predator to seek greatness. As a predator, the eagle is always on the hunt, is tenacious and aggressive. He then advised the audience to bring this tenaciousness to practice and to strive for more. “If you want to become great, you combine magis and the characteristics of an eagle. Be tenacious. Be like a predator in going after greatness,” he stressed.
Coach Sandy, who has won nine UAAP championships as an assistant coach, cited the example of Thirdy Ravena as someone who really worked doubly hard to improve his craft. He shared how video sessions of Ateneo were highlights of the team’s mistakes and how Ravena was a “star of the video.” But instead of putting Ravena down, this gave him a mindset of “I need this to get better.” This worked so well that Ravena was tapped to play in the Japanese B. League 2020-21 season for San-en NeoPhoenix, the first ever Filipino basketball player to play professionally in Japan. Coach Sandy, also an assistant coach of the Philippine national team, bared how Ravena stood out as the best player of the game in the Gilas Pilipinas vs. Indonesia FIBA Asia Qualifier match last February, outdoing his teammates that included PBA superstars like brother Kiefer, CJ Perez, Poy Erram and Roger Pogoy.
When asked about his achievements, he downplayed his two UAAP high school championships as head coach and nine college titles as assistant coach. He said that his biggest achievements are his players who grow up to become who they are today, citing the likes of Dr. Johann Uichico (son of Coach Jong Uichico) who once played for both the ADMU high school and college teams, his friendship with Larry Fonacier, one-time student manager Trinca Diploma who is now a lawyer working in the Supreme Court and courtside reporter Selina Dagdag. “Trophies rust, people don’t,” he said. “Don’t just become good basketball players. Become great people.” – Rico Navarro, Columnist