By Nikko Ramos
The dictionary defines the word team as “a group of players forming one side in a competitive game or sport.” Now, while Mr. Oxford isn’t necessarily wrong with the explanation, he does, however, come up short in expressing what the word truly means. Not in the linguistic sense, which, without question, is his expertise, but in what it means to people—to athletes, especially, who are a part of it, to the fans who support them, and to the old men and women, long from the years of sneakers and jerseys, who speak of the teams they used be part of as if they were platoons in battle, choirs in concert, or families in love.
A team surely, then, must be more than just a subdivision of groups indicated by similarity in uniform. It even seems quite disrespectful to minimize the word to, well, just a word. To those who have been a part of a team, are close to it, or are around it, nothing is more special, more rare, while to those who have been against it, there is nothing more intimidating, more unbreak-able, more daunting, than a true team: One bound by more than stripes and colors on fabric, or letters on the chest, or scoreboards and wins and losses—something more than a roster, more than a word, something more.
No ‘I’ in ‘Team’
Where do you end and where does a team begin?
Current UP point guard and National Team standout Diego Dario is entering his second season with the Fighting Maroons. He says the first thing about coming together is about recognizing what sets you apart. “We all come from different backgrounds, different upbringings. Even if we’re all in college, our age gaps are sometimes quite big. There’s bound to be friction at the start, especially because you’re all competitive athletes,” he says. “Make an effort to understand your teammates. Pride and ego are different in a team. You lose your ego when you put on that jersey. After that, all that matters is having pride in the school you’re representing. Once it becomes about that, something larger than yourself, that’s when you know you’re a team.”
ONE BIG FIGHT
Ateneo Lady Eagles alum Gretchen Ho looks back at the team’s success in her time.
Checking that ego when you’re a highly touted rookie class entering a high-profile program is easier said than done. For five years, however, that’s exactly what the “Fab Five” of the Ateneo Lady Eagles did. Gretchen Ho, Dzi Gervacio, Jem Ferrer, Fille Cainglet, and A Nacachi were among the most recruited high school volleyball players in the country. They were committed to Ateneo and were among the UAAP’s top draws during their run, a big contributing factor in the rise of interest in the sport nationwide. Apart from their on-court abilities, people couldn’t get enough of them and their teammates because of something else, a little extra fight, a little extra heart, a little extra of everything, as one.
“Our bond is special because we went through a lot of hardships as batchmates,” Gretchen recalls. “During our first year, as rookies, we were so determined to make a mark and lift Ateneo up.”
“We fought together, won together, and lost together. We never played for ourselves. We played for each other, for our school, for the people in the stands supporting and praying for us,” she recalls.
“We also had some tough times,” she continues. “We agreed and disagreed on a lot of things. The five of us just had such different personalities. At the end of the day, though, no matter what our dissimilarities were, I believe none of us could’ve gotten far without each other. That’s the beauty of it. Ateneo started its volleyball program with Coach Roger [Gorayeb] and the five of us. Because of that, our bond will always be strong,” ends the now-TV host and owner of, fittingly enough, The Inspired Project—a clothing line with encouraging messages emblazoned on the products—similar to the hustle, heart, and team play that is permanently inscribed in Gretchen herself, the same fire that spread to her teammates, supporters, and anyone and everyone that was part of her life’s team.
See, that’s what Mr. Oxford missed out on in his definition. A team, a true team, is one that’s unfair to measure in quantity. It is felt during painful losses, during against-all-odds wins, during late-night phone calls, and “Don’t worry, I’ll help you out” text messages in times of need.
It’s not something you find, but something you build and continue to talk about even when you’re old, gray, and long from your years of sneakers and jerseys—just ask any student-athlete!
What you can learn from these life-long friendships
We, not me. When you work with others, team goals are always more important than individual ones. There’s a reason a championship trophy is always bigger than the one the MVP gets.
Wins > Stats. Whether you personally score two or 30 points, it shouldn’t matter as long as your team scores more than the other team. Always look at the bigger picture!
More than a game. If you do things right, you won’t just have teammates for a season, you’ll have brothers and sisters for life.
For richer or poorer. Some teams are remembered for banners, titles, and highlights. Most athletes forever remember teammates, in times of losses. Victories polish you. Defeats, however, mold your core.
Practice makes perfect. The habits you form and the values you pick up from being part of a team are great building blocks to the loyalty and dependability you’ll need for personal relationships.
THE BOND OF BROTHERS AND SISTERS
The best teams in UAAP and NCAA history
1. San Beda "Super Six" Coach Ronnie Magsanoc’s one-year run with the Red Lions may have begun with only six players on their roster, but it ultimately ended with a title. They conquered the season with one theme: Stick together.
2. DLSU “Bad Boys” Mac Cardona, Joseph Yeo, Jerwin Gaco, and Carlo Sharma—this era in La Salle basketball had a lot of characters that some people may have disliked because of their sheer passion and unbridled spirit. They tuned out the naysayers and have remained close ever since.
4. ADMU "Drive For Five Winning" fixes everything, as they say. Five straight titles for the Norman Black-led Blue Eagles produced a lifetime of friendships, so much so that former roommates Emman Monfort and Greg Slaughter are still running pick and rolls together in the PBA!
5. UP 1986 Ronnie Magsanoc, Benjie Paras, and Eric Altamirano have gone on to garner PBA titles, individual awards, even championships, as coaches. These three men have accomplished so much, and it all started in 1986 when veteran guards Ronnie and Eric, aided by rookie center Benjie, gave UP a UAAP title. Yes. UP. Champions. In Men’s Basketball. Yes, this actually happened.
6. Pido’s Tigers Coach Pido Jarencio once literally ran to the court to pick up his own injured player and carry him back to the bench. He was tough on his boys, but he loved them—and it was reciprocated. Every UST Growling Tiger in those years shaved their heads. For Coach Pido and for each other.
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Image by Vyn Radovan