People & Inspiration

#PlayLikeAGirl: PVL Stars Alyssa Valdez, Myla Pablo, And Jovelyn Gonzaga On Redefining Strength

#PlayLikeAGirl: PVL Stars Alyssa Valdez, Myla Pablo, And Jovelyn Gonzaga On Redefining Strength

 

When one thinks about women in sports, we automatically think "strong." To be athletic means to be hard at work, training day and night, maintaining a lean physique, can conquer everything. This is the inspiration that keeps athletes on their toes, apart from the passion that they carry for their chosen sport.

In today’s modern world, where influence plays a big part in shaping the mindset of the youth, these women in sports emit a positive energy whether they are seen on or off the court. This kind of impact is the force that the young ones can lean to. It’s no wonder athletes are the role models we need, as they carry the qualities we’re all seeking to have.

And now that the Premier Volleyball League has once again began, we sat down with some of our favorite power players this year. These ladies are prominent in the scene—we’ve seen them play in the collegiate scene, and through the years, we’re witnesses to their growth as they play in the professional volleyball arena. Alyssa Valdez, Myla Pablo, and Jovelyn Gonzaga talk about what it’s like to #PlayLikeAGirl, the challenges they faced and how they conquered them, and, most importantly, how they build and live that strength—not just as athletes, but as females.

Alyssa Valdez, Creamline Cool Smashers

Volleyball is almost synonymous to Alyssa Valdez. Her name is the first in mind when the topic of the sport is raised—her countless awards and huge following (she’s the second most followed professional volleyball player on Instagram) are proof of this. We see her grinning from ear to ear in photos and interviews, but behind those smiles lies the journey that led her to where she is now.

As the only girl in the family, it’s a misgiving for the 25-year-old; she also used to be “lampa” and “super payat,” as Alyssa describes. But instead of feeling discouraged, she used these as motivation to grow. “It’s human nature to prove something to other people, so I made a point to prove na kaya ko talaga. I think that’s a good way of starting it, do’n ako kumuha ng inspiration,” the Creamline Cool Smashers player says.

So Alyssa worked hard. She recalls her high school days when she’d go home on weekends and instead of sleeping in, she would run. As with any sport, she needed to cope—build her body and endurance up to acquire the necessary strength needed to play the game. Her commitment and passion backed her up, until she stepped into the collegiate league and made a name for herself.

The discipline to constantly move is a big factor—the athlete believes that practice is key to confidence, and developing that confidence helps a great deal in establishing who you are. “Do it all the time. Make it to a point na nagagawa mo siya perfectly,” she offers. “You don’t want to be mediocre like everyone else. For me, by doing something effectively kahit pagod na pagod ka na, do’n ka nakakakuha ng confidence.”

That’s Alyssa Valdez talking and working it—so you best believe her advice and follow through!

Myla Pablo, Motolite Power Builders

Due to a lower back injury, Myla Pablo missed a do-or-die game for her former team Pocari Sweat Lady Warriors, which could have brought them to last year’s PVL finals game. The volleybelle recalls the incident. “As in ‘yung back ko, half ng katawan ko, sumakit talaga. Nanigas ako, hindi na ako makagalaw. Kinabahan ako,” she says. Any sports person knows that the damage, especially when an operation is required, has the potential to be irreversible, and it’s Myla’s main concern as she underwent medical consultations and treatments. She turned to her faith during that distressing time, and remained optimistic that her body will recover.

And it did. Fast forward to present, the 25-year-old is back and ready to face the pro-league again, now as frontliner to her new team Motolite Power Builders. She even bagged the PVL Reinforced Conference MVP award from the past year! It’s a fresh introduction back to the competition, complete with new teammates to work with, and Myla is positive in making things work. As the team captain, she’s keen to be the role model to the younger ones.

This leadership quality has always been ingrained in Myla. Inspiring others, no matter the circumstance, is so natural to this athlete that people are easily drawn to her confidence whether she’s on the tournament or off it. It’s the secret to her staying power.

Her advice to aspiring players? “Makinig ka sa sinasabi ng coaches mo kasi para sa’yo rin naman yun. Kapag lagi ka nilang pinapansin, it means may potential silang nakikita sa’yo na kaya pang ilabas. ‘Wag kang ma-discourage,” she ends.

Jovelyn Gonzaga, Pacific Town Army

This national volleyball team member has always been an independent woman. Since her early days in her hometown in Guimaras, Jovelyn threaded life on her own—from sending herself to high school until now that she’s professionally pursuing her athletic passion. “Sanay ako mag-isa,” she explains. This freedom is her inspiration to stay on track. She adds, “Kailangan kong maging matatag, masipag, at gumaling pa sa laro—para sa family ko.”

But her strength is finally tested when, after years of keeping only to herself, she realized that it isn’t solely about putting up the tough demeanor. “Minsan kasi, sa pagiging independent natin, hindi na natin alam paano maging mahina. Parang lagi na lang nating naiisip na strong tayo, pero deep inside pala, kailangan natin ng may magba-back up sa ’tin,” she relates. This admission made her stronger—by accepting that no (wo)man is an island, Jovelyn opened her world to others and further built herself.

The Pacific Town Army player has since learned to get along with the crowd. From simple conversations with her teammates to reaching out to the fans, the experience is humbling. Just recently, Jovelyn went to Quezon province to share her wisdom to aspiring volleyball players in the area. She personally spoke to them, and left them with words she’s carried throughout her career and life. “Sinasabi namin sa kanila na, don’t lose hope. Kung alam mong may talent ka talaga, i-pursue mo lang. Samahan ng sipag, tiyaga, right attitude, and faith kay God, and in time, makakamit at mararating mo rin ang goal mo,” she recounts.

 Photographed by Renzo Navarro
Creative Direction by Madel Asuncion
Art Direction by Mikka Caronan
Styled by Samantha Tidalgo
Makeup by Jason delos Reyes
Hair by Mark Rosales

Myla wears jacket by Oxygen, biker shorts and sports bra by Andi Activewear, top and track pants by Oxygen; Alyssa wears sweater and shorts by Penshoppe, black top by Helmut Lang and leggings by Andi activewear; Jovelyn wears top by Andi Activewear, pants, sweater, and shorts by Oxygen

ALSO READ: #TheStrongSide: These UAAP 81 Volleyball Stars Get Real On Embracing Their Truest Selves

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