As the Premier Volleyball League enters another season, we welcome our old favorites and discover fresh faces. As viewers, we tend to find the next person to idolize, putting the spotlight on these ladies who were once aspiring to get in the league. It's inspiring to see women in sports grow and make a mark in their chosen field. We put our bets and watch them close.
The best thing about these role models is that they are relatable and close to our nature. In games, we watch them fall, but they also get up—fast. We got to know three ladies from the PVL teams namely Jessey de Leon, Mae Tajima, and Katrina Racelis who shared with us what it's like to #PlayLikeAGirl, how they handle stereotypes in sports, and what it takes to pursue what they ultimately love to do.
Jessey de Leon, Petro Gazz Angels
Female athletes are often stereotyped as “one-of-the-boys.” As boyish as they may seem when they put the game face on or come out sweaty from training, girls in sports still wear their femininity on their sleeves. Take Jessey de Leon of Petro Gazz Angels, for example. She’s worn her hair short, but she didn’t let the cut ultimately define her. She’s as kikay as any lady in the room—during off-days from the court, she’s drawn to girly pieces that expresses her laidback yet chic personality. Jessey is easily one of those athletes who can strike a pose in front of the camera like a natural and never look bad. She is a woman—and an athlete, at that.
Personally, the former UST Tigress didn’t encounter anyone putting her down as the sporty girl. But she does acknowledge the stumbling block in being born in this gender. “‘Yung strength natin is limited, compared to men. But ‘yun na ‘yung parang pinaka-challenge na na-face ko—physical strength," she relates.
Her solution? Work harder. Jessey gives her 101%, not just in training, but in other aspects of her life as well. While the 24-year-old player exerts extra effort to build up her body, she cites that nurturing her mental toughness is equally important to endure until she achieves her goals.
As she breaks away from her limitations, she constantly tends to her innate capabilities. "Favorite thing ko about being a female is 'yung power na meron ako, the emotions and instincts, and 'yung pagiging wise natin," Jessey shares.
And we think this is what makes her standout from the crowd—Jessey, embracing the lady that she is, and owning it.
Mae Tajima, BanKo Perlas Spikers
The battle begins with yourself, as Mae explains the struggles that come with being an athlete. From the little things like following your morning routine to fighting off mediocrity, the daily grind can hinder you from achieving your goals—but she chooses not to, every single day.
Once you overcome your inner struggles, that's when the competition from fellow athletes comes next. But in her case, instead of dwelling on her opponent's greatness, Mae sees it as inspiration to progress. "You learn to appreciate your talent because there are other skillful women out there who are trying their best for their own teams," the 23-year-old shares.
So, she enters the league more empowered than ever. "The volleyball community grew already. They know that girls can also make a difference in sports and influence others," the Opposite Hitter says. Personally, with her years of experience in playing volleyball, that power is a tool to make the world a better place. It pushes her to grow into the best version of herself and be a good example to young girls who look up to her. "You make it an instrument for you to also share that what you want for yourself, you can also do for other people," Mae adds.
For now, the athlete is focused in the game. But eventually, she sees herself making a difference in another field she wants to pursue, with dreams of working for the United Nations in the future. "But now that I'm still in sports, I might as well learn more and bring that change myself, in my own simple way," she ends.
Katrina Racelis, Bali Pure Water Defenders
"Whatever you do is whatever you want." This is the statement that sums up Katrina Racelis' life. The 23-year-old athlete lives for her passion, and unapologetically so.
"Kung anong gusto mo, 'yun ang gawin mo. Kasi hindi maganda 'yung napipilitan ka lang. Kailangan gawin mo 'yung best mo, tapos tiyagain mo lang 'yung ginagawa mo. Eventually, magiging successful ka," the new player on the clock shares.
It's her unfailing dedication for volleyball that took her to the doors of Bali Pure Water Defenders. What started out as an encouragement from a grade school teacher turned to be the thing she lives for now, and her initiation to the pro league is something she's looking forward to. Katrina is ready to pour her heart out for the competition and enjoy the ride as she plays along. "Iba na 'to, e. Dapat mas mataas na 'yung level ng permformance mo. Dapat all out ka talaga lagi," she states.
Her happy-go-lucky persona, meanwhile, takes her dreams to farther places, so to speak. Katrina seeks to fill her wanderlust and learn beyond the confines of the volleyball court. She believes that traveling will her help become the independent woman she wants to become. She eagerly recounts a trip to Amanpulo—a beauty that she can't get enough of. The peace, the quiet, and nature's bounty she found brought sparkle in her eyes. A voyage to Paris, her dream destination, may seem a bit impossible at the moment. But she's certain that one day, her sneaker-clad feet will reach that land she once just stares at online photographs.
Katrina is an easy inspiration to many, a go-getter whom people aspire to be. As she introduces herself in another arena, we'll see how she'll stretch her wings and soar to bigger heights, on and off the court.
These volleybelles may exemplify great power whenever they put their game face on. But as we get a glimpse of the women that they are beneath their strong exterior, it reminds us that there's nothing more compelling than a feminine heart with a tenacious touch. They may represent different teams and vary in capabilities, but one thing is for sure: playing like a girl is a surefire way to winning.
Photographed by Karlo Torio
Creative Direction by Madel Asuncion
Art Direction by Mikka Caronan
Styled by Samantha Tidalgo
Makeup by Jason delos Reyes
Hair by Mark Rosales
Jessey wears long-sleeved top and white hoodie by Penshoppe, shorts by Andi Activewear, shorts by Oxygen; Kat white shirt by Penshoppe, skirt by Oxygen, long-sleeved top and shorts by Andi activewear; Mae wears top and leggings by Andi Activewear, tube top by Penshoppe
ALSO READ: #PlayLikeAGirl: PVL Stars Alyssa Valdez, Myla Pablo, And Jovelyn Gonzaga On Redefining Strength