Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Defending the UP Women’s Volleyball Team's Jerry Yee

Defending the UP Women’s Volleyball Team's Jerry Yee
by rick olivares

As someone who has covered and written extensively about volleyball way before its boom, it sure is great to see the sport get the attention, awareness, participation, and support it deserves. While of course, there are the never-ending controversies that plague any sports, at least the sport is in the limelight. Like I always say, good news, bad news, at least there’s news. It’s worse when no one gives a hoot.

With the boom in the sport, we’ve seen corporate support come in. Fans flock by the hundreds and thousands. And social media chatter on a daily basis. That’s great, right?

And that leads me to this…

I heard that current University of the Philippines women’s volleyball coach Jerry Yee is under siege. I heard that some people involved in the program are clamoring for change and that some coaches are being interviewed to take over his spot. Word is it has something to do with the shocking fall of the team in the last UAAP and control over the team.

Look, at the end of the day, a coach is judged by wins and losses and ultimately, championships. I understand that. Totally.

Here’s how Yee has done in the past four seasons over at Diliman.

Season 79 7-7 record; 5th place.
Season 78 8-6 record; Final Four 4th place
Season 77 5-9 record; 6th place
Season 76 2-12 record; 7th place

During Season 74, before Yee came in, the team went 0-14.

Here’s how I look at it.

First, there is definite progress when comparing the time, he came in and what transpired before. Sure, last season, they took a step back. It could be a bump on the road; an aberration. Conversely, it could be that he has taken this team as far as it can go. But that’s speculation at this point. You’ll have to wait to see where they finish after Season 80. Then that could be a better assessment.

I am sure Coach Jerry knows that it will come down to that. Every coach has to deal with his own mortality at some point because you cannot win all the time.

One thing is for sure, Yee is a successful coach in both the secondary and to a certain extent, tertiary level. The proof is in the pudding.

Second, with the rise of volleyball, people have become impatient. 

I think that’s the problem when sponsors come in. I understand that they help make a program better. It affords you better training, benefits, access to better players etc.

At some point, they would like – I hate this term – a return of their investment. I totally understand that and it will eventually come to that.

However, I find it incredulous when newcomers to the team are already demanding change!

Why -- because Nicole Tiamzon, Princess Gaiser, and Kathy Bersola have graduated and maybe, just maybe, that window for a championship slightly closed?

Again, that’s all speculation at this point. Go ask Ateneo when they lost the core that led them to their first ever Final Four berth in 2007. They missed the semis bus in 2008 then made it right back (eventually, they won a couple of UAAP and V-League crowns). Go ask La Salle who after losing Ara Galang and company saw Majoy Baron and Aduke Ogunsanya (and even Desiree Cheng) to raise the level of their games and win a most incredible championship.

Every team reloads. Every team has a cycle. Well, maybe except La Salle which is the gold standard in women’s volleyball (as they have for so long now).

Third, some people question Jerry not saying anything during timeouts and oft leaving the girls or the assistant to sort it out.

Coaches have different styles of handling a variety of scenarios. At times, they are patient and they teach and point things out in a calm manner. There are times when they get really irked and castigate players for boneheaded plays or for whatever reason. Some are natural fault finders as they have something to say about every play; good or bad result. Sometimes, they keep quiet as the silence says a lot more.

Conversely, there too, are coaches who are so old school that their methods don’t really work today.

My point? A lot of the coaching also happens during practices when the game plan is discussed. Players also figure out their coaches’ styles. There are also team rules on plays, situations etc. There’s a lot. What you see on TV isn’t always everything.

Most definitely, this upcoming UAAP season is huge for this team. No doubt, there is pressure. Pressure to climb back and not fall further back.

I’ll say this though… what’s the hurry? For so long, the team didn’t win. For so many years they would compete with Ateneo to stay out of seventh place (because National University was always at the cellar). But how times have changed. All three have become powers and contenders.

Not everything can be immediately quantified in terms of wins and losses. There is also the culture change. Changing a losing mentality and creating a winner isn’t done overnight.

And in this age, where the sport is so popular and the landscape has become ultra-competitive… to compete and not merely become roadkill? We’re all sure you know what they say about patience being a virtue.

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