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.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Opinion: On Jerry Yee leaving UP

Opinion: On Jerry Yee leaving UP
by rick olivares

The resignation of Jerry Yee as head coach of the University of the Philippines women’s volleyball team does not come as a surprise to close watchers of the program. Since the end of the last UAAP volleyball campaign where the team spectacularly fell from its high horse after making noises about contending for the title, Yee, according to team insiders, has been besieged by those from within wanting change.

Yee is the latest high school coach who has enjoyed much success at the high school level to find difficulty in the next level of volleyball.

Just to clarify, Yee turned Hope Christian High School into a volleyball power with many of its players from Jem Ferrer, Melissa Gohing to the current crop of UP players all coming up from his program.

Others who have found success fleeting and quite challenging include Francis Vicente who after a sterling stint with UST’s girl program ran aground with National University and the University of the East.

Emilio “Kungfu” Reyes who followed Vicente as UST high school coach where he too also had success struggled in moving up to the collegiate ranks.

Why is it that these top high school coaches have struggled at the collegiate level? Is the jump in level of play that high? While it is, of course, there are other possible factors.

Let’s not kid ourselves. There is recruiting in high school. Alyssa Valdez didn’t come up all the way from UST in the elementary level. She was lured out of Batangas to go to the EspaƱa-based school. Even Yee’s sainted trio of Isa Molde, Justine Dorog, and Mae Basarte came from Cebu. That’s just a few we can mention.

The difference is recruiting in college is even more high stakes. Now you need some financial backing to bring in a blue chip player.

Roger Gorayeb told me that time was all he needed to do was show up at a family’s doorstep to recruit and the parents would send their daughter to Manila. Not anymore. Not in the past five to six years. Now people ask for what they get in return.

The hype and media attention.
You can hide in anonymity all you want in high school but not so in college and pro volleyball. The scrutiny is intense. To crib some lines from that song by the Police, every move, every breath, every step you take is examined under a microscope. There are massive crowds that greatly differ from the mom and pop following of high school volleyball. There’s television coverage.

The money that flows in.
Programs need money to run. While it would be unrealistic for coaches not to expect to get canned if they lose, in college ball, with the higher stakes, sometimes, people ask for a quick return of investment. If you don’t win now, then you might not be the person to take the team to the next level.

Too many cooks in the kitchen.
I saw up close how the Ateneo women’s team was built from scratch. We went from only the men’s team and immediate family members to watching the team play in UP, Ateneo, and FEU to everyone and their brother now watching. You have people wanting to come up and give speeches, people who take credit for recruiting this and that player, who say they were there from the beginning when they were not. There are people cozying up to coaches offering their opinions on who should play etcetera etcetera etcetera to crib another line from The King and I.

You see this now with many programs. Let me be clear with this – the support, attention, and coverage is both good and bad. Good because it gives the sport a much needed shot in the arm. Bad because the pressure gets too intense. In fact, one coach whose identity I will not divulge received death threats from his own alumni as his team struggled to make it to the Final Four (they didn’t).

As I previously argued for Yee’s retention, he deserves at the very least another year, free from the harsh scrutiny and expectations. I find it funny that some people rate their sides highly after they pick up a win over a powerhouse squad. For all you know it can be chamba. That the other team had an off day. For one to get over the hump as I have previously also pointed out, one must do it with consistency.

Look at La Salle which I will point out is the gold standard for the sport. Before they could be champions, they had to beat UST which was the previous standard. And they did. And they now win with consistency.

If we cross laterally to basketball, if those who wanted Eric Altamirano’s head after the NU Bulldogs men’s basketball team’s flop in Season 76, would we have seen them win a historic title the next season? Are champion teams built overnight? There could be an exception but that is a rarity if ever. Everyone has to pay their dues.

Now we will never know since Yee has opted to step away.

We wish him the best and look forward to his comeback stint. And we extend the same to the UP team that is wounded and hurting.

Just some of the realities of sports. Didn’t Odjie Mamon cite “too much drama” as one reason why he stepped away?

Unfortunately, it feeds the volleyball machine.

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