You are where you’re supposed to be
Words and photos by Aaron Vicencio
The Ateneo Blue Eagles penultimate practice is dead serious. No time wasted in trash talking, no time wasted in movement. Every effort is directed to winning and getting the job done.
Under the watchful gaze of Coach Sandy, the team practices a three-man baseline action. Post player catches the ball just above the last hatch mark, one guard runs below, and the other offers a pick — and the player with the ball has to think. What options do WE have?
Coach Sandy stops the drill, and asks — Mike, where are you? Mamu, where did you come from? The wiry guard points to his spot; and answers coyly, ball was open coach in Filipino.
Coach then asks them to repeat what happened. And explains what he saw. Mike, a screen was set here, Mamu ran from here. You are too close to the spot where the screen is supposed to happen.
Mike agrees, and they run it again. There was no disdain. No exasperation. But no detail lost in arguing. A circle of players form. Each player watching as if they were the ones in the play.
Coach Sandy: “We’re giving you space to think. We’re giving you space to decide. We’re giving you space to think of the options to succeed.”
“You are where you’re supposed to be. We’ve done this before. We’ve done the work.”
I wanted to say, might as well talk decision-making in life, coach.
On the next sequence, Coach Tab starts a baseline inbound drill. One side prepares to inbound, and another to defend.
Mike Nieto screams to one of his quick footed teammates, “wag mo naman kami pahiyain” — referring to SJ Belangel finding open spots within the defense. SJ smiles, and just continues to break the press.
The whole practice proceeds as expected. A time for water, a time for drills, a time for scrimmage. The buzzer sounds, and the players just move where they’re supposed to be. They know, they move, they act.
Practice was about to wind down when I see Matt stationary in the middle of the court. Pointing at the options, positions, and open spots. Hardly saying anything. The players know, the coaches know, how to think and move as a unit.
Matt Nieto knew. He knew he had to play better in Game 2. He knew that he had to be a better teammate, a better leader. He knew he had to be where he was supposed to be. And that’s all you can ask for.
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Congratulations to the graduating seniors, Thirdy, Mike, Matt, Isaac, and Adrian. Thank you.