Ateneo's 'happy' coach made Lady Eagles believe
MANILA, Philippines – Coach Anusorn “Tai” Bundit may have already returned to his home country of Thailand, but not before the Ateneo de Manila community showered him with adoration and gratitude for leading their women’s volleyball team to the Promised Land.
Initially tasked with developing a young team both physically and mentally, Bundit did all that and more as he orchestrated the Lady Eagles’ stunning run to the UAAP Season 76 women’s volleyball championship.
His sideline dances, his exhortations – “happy, happy” and “heart strong” – became a source of inspiration for the Lady Eagles and their fans this past season, and it all culminated last Saturday with a sensational three-set victory over rivals La Salle to claim the UAAP crown.
“Kahit anong mangyari, si Coach Tai, hindi siya magsasawa na i-push ka at sasabihin sa ’yo na, ‘You’re a good player, and if you believe you can win, you can win,’” said Ateneo star Alyssa Valdez, who fired 21 points in the do-or-die game.
“So bakit ikaw, sa sarili mo magda-doubt, kung ‘yung coach mo nagtitiwala sa’yo? Malaking factor ‘yun sa player,” she added.
Although Bundit speaks only a few words of English, those words seem to be all that his players need to fire them up. Even after the Lady Eagles won the title, he simply reiterated what he has been telling his players all season long.
“I said, if you believe, you can do,” Bundit said. “You play happy, you can win. You believe, you win. You can win if you want to win.”
Mentor and motivator
Former Lady Eagle Charo Soriano, who sometimes serves as Bundit’s translator, explained that the Thai coach has a knack for motivating and inspiring his players.
“He’s a very good mentor, he’s a very good motivator,” she said. “At the same time, he keeps the level of energy of the girls at a level wherein they can maximize their capabilities, their abilities. He knows when they need to be at a higher energy level.”
Even Bundit’s sideline dances, which has delighted the volleyball fans, are for a greater purpose, said Soriano.
“The girls are very, very happy when he’s running around, so he does whatever he needs to make them feel light. What he hates most is pressure, so that’s what he takes off the girls,” Soriano explained. “If he can dance around, laugh around and make them feel lighter, then that’s what he will do.”
“He will do everything, just to make the team less stiff and focus more on the game, para malabas nila kung ano talaga ‘yung galing nila,” she added.
“And for me, that’s a very good coach. The most important thing for a coach naman is to bring out the best in a player, ‘di ba? And right now, evidently he did just that. He brought out the best in each player and the best in the team.”
Although Bundit presents a very positive, encouraging aura during games, he is serious and strict when it comes to training, according to the Lady Eagles.
“Sa training, sobrang patayan ‘yan, as in lagi siyang nagagalit,” revealed Ateneo libero Denden Lazaro. “Pero sa game, sobrang cool siya, sobrang bait niya and lagi niya kaming ine-encourage, which is super helpful lalo na pag game tapos he’s very patient with us.”
“That’s what’s good about him kasi marami sa amin ay rookies at bago lang, so sobrang patient niya when training us,” she added.
Their hard work in training clearly paid off as they survived five do-or-die games, including the last one against La Salle.
“Yung training din ni Coach Tai talaga… kasi kung do-or-die match, eh sa training namamatay na kami,” said Valdez. “So ayun, sobrang hard din talaga, and ‘yung resulta din naman ng training niya, sobrang okay sa games.”
Absence in the middle of the season
When Bundit was hired as the Ateneo coach, it was originally to develop a young squad that had lost five key players from a team that made the finals in the past two seasons.
“When I talked with him for this program, sabi ko sa kanya, meron akong team na bata, kasi ang specialization niya, mga bata,” said Ateneo team manager Tony Boy Liao. “May skills, kailangan mo palakasin at pabilisin.”
“Kung ano training ang ginagawa mo sa national team sa Thailand, ‘yun ang gawin mo. Sabi niya, baka hindi kayanin. Sabi ko, kakayanin, basta ipagagawa mo,” Liao added.
Bundit left the Lady Eagles in the middle of the tournament to attend to his duties as a coach in Thailand, and had nearly left again earlier this month. Liao revealed that Bundit already had a ticket back to Thailand for March 3, but they rebooked it once the Lady Eagles defeated National University to force a do-or-die match for a Finals spot.
“Noong nag-qualify kami ng mga knockout, ni-rebook namin ‘yung ticket niya, sabi ko, March 16 ka – sakto after ng Game 4,” said Liao. “Actually, kung natalo kami last Wednesday, gusto niya na umuwi ng Friday, kasi today (Saturday, March 15) is a very special day for him sa Thailand – meron siyang 25-years high school reunion na gusto niya puntahan.”
“Sabi ko, hindi ka a-attend dun, kasi meron kang laro sa Sabado.”
Instead of attending his high school reunion in Thailand, Bundit was feted by the Ateneo Lady Eagles and their fans Saturday night as the community celebrated their historic volleyball crown as well as the other championships won by their teams during the UAAP season.