Two minutes can make or break destiny.
In the last stretch of a UAAP Season 61 Football Championship game, two teams were competing to finally score a goal.
A shy 17-year-old Sophomore, Marielle Mayo Benitez, defined two, but arguably the most important seconds of that game.
Seeing an opening, Marielle took the shot that won the game.
Marielle made history and has since received three UAAP Most Valuable Player titles, a UAAP Athlete of the Year award, two Top Scorers honor, a Rookie of the Year award, and Best Mid-fielder.
She is dobbed one of the finest athletes DLSU has ever produced.
The beginnings of a Booter
At the age of 13, Marielle was already built for sports. Hailing from an athletic family, she gave football a try in PAREF Woodrose to spend more time with friends.
By her third year in high school, Marielle had already caught the eye of DLSU Football Coach Hans Smit.
Believing in La Salle’s excellent football program, she went to play for the Green and White team, while her brother Marco played basketball for the Katipunan-based squad.
She recounts how her parents would cheer for green whilst sitting on blue benches, or when she would be cheering for her brother, but standing up and proudly singing the DLSU Alma Mater song with her dad at the end of the game.
She described herself as a “silent type” person back then until her winning kick in the UAAP Season 61 finals game against the defending champions, UST.
“It boosted my confidence, it changed the way I played,” Marielle shares.
Junior year in college was another turning point in the life of this Lady Booter. She started aiding the seniors in leading the team. Also in the same year, she switched positions from a defender to a midfielder.
A balanced life
Her athletic family background notwithstanding, Marielle faced the standard juggling act that most student athletes need to overcome.
With a double degree in Psychology and Marketing Management, Marielle has had her fair share of less-than-great grade points, but her focus on football and her vision of a good future never waived.
She shares the beauty of her college days, a great portion she owes to her membership in the football team. “Even the closest friends that I have were all from the football team,” she shares. “These are the people that you would end up hanging out with. They helped me survive college because you share the same needs and sentiments.”
She recalls the days when she trained with the Lady Booters and the National team. Everyday was a tough day with a coach like Smit.
“When you play, he [coach Hans] will only try to get the best out of you,” she shares and adds how this coaching extraordinaire would motivate the team. For Coach Smit, it was not about how easy the game was, but rather, how much excellence the team could give.
Indeed, experiences like these come in handy as she was appointed as the current Sports Development and Physical Education Director of the Philippine Women’s University (PWU). The former star athlete knows how to address the challenges that her own athletes face.
“I know that it is possible to balance your studies and your sports,” she tells her athletes. “So there’s no reason for them [athletes] to fail.”
What really matters
Currently, Marielle serves as the Team Captain of the women’s football national team Malditas, sports director in PWU, and a Bayanihan dancer in the Philippine National Folk Dance Company.
Although her job can be stressful at times, Marielle chooses to think of it as a different kind of investment; one she reaps not in a check form, but as a tick on her checklist.
Her love for football and dancing have taken her to places no conventional job can, from being part of four UAAP championships, to the 2011 SEA Games.
It even brought her in the presence of the greatest athletes in the world, when she toured Athens during the 2004 Olympics as part of Bayanihan.
For this Lady Booter, no day job can compare to the knowledge and sense of fulfillment one can get when a profession is one’s passion as well.
It is neither about the paycheck nor the reputation, but about the hearts she touches and the lives she has changed by doing what she loves.
“Because of everything I’m doing, I’m able to be an influence to other people.. I’ve been fortunate because I know that not everyone gets to do what they really want for a living,” Marielle ends.