Behind every great player is a great coach, a person to show toughness and not sugarcoat anything when it comes to training. Players need to be pushed to the limit then loved, then pushed again in order to bring out the hunger inside of them, and coaches are there to ensure that their players reach their goals and beyond. The LaSallian looks into two prominent figures, not only in La Salle sports, but also nationally, in head coaches Hans Peter-Smit of the DLSU Men’s and Women’s Football Team, and Ramil De Jesus of the DLSU Lady Spikers.
Even before getting into coaching for DLSU, Smit already had the Lasallian culture in him. He spent majority of his childhood in Mandaluyong, studying in La Salle Green Hills for his grade school and high school education. Smit shared that he is not limited to the sport football, but he can also play basketball.
Throughout his years in being the frontrunner of La Salle Football, Smit stresses the importance of having strong family support whenever he goes home at the end of the day. For example, he would take his daughter Sam to the games even when she was still young. Smit hints that she is a natural football player, although she joined the La Salle Dance Company-Street to follow the footsteps of her mother, a dancer.
“The first letter of the alphabet is A,” Smit answers when asked about the most important thing that he always reminds his players. The Indonesia-born citizen, who is now a naturalized Filipino, handles both the men’s and women’s team of La Salle, but as he shares, his approach to both teams has no difference.
The letter “A” stands for attitude. He shared that the key to the sport is to have the right attitude. In the past, he had players with skill but lacked attitude. He shares how he prefers to coach a player with the correct attitude rather than someone who thinks of himself as a superstar. There was once an occasion where he was recruiting a player, and the player asked for the package offered to him. Smit answered that there was no package offered. He lost a good player, he admits, but he did not want anyone coming into a team thinking they’re a superstar.
Smit treats his players as if they were his own. The greatest achievement for him is not the wins he accumulates, nor the championships he bags along the way, but to see his former players achieve in whatever road they undertake. He mentions that he is proud with how far his former goalkeeper Patrick Deyto has gone. Deyto played for Smit in the collegiate level and is now part of the Philippine Men’s National Football Team, the Azkals.
Along the way, it was inevitable for him to encounter lows in his career. The lowest point, he mentions, was when they lost the championship to the ADMU Blue Eagles in Rizal Memorial Stadium years back due to his players starting to play individually, despite dominating most of the game. He also stated that aside from that heartbreak, it is also sad to know or hear when a former player passes away.
Model of consistency
Since the introduction of the Final Four format to the UAAP Women’s Volleyball Championship, La Salle has won the most championships as a team. Dating back to Season 56, nine of the 23 UAAP championships have gone to Taft, the most in the league since 1993. The consistency of the Green-and-White can be attributed to the system laid out by De Jesus.
De Jesus has held the reigns as long as most people can remember. He began his stint with La Salle in 1997, where he brought the Lady Spikers to a fourth place finish. Since then, the Green-and-White has made 16 Finals appearances.
He breaks down his success to three basic principles, all of which he tries to instill in his players; passion, hard work, and perseverance. These three have come into fruition as he has produced the likes of Manilla Santos, Michelle Gumabao, Melissa Gohing, and Mika Reyes to name a few. De Jesus takes pride in this saying, “Oo, dumaan sa akin ito [players].” (Yes, those players went through me.) The coach shares his sense of fulfillment in taking part in their success, as he continues to mold his current players such as Kim Kianna Dy, Kim Fajardo, and many more.
His goal, however, is not only to bring out the best in his players athletically, but also overall as a person, especially in academics. “Unang-una, pag tinawag yung athlete dito, student-athlete. Nauuna yung pagiging estudyante bago yung pagiging athlete so tutok kami sa academics then tutok rin sa pagiging athlete.” He mentions that his greatest achievement has been, and always will be, to see his players graduate and to see them excel in being a student as well as being an athlete. (First of all, athletes here are called student-athletes. The priorities of being a student comes first before that of an athlete’s so we’re hands-on in terms of academics and at the same time, being an athlete.)
The longevity of his system, however, does not come easy considering the amount of playing years athletes have in the UAAP. “Siguro pinaka-challenge dito is yung right after five years, ga-graduate yung tinuruan mo,” De Jesus explains. “Dahil maguumpisa ka uli from scratch then kailangan within a year, mahabol mo sa ganung level agad yung inumpisahan mo para hindi ka maiwanan.” (The biggest challenge here is after five years, the player you taught would graduate. Since you will start again from scratch within a year, you need to be at the same level from which you started so as not to get left behind.) Setting a standard for his players to reach has not been easy but it has truly paid off.
When asked about whether he sees himself as father figure for the Lady Spikers, he answered, “Siguro ngayon, nakikita ko na thirty percent as a father, seventy percent as a coach. Most of the time nandito ako sa team compared sa family ko.” (Probably now, I see myself as thirty percent a father, seventy percent as a coach. Most of the time, I’m here [coaching] compared to being with my family.)
Both Smit and De Jesus are not strangers to success. While they have engraved their legacy in Philippine sports history, they have also created waves outside the pitch and the court, respectively. Their careers have been more than teaching plays, as they also continue to teach young students how to live through tough love and discipline. Truly, their impact has reached far more than the end lines.