US women's volleyball team head coach Karch Kiraly is here upon the invitation of Philippine Superliga president Ramon Suzara.
MANILA, Philippines – Karch Kiraly — one of the world’s best coaches — doesn’t see any reason why the Filipinos won’t make it big in the international stage.
Barely a day after arriving in Manila to grace the opening ceremonies of Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix on Saturday, Kiraly addressed a small group of reporters, coaches and PSL officials to declare his faith on the Filipino brand of volleyball.
Kiraly is no ordinary guest.
The 56-year-old University of California-Los Angeles alumnus is the head coach of the United States women’s volleyball team, the same squad who copped the bronze medal in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics last year.
He assumed the coaching chore from Hugh McCutcheon in 2012 shortly after serving as his assistant in the London Olympics.
Prior to that, he won a pair of Olympic gold medals in indoor and another gold in beach volleyball competition, becoming only the fourth player to win an Olympic medal both as a player and as a coach.
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He was also awarded as FIVB Best Player in the World in 1986 and 1988 as well as FIVB Best Player of the 20th Century, enough to be inducted into the FIVB Hall of Fame in 2001 and into the American Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2005.
He is here upon the invitation of PSL president Ramon Suzara, who is an executive board member of the Asian Volleyball Confederation and a member of the International Volleyball Federation.
He said we was surprised with the kind of passion Filipino fans have shown.
“I don’t think you have to be the tallest, the highest jumpers, the most powerful (attackers) to be a great volleyball team,” said Kiraly, trying to compare the Philippines to Japan and Thailand due to their height, speed, power and love for the game.
“Those teams don’t have particularly tall players, but they have this great fighting spirit and really good floor skills and the ability to put the ball where they exactly needs to go so they can overcome a lot,” he added.
“You don’t have to be the world’s tallest players to have the best volleyball team.”
The Philippine volleyball program is still in its infancy.
Although it ruled the Southeast Asian region three decades ago, with the last gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games coming in 1993, the Philippines suffered some sort of a dark age as the national team program took a halt following its hosting of the biennial meet in 2005.
Four years ago, the PSL was born followed by the formation of Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas. Inc.
The country started to host major international tourneys such as the Asian U23 Women’s Championship, the Asian Women’s Senior Championship, Asian Women’s Club Championship and the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship – biggest and most prestigious club tourney in the world.
Heroes like Jaja Santiago, Dawn Macandili, Alyssa Valdez and Jovelyn Gonzaga started to rise barged into the radar of international scouts.
Philippine volleyball is finally back on its feet.
“I’m excited to be here because you hosted the World Club Championship last year and we had a number of American players on those teams. They really had a great time here,” he said, recalling that Americans Stephanie Niemer and Lindsay Stalzer were on the lineup of that glorious PSL Manila squad during the World Club Championships last year.
“The fact that you were able to successfully host that big tournament means a lot. As you see, you don’t necessarily need to have the height or the skills or the power; all you need is the heart, a good fighting heart, to be successful.”
“And for me, you, Filipinos, already have that.”