Family first before pleasure

ABS-CBN Sports on Aug 05, 2017 09:59 AM
Family first before pleasure
Army coach Rico ‘Digoy’ de Guzman (center) gives instructions to the Troopers during a timeout in the Army-Sta. Elena playoff Wednesday in the Premier Volleyball League Open Conference, another grand event organized by Sports Vision with Asics as official league partner and Mikasa as official game ball. (Photo by Azcharey Cabrera)

If they have Digong in Malacanang, the local volleyball community has Digoy.

Digoy is none other than Philippine Army and Pocari Sweat coach Rico de Guzman, who just turned 35. His former teammates on the UST squad, fellow soldiers now, friends, and childhood buddies in the fishing village of Guiniangan, Quezon Province, call him that. Digoy.

And his peers in the sport that he says gave him a chance to bail his parents and five siblings out of poverty know the main highlight of his story; that the good-looking, multi-UAAP awarded ex-Growling Tiger had to quit his studies (BS Education) to enlist with the Army and be able to bring food to the family table on a regular basis as a breadwinner.

“At the time my father was always between odd jobs,” says de Guzman in Filipino. “He would take on any job but more often than not he could not find one so I had to make a decision. I had only a year more to go before I finished BS Ed, but rather than secure a diploma first, I quit school to enlist with the Army.”

The first thing he did, he recalled, upon joining the Army was take out a loan of P200,000. “We had been squatting on another man’s land so I used the loan to buy us a piece of land measuring 180sq.m. With a salary coming in on a regular basis now, I built a house for us section by section until it was finished.”

Now holding the rank of a staff sergeant, the six-foot de Guzmans’ firstborn, needless to say, also took care of his other siblings’ education.

While the fourth in the brood discontinued his studies in UST to enlist with the Army as well, the fifth, Digoy says with pride, went on to finish college. 

Always a family-driven man, he to these days continues to send money regularly to his folks back home. He did not say it directly but he hinted at it as being a source of friction between him and his wife and a cause of their eventual separation.

They have a five-year-old daughter.

“Sariling sikap,” was how Digoy described his personal struggle from the moment he started high school in Quezon National High School to his years in UST as a student-athlete.

As a high school athlete he took part in two Palarong Pambansa held in Bicol and Negros in the Visayas. He was spotted by coach Nes Pamilar when his high school team played Letran in a tune-up game. He was graduating at the time so he was offered by the Letran coach a spot on his team right there and then.

He was already at the bus terminal in Quezon about to join coach Nes in Letran when a kababayan who was a member of the UST squad at the time saw him and enjoined him to join the Espana-based team instead. He eagerly said yes to the chagrin later of the famous talent discoverer from Letran.

Digoy distinguished himself in the UAAP, crowning an array of individual awards (Rookie of the Year, best scorer, best attacker, best digger, best blocker) with two championships and two runner-up finishes.

As a soldier, he played for Army in the AFP Olympics and the National Open. At 23, he took over as coach of the Army women’s team, which he steered to a string of AFP Olympic, National Open and V League titles.

In 2015 he swapped coaching duties with fellow soldier and ex-Growling Tiger Kungfu Reyes and became mentor of the Army Troopers. In the same year he joined Pocari Sweat’s coaching staff as assistant coach. In 2017 after the Lady Warriors snapped up the PVL Reinforced Conference for their third championship in a row, he was appointed head coach of Pocari.

Digoy sees himself as voluntarily resigning from the service five years from now and then building a full-time career out of coaching.

Latest News