Why this former UP libero chose a career thatís not entirely about volleyball
Barry Viloria on Feb 10, 2017 11:08 PM
UP Lady Maroons alumna Amanda Isada is flying to New Zealand next week for her Sports Management Masters. She tells here how and why she fell in love with the idea more than returning to the court post-UAAP. (Photos courtesy of Amanda Isada)
Athletes graduating from the collegiate ranks now are way luckier compared to the older gens. It’s a statement by sports analyst Mozzy Ravena that has stuck with us for some time now—it’s a truth that still rings so true, mostly because it came from a former UST Tigress herself who has studied and experienced the change of volleyball landscape herself. The PSL, V-League, and Spikers’ Turf, among other leagues that have put our favorite UAAP and NCAA players back on the court and on TV where we first fell in love with them—life is indeed a blast for one-time student-athletes now prospering after getting their diploma with volleyball as a solid career.
But for former UP Lady Maroon Amanda Isada, it hasn’t been the case. Isada patrolled UP’s backlines until Season 74. Not a lot may remember her now—but some may be familiar with her succeeding former UP power players Cathy Barcelon, Jed Montero, and the dearly departed Maan Panganiban. Isada was left to banner the team when these ladies left after Season 72. She then left the university in 2012, graduating with cum laude honors in Physical Education.
Isada hasn’t seen action on the court since. But it was for a reason.
“I think it was for Bingo Bonanza at the very first PSL,” Isada, now 28, recalls training for the semipros after college. “I was actually training with Carmela Lopez, Cha Cruz, Mikki Castañeda, and the other La Salle players as well.”
Isada, one cool, what-you-see-is-what-you-get young lady in person, is quite honest about having “wanted” to play back then but eventually choosing not to. You’d think any of her other passions (fine arts and baking) would have diverted her but it was actually still volleyball. And sports, in general. Just the more technical part of it. Isada has been particularly doing volleyball statistics since 2008, having received her FIVB certification in Thailand in 2007.
PSL hired then-fresh-graduate Isada, to help in the Volleyball Information System (VIS). It’s the arm that gathers the stats every game, calculating every individual athlete’s points and scores in different categories for particular skills. Those awards for Best Scorer, Best Setter, and Best Digger don’t just come to be, do they?
Isada has long appreciated the technical side of sports, especially so as a spectator and a manager. It also made sense for her to choose being part of the VIS instead of a team, as she has already worked with some of them from before.
The working girl
Apart from working at the PSL’s VIS, Isada got involved in the sport by teaching it. She tried balancing her VIS job with a stint as a PE teacher at the Immaculate Conception Academy in Greenhills, San Juan. She taught dance and sports there; for every quarter of the school year, she had the chance to teach volleyball to aspiring athletes. As how every story by anyone from the world’s noblest profession went, she found it fulfilling.
“What I enjoyed most is seeing the performance of the kids improve once you teach them the proper technique, no matter how coordinated or uncoordinated they are. As a teacher in general, we had to submit the usual lesson plans, and more. I was also a homeroom adviser so I had to do a bit of extra work on that. The most challenging would be understanding the personalities of each student and trying to convince them how cool your subject is!” she recalls with a laugh.
It’s also the “demanding” nature of teaching that Isada found impractical to balance together with a playing stint in the PSL, if ever she pushed through with it. Blame her being a perfectionist who is “afraid of skipping training or games because of work. Ayoko mag-absent kahit kailan at kahit saan!”
While employed by ICA, Isada also taught as part-time at a licensure-for-teachers review center. She then left ICA after three years, focusing more on her job at the PSL. She was already supervising and managing the group then, given the plenty of conferences and international volleyball tournaments being held here as well.
Isada later took on another job at the Automobile Association of the Philippines, managing its grassroots program for racecar drivers. She just found racing “interesting,” saying her dad Vip and brother Ivan also influenced her into it. Both Isada men are professional racers, aside from being part of the UP College of Human Kinetics’ pool of coaches previously.
“I worked three jobs for a time. It was fun since the each job’s nature is different,” says the former student-athlete.
In the middle of Isada’s very busy career, getting to play volleyball took the backseat.
Isada’s body of work in sports and sports management was necessary for a plan she already had since the beginning. Because, no, her getting into this career path wasn’t at all by accident. Isada is off to take her postgrad studies in Sports Management at the Massey University in Auckland soon, which in the application previously required her to fill up her credentials with experience in the industry. She is now six days away from flying to Down Under, where she will live for at least two years to finish her studies.
“I had to work and save for my tuition fee and living expenses. The schools abroad also ask for at least two years of working experience. Plus, they don’t offer postgrad in Sports Management here, so I really planned on taking it abroad,” she explains.
“So, everything is still (about) sports and volleyball,” she adds with a titter. “I want to be involved in sports no matter what sport it is.”
Isada is now confident to say she has found her niche, apart from volleyball. It’s something that her five years worth of experience altogether helped her realize, starting from when she discontinued playing the sport competitively. And it’s by educating herself more about it, she says, that she’ll be able to develop further in her newfound niche.
“I've finally realized that I enjoyed and worked best when it came to managing people, things, and events. I have not shared this to anyone but I can see myself working in the international sporting groups. I hope to get in the FIVB or the NBA or FIFA or the AVC or Olympic Committee or ESPN or any of those and others. It may be in any position too from creating events, program ideas, etc. to even managing a team or whichever!” she says.
“It seems like a long shot when I think about it, but it seems quite achievable too so my expectations are in check!”
She adds that her involvement with the local organizing committee at the time FIVB Women’s Club World Championship in 2016 also “inspired” her to dream on.
Remembering her UAAP years
Isada can't believe it has been five years since she left the sport.
“I don’t think I’ve been away for too long yet!” she gasps. “Tagal na ba? Parang hindi pa kasi naabutan ko pa sila (Kathy) Bersola, eh!”
It then dawns on Isada. She finally mentions a change in the landscape, particularly at how competitive all schools at least in the UAAP have become over time. She remembers coming at the time when “intense recruitment” among the schools including UP was just revving up.
Isada could only recall how she and the team used to train on court every MWF and then work on strength daily. And that training became more taxing during off-season.
“What's good was that we had time to rest and recover before the next season. It was also stressful, but I guess not as stressful as what this gen is experiencing,” she observes. “Compared to now, I think they do ball and court training every day and they barely have time to rest between seasons!”
Isada likes to think that back in the day, “UP athletes played for UP because it was UP. I think we came more for the education. I remember back then, the only thing coaches would say is ‘We would like to recruit you to play for the UP team. We can apply a dorm for you and give food allowance during the UAAP season, but most of all, we can guarantee a good future for you.’ We all got hooked to the good future’ thing.”
Still cheering for UP
Isada now sees the Maroons catching up in terms of ripening as a squad. With a giggle, she remembers the Maroons being underdogs in her time, landing only as far as “sixth place or five wins in a season. They were the times when we used to defeat Ateneo and NU, then suddenly, they started beating us!”
“We were proud to be student-athletes playing for UP because of the name of the school. Of course, we wanted to do better than the other teams, we trained diligently, pero iba talaga pag sabay sabay na may exceptional talent yung mga ni-recruit mo for the team.”
From placing sixth in Season 77, the UP women’s volleyball team delivered drastically in Season 78 that it even reached the Final Four. Coach Jerry Yee—from Hope Christian High School, the same mill that produced the likes of Manila Santos, Bernice Co, and Desiree Cheng—is receiving praise for his efforts rebuilding the team. It might be too early to tell that UP, at 1-0, will fare best at the end of the present season. But many are fast placing their best on the Lady Maroons as early as now, especially with veterans Kathy Bersola and Nicole Tiamzon still around, plus the younger Diana Carlos, Justine Dorog, and previous Rookie of the Year Isa Molde as formidable forces. (Dorog and Molde attended Hope and trained under Yee as well.)
Of all this, Isada sounds nothing but thrilled.
“My mom was part of the UP team that won the championship before and my mom’s sister was her teammate and coach, as well as the coach of Pia Cayetano,” she says of UP’s glory days in women’s volleyball back in the 80s. Cayetano, of course, was part of the UP squad in 1982-83 that last handed Diliman a women’s volleyball title.
“I guess we’ve been waiting for so long for this to happen! Finally, there's a new challenger and it happens to be UP. It’s exciting!”
In terms of being a supportive alumna, Isada says, “I’ll always be, basta UP! I won’t be able to watch live, but there’s always the internet!”
She also shares an advice for the resident players, seeing the trend of volleyball becoming a stable career even after the collegiate ranks. That is, to continue playing even after college “kahit a few more years, because they really good at it.” It’s a word she might not have followed herself even though she also loved the sport dearly. But Isada’s on a different mission now—and while it might not be as dusty and rough as receiving a hit face on the floor, it’s not far from vigorously supporting local sports. Who knows how else this former Lady Maroon can contribute to the PSL and beyond once she comes back better equipped from abroad?
She says of how club leagues have impacted on these sports men and women, and local sports in general, “I am glad that they came up with it. So many then retired players who suddenly joined again are surprisingly still good. It’s also good for international exposure. It's good to maximize the talents of the players up until they don’t have the strength to play anymore due to old age.”
“I hope one day it will become a professional league like the PBA, but as of now, being a club league is good enough for volleyball.”