Sparing no effort: PH bowling looks to its storied past to help mold its future

Dominic Menor, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 16 2017 06:16 AM | Updated as of Aug 16 2017 10:37 PM

Under the guidance of a coaching staff composed of Jojo Canare (from left), Paeng Nepomuceno and Biboy Rivera, the national bowling team hopes to strike gold in the Kuala Lumpur Southeast Asian Games. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Jojo Canare’s experience representing the country in world competitions spanned 14 years, a playing career that included winning medals and awards.

But as the national women’s bowling coach, she makes sure she doesn’t transfer her personal lofty standards onto her team. 

“Mas-gusto ko na nae-enjoy nila iyong laro para lang mawala ng konti iyong pressure,” Canare told ABS-CBN News during one of the team’s training sessions prior to this month’s Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur. 

“Kasi minsan kahit walang pressure, sila mismo pine-pressure nila iyong sarili nila.”

Canare is part of what many say is the “golden age of Philippine bowling.” She, men’s coach Biboy Rivera and national head coach Paeng Nepomuceno were consistent sources of international sporting pride in their prime -- Canare and Rivera in the 1990s and 2000s, while Nepomuceno from the 1970s to 1990s.

 

Lourdes Arles, 29

2015 SEA Games bronze medalist (trios, team of 5)

2017 SEA Games events: Singles, doubles, trios, team of 5, masters, mixed doubles George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Dyan Arcel Coronacion, 24

2017 SEA Games events: Singles, doubles, trios, team of 5, masters George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Marian Lara Posadas, 27

2015 SEA Games bronze medalist (trios, team of 5)

2017 SEA Games events: Singles, doubles, trios, team of 5, masters, mixed doubles George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Marie Alexis Sy, 25

2015 SEA Games bronze medalist (trios, team of 5)

2017 SEA Games events: Singles, doubles, trios, team of 5, masters George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Krizziah Lyn Tabora, 26

2015 SEA Games bronze medalist (team of 5)

2017 SEA Games events: Singles, doubles, trios, team of 5, masters, mixed doubles
(Maria Liza del Rosario, a 6th member of the women's team, is not pictured. She won a SEA Games bronze in 2015 (team of 5) and a silver in 2007 (mixed doubles. In Kuala Lumpur, she will play in the singles, doubles, trios, team of 5, masters, and mixed doubles events.) George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

 

Anton Jose Alcazaren, 31

2017 SEA Games events: Singles, doubles, trios, team of 5, masters, mixed doubles George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Kenneth Chua, 25

2017 SEA Games events: Singles, doubles, trios, team of 5, masters, mixed doubles George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Kevin Oliver Cu, 25

2017 SEA Games events: Singles, doubles, trios, team of 5, masters, mixed doubles George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Jomar Roland Jumapao, 27

2017 SEA Games events: Singles, doubles, trios, team of 5, masters, mixed doubles George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

John Paul Macatula, 22

2017 SEA Games events: Singles, doubles, trios, team of 5, masters George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Merwin Matheiu Tan, 18

2017 SEA Games events: Singles, doubles, trios, team of 5, masters, mixed doubles George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

As they reached the twilight of their playing careers, the search for bowling’s new big names got underway, but that endeavor took longer than planned.

So when Nepomuceno was appointed head coach, Canare and Rivera were added to his staff with the belief that they would be the best people to build a bridge for a next wave of elite players and pave the way for a “golden age 2.0.”

Right now, Canare says baby steps are being made in that direction.

“Ayoko ng nape-pressure sila ng husto, unless dumating kami sa point na head-to-head na, may hinahabol talaga kami,” says Canare, a 3-time bowling World Cup competitor and owner of 1 gold, 3 silver and 1 bronze medals in the Southeast Asian Games.

“Alam ko kung sino yung taong bibigyan ko ng pressure na alam kong kaya. Iyong gusto kong pagawa na ‘Gawin mo ito.’ Hindi lahat sa kanila uubra yun. Hindi ganon.”

Rivera, who retired only last year, says one of the reasons he quit playing was he felt his time was better spent guiding players his junior. 

“From the usual tournaments na nananalo ka ng medals from gold, silver, bronze, ang laki ng gap ng sumunod,” says Rivera, who participated in 105 international tournaments spanning a 24-year career as a player.

“So we felt the need to siguro instead of playing a year or two more, i-devote mo nalang to training new ones para ma-fill in iyong gap and then to build future champions din.”

Half of the 12-person team that will fly to the Kuala Lumpur Games is 25 years or younger. On the men’s side, 5 of the 6 players have been on the national team for only 3 years or less. Merwin Tan, who turned 18 in June and will compete in 6 events in the SEA Games, is the youngest, a rare player, according to Rivera, who can be assigned to both the junior and senior men’s teams.

Even though, for instance, the resumés of the men’s players’ have been thin so far, they’ve consistently topped or medaled in Asian youth and student tournaments. 

The national coaching staff under Nepomuceno has put a timeline of 3 to 5 years to see results — a SEA Games gold this year, an Asian Games title next year, and a world championship down the line. That’s the hope.

With a promising crop of young players on both men’s and women’s teams, the coaches are mindful of not just what to teach them, but the how. 

For national women's coach Jojo Canare, experience, in the form of a 14-year national-team career, is the best teacher. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Canare says she doesn’t want to cram her players with too much information to the point that her relationship with them becomes one way.

“Kapag kinakausap ko, kailangan open sila. Ako, kapag may tinuturo ako, kailangan sabihin nila sa akin agad kung iyong tinuturo ko hindi nila magawa,” she says.

Rivera, a multiple Asian champion in the youth and senior levels, says it helps to have been in the trenches with the players.

“I was able to bowl with some of them. Nakalaban ko sila, so meron ng respect right away,” says Rivera, a 1-2-1 gold-silver-bronze winner in the SEA Games. 

“Even when I was playing, they would ask me about certain things. So parang mas naging formal lang ngayon, mas naging clear iyong designation namin.”

The coaching staff know their vast experience isn’t lost on the players, their presence on the team a constant, living reminder of bowling’s rich recent past.

But it’s not so much their achievement that they want their players to look up to them for, rather the path that got them there.

“Importante kung ano iyong tinuturo sa kanila is iyon din iyong mga pinagdaanan namin,” Canare says.

“Gaya niyan, sina coach Paeng, si coach Biboy, nakapag-compete kami, so alam namin iyong feeling ng during competition tsaka alam rin namin iyong feeling kapag nagpa-practice.

“Importante rin iyong naging experience namin as a member of the national team, not just any bowler na naglalaro lang basta basta. Iba rin kasi iyong naglalaro for the country.”

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2019 SEA Games