Written By: Zerjosh Serrano and Paul Tamayo
Heather Guino-o was only in fifth grade when she came running to his father Luciano to excitedly tell him the news that she is being recruited for a volleyball team. It was the start of something big for Heather, who is now a professional volleyball player in the country.
But Heather did not know back then that his father also played volleyball during his heydays. Luciano, who is now a coach for Imus Institute and Passion Sports, loved playing the sport when he was still young. Coach Luciano grew up in Davao, and was a high school volleyball player. After graduating from the University of Mindanao, Coach Luciano worked for a Xerox company here in Manila, where he would also meet his wife and build his own family.
With his daughter Heather developing a passion for volleyball at a young age, Coach Luciano made sure that he is there every step of the way.
“Noong Grade 5 pa lang siya, napansin na kaagad siya kasi matangkad siya. Noon puro block pa lang ginagawa niya, puro talon pa lang si Heather noon,” Coach Luciano told us this story while smiling. “Noong una siyang na-invite na maglaro para sa district meet sa Cavite, lumapit siya sa akin para samahan siya. Nagulat siya na bakit alam ko din yung mga puwesto ng mga player at kung saan dapat dalhin yung bola.
Tinanong niya ako, ‘Papa, marunong ka rin ba maglaro ng volleyball?’ Parang naiilang siya noon kasi nalaman niya na marunong pala ako maglaro ng volleyball.”
Since then, Heather was able to work her way to a professional volleyball career. Heather suited up for the FEU Lady Tamaraws during her college stint, then proceeded to play for Pocari Sweat, Creamline, and BanKo Perlas in the Premier Volleyball League (PVL).
But while it is true that even in a young age, Heather had the talent and the height to succeed in volleyball, Coach Luciano never forced her to play the sport. He pointed out that Heather always had a sense of determination right from Day 1.
“Nakitaan ko na siya noon pa na gusto niya mag-pursige. Sinasabi ko lang sa kanya na kung gusto mo talaga, kailangan may disiplina ka at tiwala sa sarili. Lagi ko lang siya sinasabihan na huwag magpabigat at mag-exercise lang araw-araw.”
But Coach Luciano also emphasized that guiding Heather also includes imparting values and teaching her good manners. He admitted that life did not come easy for him and his family. When Heather was still a little kid, Coach Luciano had to find work overseas so that he could support his family.
He was able to get a job at Saudi Arabia, and stayed there for a couple of years. He soon came back home, and it was then that he bonded with Heather not just in volleyball, but in life.
“Maliliit pa lang sina Heather at yung kuya niya, pumunta ako sa ibang bansa para mag-trabaho. Pero pagbalik ko, talagang sinabi ko sa sarili ko na aalagaan ko ang mga anak ko. Labas sa sports at volleyball, natulungan ko sila na palaging magkaroon ng respeto hindi lang sa pamilya, pero sa lahat ng tao,” Coach Luciano said.
“Lagi ko ginagabayan si Heather even outside volleyball. Kapag may mali siyang nagagawa, sinasabi ko din agad. Kaya proud and happy ako na lumaking mabuting tao si Heather.”
Ever since Heather played her first volleyball game in the Cavite district meet when she was in sixth grade, Coach Luciano would also work as an assistant coach for the volleyball team in Imus Institute. He has already coached hundreds of young kids about the fundamentals of the sport, while also teaching them what it means to be a good person off the court.
Coach Luciano also became one of the volleyball coaches for Passion Sports. Passion is a unique sports camp founded by Robert Labagala, a former UAAP and PBA basketball player. Before the pandemic, Passion Sports would always host sports camps nationwide. Luckily, they had a volleyball camp in Imus Institute, and Coach Luciano was one of the coaches who handled the training sessions.
“Nagkaroon ang Passion Sports ng camp sa Imus Institute so kami na yung humawak. Nagpapasalamat kami na nabigyan kami ng pagkakataon na makaturo sa mga bata. Maganda sa Passion Sports kasi natuturo din namin sa mga bata ang mabubuting asal. Madalas may mga get-together din kasama ang mga magulang nila. Sa ganoong paraan, mas nakikilala naming mga coaches yung mga players namin.”
Coach Luciano already has years of experience as a volleyball coach. He has seen every kind of player, and experienced every kind of situation on and off the court. When we asked him about his advice to aspiring volleyball players, Coach Luciano emphasized the importance of being disciplined not just in sports, but also in their studies.
“Lagi ko sinasabi sa mga players na hindi lang puro laro ang isipin nila. Dapat pati sa academics naka-focus sila. Yun ang laging motivation and encouragement ko sa kanila. Dahil hindi naman sila mabibigyan ng magandang scholarship kung hindi maayos ang performance nila sa pag-aaral. Dapat disiplinado sila palagi.”