Since 2007, the Jr. NBA program in the Philippines has given thousands of young athletes the opportunity to improve their game and, in the process, pursue their dreams. With highly-trained coaches on hand as facilitators, the program has been a mainstay on the local youth basketball scene, having grown into the largest such Jr. NBA program outside the United States.
In 2014, the program broke ground once again by introducing the Jr. WNBA program, attracting girls from all over the country to try their hands at becoming proficient basketballers. This time around, one of the facilitators was Coach Pia Dysangco, who would go on to become the Philippines’ first-ever Jr. WNBA Coach of the Year. For the 2014 culminating activity, Coach Dysangco travelled to Beijing, China with that year’s Jr. NBA and Jr. WNBA All-Stars, along with Jr. NBA Coach of the Year Cliff Tesocan.
A former UAAP player who once played for De La Salle University, Coach Dysangco went on to represent the country in the Under-19 category, taking on the likes of China, Korea. Later on, she would turn her energies to teaching, beginning at Grace Christian High School before moving to her alma matter, St. Stephen’s High School’s Girls’ Basketball Team, where she now serves as Head Coach.
Like many of the kids she would go on to mentor, Coach Dysangco started playing basketball at home, inspired by her father and aunt, who were themselves basketball players. According to Coach Dysangco, being around players meant that the pursuit of an active lifestyle was encouraged in her otherwise traditional upbringing. “Given my background as a Filipino-Chinese, it was ok with my parents to play basketball, even if it was a very physical game. My dad was a player for Chiang Kai Shek College, and my auntie was also a player.”
As a mother and as a mentor, Coach Dysangco shared that setting an example for her players is crucial. “It’s not just yung tuturuan ka ng skill. Attitude is very important to being a better athlete. You have to discipline first the kids, and what you say, you have to do. Not just promises. If we set the rules, we have to follow the rules.”
One of the rules that Coach Dysangco stands by is that of maintaining a balance between study and sport, citing the importance of discipline. “I always emphasize to my players that they are student athletes – not the other way around, so I make sure they study well first before they play good basketball.”
A former player herself, Coach Dysangco is seen here posing with some of her players at the 2014 Jr. WNBA, proof positive that there is no barrier to chasing one’s dreams.
In addition to her day-to-day duties, Coach Dysangco is a strong advocate for basketball, not just for girls, but the Chinese community in general, for whom heavy physical activity isn’t actively encouraged. “I told Coach Jojo LAstimosa that one of my goals was to share it (basketball) with the Chinese community,” says Coach Dysangco, of how her participation in the Jr. WNBA tied directly into her advocacy. “Last year, I was able to invite some of the Chinese schools to visit mine and join the Jr. WNBA clinics.”
“Today, I just want to pay it forward, and that’s how I got into coaching,” says Dysangco, as she looks back on the path that brought her to this point in her career. She smiles as as she notes the irony in her journey: “At first I didn’t want to (coach). Honestly, but the experience of how the parents are thanking me good job with their kids is something uplifting, and seeing my players, the alumni, coming back and helping me with my rookie players…it’s a nice feeling.”