IT IS UAAP’s volleyball season and so I am glued to the sports channel again on Mondays, Wednesdays, and weekend afternoons. My favorite volleyball players for the past five years are all but gone.

They were the seniors who were called “usual suspects” by sports commentators last year and have now moved on to semi-professional teams.

The phenom of Ateneo de Manila, Alyssa Valdez, is now with a team in Thailand and the tough core of the La Salle Taft team has joined the PSL and V-league. Some players have been pinch hitting as sports commentators like Michelle Gumabao, Amy Ahomiro, Aby Maraño, and Mela Tunay.

Why volleyball and not basketball?

For one it’s “clean” and by that I mean there is no physical, albeit, violent contact like basketball. There are no sweaty entanglements. The game’s rules are simple yet specific.

Volleyball looks easy but it’s not as it requires the spikers have strong swings and high jumps. At the same time, the players should also have nimble feet so they can dig and dive for the balls. The setters should have spines flexible as licorice sticks for those quick back sets and also have eyes at the backs of their heads to spot the donut holes on the opponent’s floor. But it is not all about swiftness and strength, it is also about stealth when hitters choose drop balls and blocks to earn points.

When I watch overhead shots of an ongoing volleyball game, it’s like witnessing a dance of six bodies to rhythm coming from the thump of the opponent’s ball. The movement is choreographed by the setter and the libero. Sometimes the tempo is slow but most often it’s quick like the boogie or the hustle. The suite ends when the ball touches the floor or when someone touches the net or missteps.

But what is really amazing about volleyball is the teamwork that binds a single team. No one can really claim to owning most of the points as the players are often rotated thus limiting one to do front or back row roles. Of course, the back row supports those in the front and since the attacks are limited to the front row, the attackers are then assured that if they do attack the opponent they do get back row support.

There’s no better show of team work when I see a utility spiker rise to the air to launch a spike and those in the back bend or assume stances to support a backfire. And this support system is the real “squad goal.”

I do not know what other see when they watch ballgames on TV. But when I watch my volleyball games - UAAP, PSL, FIVB or whatever else, I am reminded how to be a team player. The plays on court are situations better addressed if there is group effort. There would be times when someone takes the lead yet having a support group with a back-up plan is important.

However, believing in the support of the other members of the team is most crucial. There would be times when the plan fails but when given the ball again, once should just try and strike again until the goal is achieved. I think this is why the Ateneo Lady Eagles lost last year. They relied so much on the prowess of Alyssa Valdez while the La Salle Lady Spikers relied on themselves and on being one team, on each other.

So is life. We choose friends who back us up and friends whom we would back up. Life isn’t always sweet but when we do sweat it out, there’s always that one friend who’d hand us the towel, wipe our sweat (and tears) and urge us to go on.