IN the ever-competitive world of sports, athletes need perseverance and dedication to excel and achieve victory. However, winning isn't guaranteed in sports. Many times, athletes face losses, which serve as valuable experiences, setting the stage for a comeback.
Meet Mary Grace Necesario Berte, also known as Shang, a 29-year-old native of Davao City.
Shang's journey in volleyball began during high school at Holy Cross of Davao (HCDC) Jose P. Laurel campus, later becoming a varsity player at HCDC Sta. Ana campus, where she brought numerous glories to the school.
In her early years as an athlete, Shang confronted challenges in a sport that lacked popularity and ample support.
The struggle to secure a practice court was real, and the hurdles were many.
As a student-athlete, juggling academic commitments with rigorous training posed an additional challenge.
“I thought of giving up a million times. Dili gyud lalim mag dagan-dagan and ambak-ambak ug three to four hours. But I needed the scholarship and I love volleyball. Kanang ma-stress ka mag huna-huna ba na makapoy napud ka’g pila ka oras sige ambak, dagan, dive og bola pero at the same time kay mangawala pud ako’ng stress as student pag gadula na (I considered giving up countless times. Running and jumping for three to four hours is not easy. But I needed the scholarship, and I have a passion for volleyball. The thought of getting tired after hours of jumping, running, and diving for the ball can be stressful, but playing also helps me relieve stress as a student),” she said.
However, this challenge didn't discourage her and her team from doubling down on their training efforts to proudly represent their school. Fulfilling her dream of becoming a professional volleyball player has been Shang's unwavering ambition.
“Bata pako gatan’aw na gyud kog volleyball sa TV, hantod nag college ko saka nagkaron ug amateur volleyball league sa TV (Manila). Every time gatan’aw ko sa TV I always imagine myself playing in the league with a large crowd kahit medyo impossible pero libre bitaw mangandoy (When I was a child until I went to college, I watched volleyball on TV. Every time I watch TV, I imagine myself playing in the league with a large crowd, even though it seems a bit impossible, but it's free to dream),” Shang said.
Her father, Gregorio Berte, served as Shang's inspiration, being a distinguished basketball player in his time.
After graduating, she joined the multi-titled Davao Optima women's volleyball team, comprised of veterans, before venturing into the professional league.
In 2016, Shang was recruited for the semi-professional league in Manila. She became teammates with today's famous volleyball players, including Jaja Santiago, Bea de Leon, and Davao's own Maddie Madayag, earning the 'Best Opposite Spiker' award in 2017.
After two conferences, she initially chose to stop and return to Davao. However, her partner persuaded her to stay and keep playing. She emphasized that not everyone gets the chance to play in Manila, so why waste such a rare opportunity when they were already there?
Currently, Shang is thriving in the professional league, representing one of the teams in the Premier Volleyball League (PVL). This hasn't hindered her from intensifying her training and aspiring for more; it's just the beginning of her professional volleyball career.
She feels fortunate to have had her family's support from her early years, even before she became a student-athlete.
She consistently prioritizes her commitments in the professional league, maintaining a focused approach both on and off the court. Shang strives to minimize distractions during games and training sessions.
According to Shang, everyone has their own definition of success, but for her, success means, first and foremost, respecting and obeying one's parents. Prioritizing studies is crucial, as it is what makes parents proud — completing education.
“If one has dreams, it's important not to hold back, dream big! Understanding priorities and concentrating on them is key. Additionally, investing time in studying the chosen sport is necessary. Have a thirst for knowledge, read, or watch videos! Finally, taking care of the body is essential — staying hydrated, paying attention to nutrition, engaging in workouts, and ensuring proper rest,” Shang added.
In the recently concluded eliminations of the PVL All Filipino Conference 2023, Shang takes great pride in the accomplishments she and her team achieved.
She stands as an inspiration to all Dabawenyo athletes aspiring to become great players and join professional leagues.
Continue to bring inspiration and here's to soaring even higher, Shang! AJA