By JOY THERESE C. GOMEZ and SYRAH VIVIEN J. INOCENCIO
KNOWN FOR her knack for going the extra mile in the volleyball court, the ferocious middle blocker Christine Dianne Francisco has emerged as the new team captain of the UST Golden Tigresses.
Tin, as she is fondly called, followed the sports legacies of her brother and grandparents, former Thomasian volleyball player Justin Francisco, former UST athletic director Felicitas Francisco, and member of the 1954 Philippine team for the World Basketball Championship (now FIBA World Cup) Ben Francisco.
She began her career as a Thomasian volleyball player during her sophomore high school year. Tin shares that the start of her volleyball journey was not a walk in the park as she joined her first volleyball team without even knowing how to play the sport.
Coming from a small town in Cainta, Rizal, the young athlete also found the adjustment period to the university life difficult not only in terms of her volleyball career but also in her personal life.
“Dito (UST) ko na-feel na iba na talaga ‘yung level ng volleyball pagdating sa university, [na] kahit high school pa lang, ang dami palang pumapasok na hindi lang gusto maglaro; [may] school pride, personal growth [din],” she shares.
Tin says the University’s athletic scholarship offer was a huge aid to their family’s financial troubles at the time. Aside from helping her parents, she was also able to pursue both her passions by playing volleyball and being a journalism major.
Balancing ball tosses and write-ups
Growing up, burying herself in books and writing poetry were Tin’s daily pastimes. Aside from playing volleyball in high school, the young Tin also joined competitions and bagged awards for her written pieces.
These achievements assured Tin that she can still flourish as a writer despite focusing on her volleyball career. The young athlete was initially not fond of playing volleyball while taking up journalism, but the program eventually found a way to her heart.
“‘Yung writing talaga, hobby lang siya sa’kin. ‘Di ko inisip na gawin siya professionally, but nung nakita ko ‘yung journalism [program], parang grabe ‘yung hila ng sense of purpose ‘pag journalist ka, ‘yung awareness mo sa issues. Na-enjoy ko naman siya,” she says.
Tin considers herself an introvert. At first, she found it hard to socialize with large groups, but that all changed when she entered the journalism program. In the course of her undergraduate studies, she learned how to approach different kinds of people, which became beneficial to her role in the Golden Tigresses.
Growing with the team
Tin recalls that one of the most memorable experiences in her volleyball career was when she competed in the Asian Volleyball Championship for minors as a college freshman.
“Hindi kami nag-podium finish pero we had remarkable games. [‘Yung] Australia nakalaban namin, never pa [sila] natatalo. Siyempre [we bannered] the Philippine colors. [P]ride na sa sarili ‘yun,” she reminisces.
Becoming captain of the Golden Tigresses was a new challenge for Tin as she had always seen herself as more of a follower than a leader. Furthermore, she was also a soft-spoken and introverted person; she did not have the typical stern and loud personality that team captains are usually expected to possess.
“Mahirap talaga siya but na-realize ko na ‘yung pagiging captain, it’s not a one-woman job. Hindi siya ma–me-measure kung gaano karaming panalo ‘yung mabigay mo sa team mo; it’s more of paano mo mapapasunod ‘yung players, paano mo ma–e-earn ‘yung respect nila,” she explains.
Tin mainly credits her coaches since high school—head coaches Emilio Reyes and Christian Fernandez—for always pushing her to step up as team captain.
“They’re not just volleyball coaches; they’re your life coaches. […] Kasi, the way I see it, ‘yung treatment ng coaches ko, not only for me but everyone sa team, it’s tough [love]. Sila ‘yung tipo ng tao na they’re going to push you to the breaking point [so] you can do better,” she says.
Physical and mental baggage
Tin is currently taking up her master’s degree in marketing communication. While it is a whole new world of research for her, she has already plotted her training and studying days separately and is taking up more units before their UAAP season begins.
The Golden Tigresses team captain also admits that there were times when she thought of giving up being an athlete as academics and the outcomes of their games tended to weigh her self-confidence down. Nevertheless, these were merely short-lived sentiments thanks to her endurance and the help of her seniors.
Tin reminds student-athletes like her to take it easy on themselves by trusting the process and believing in their growth. This is a philosophy that she always brings with her inside the court and the classroom.
“If you think na ngayon—halimbawa, reserve ka or something na ganon—you’re not really going to stay like that forever. May process ‘yan na pinagdadanan and you do it by training, by being resilient, [and] continuously thinking na may magagawa pa akong mas maganda and makakapag-improve pa ako every day,” she encourages. F