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ROOKIE SPOTLIGHT: Coach Lerma’s journey to Adamson Volleyball

In hindsight, looking at the Adamson Lady Falcons’ Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Collegiate Conference lineup, one will marvel how a rookie-laden squad prevailed over veteran teams. Eventual MVPs Trisha Genesis (conference MVP) and Louie Romero (Finals MVP), along with every other member of the young Lady Falcons roster are rightfully credited for their stellar campaign. But behind their ascent to the top of the collegiate tournament is head coach Lerma Giron, or “Mama Lerms” as how the Adamson volleyball teams fondly call her.

A new chapter

For the first time in her coaching career, coach Lerma was tasked to be at the helm of a collegiate squad. Used to handling high school teams, it was initially a huge challenge for her. Little did she know that her first tournament as a mentor for a collegiate team will bring immense pride not only for her, but as well as to the university who gave her the biggest break in her coaching career. The rookie collegiate coach is the one responsible for orchestrating Adamson’s near-perfect run during the tournament and steering San Marcelino to its first ever PVL crown.

Humble beginnings

Coach Lerma was in the volleyball varsity team of the Holy Rosary College (HRC) in Santa Rosa, Laguna throughout high school. Just like any other aspiring student-athlete, she wanted to be a part of the premiere collegiate league in the country. That’s why when she found out that she passed the UST qualifying examination, she immediately decided to try out for the Golden Tigresses. Out of 40 athletes, Giron was chosen to be in the final cut of players and became an official member of the UST Women’s Volleyball Team where she was mentored by the legendary coach August Sta. Maria whom she and her teammates called “Boss”.

Until her third year, Giron was a steady member of the Golden Tigresses. When she was not included in UST’s final UAAP lineup on her fourth year, she decided to focus instead on finishing her studies. “Syempre you want your parents to be proud of you, na suklian din yung mga paghihirap nila. Yun yung naging motivation ko,” Giron shared. As if designed by fate, new doors and opportunities opened for Giron; doors which eventually led her to be the mentor she is right now.

A student in the coaching staff

During her fourth year in UST, Giron was tapped by coach Sta. Maria to be part of the Golden Tigresses’ coaching staff. “Nilagay niya ako sa coaching staff as taga-scout ng game, taga-stats, which is dati labag na labag sa kalooban ko kasi sabi ko gusto ko maglaro. Ayoko maupo lang at mag-observe lang,” she recalled. During UST’s campaign in the UniGames in Bacolod, Giron was assigned to scout different teams. With the experience she gained as part of the coaching staff, Giron started to be more accustomed in analyzing the playstyle of opposing teams and examine their strength and weaknesses. This was a starting point for Giron to realize that she has a calling to coach and develop aspiring athletes.

Start of coaching career

After finishing Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Education Major in Computer Technology, Giron took a two-year break from the sport. Back then, volleyball in the country was not as big as it is now and the only way to play professional was to be invited to the national team. It was in 2003 when Giron utilized her bachelor’s degree to teach in her previous school, HRC. When she was invited by the HRC Rhinos’ head coach to be the team’s assistant coach, Giron did not hesitate to accept the proposal. “Kapag part pala talaga ng system mo, kahit anong ayaw mo, babalik at babalik ka. Kumbaga masasabi mo talagang love mo yung volleyball,” she said.

Two years after, coach Lerma stepped up as the head coach of the team. Come 2008, the HRC Rhinos was already a solid and consistent contender from CALABARZON. With Trisha Genesis as one of her dependable players, Giron was able to lead HRC to two Batang Pinoy titles –  the Akari Regional Cup South Luzon title, and a crown in the Palarong Pambansa.

As collegiate scouts are looking for potential recruits in the 2015 Palarong Pambasa, Giron was also pursued by former University of the East Lady Warriors and national team head coach Francis Vicente to be his assistant coach in UE. Giron thought that it was about time for her to take an extra step in her coaching career and accepted the position. She may have resigned from HRC as an educator but Giron remained as the institution’s girls’ volleyball team’s main tactician. Two years later, she was hailed as the UE girls’ volleyball team head coach, developing players such as KC Galdones and Ysa Jimenez.

After her stint with the Lady Warriors, Giron officially became part of the Adamson high school girls’ volleyball team’s coaching staff in May 2018, before her appointment as the girls’ head coach in UAAP Season 82. She steered the Baby Falcons to its first ever finals appearance, eventually bagging the 1st runner up honors after being bested by the NU Lady Bullpups. Giron expressed her delight on how the University and Akari support grassroots for a continuous program and development heading to the collegiate level.

Coaching the Lady Falcons

Last August, Giron was tapped by the University and the Akari management to be at the helm of the Lady Falcons in the PVL Collegiate Conference. She mentioned that the transition period was initially difficult for the team – not just physically but likewise mentally and emotionally. Eventually, it became manageable with the support of Akari, the Adamson administration, and the coaching staff.

By this time, Giron has already established a connection with the Lady Falcons. She considers it as one of the advantages for them to have a harmonious relationship on and off the court despite some instances which necessitates her to raise her voice during huddles. “Na-earn ko yung trust, na-earn namin yung respect for each other so during PVL and the transition period, natutuwa ako kasi nakakasunod sila,” Giron shared, referring to the Lady Falcons.

With no expectation heading to PVL, the youth-laden Lady Falcons only lost once in the entire tournament – against the CSB Lady Blazers during their semis series – and eventually swept last UAAP season’s finalist, UST Golden Tigresses in their finals matchup. How the team performed is a testament how coach Lerma balances and amplifies a team with a depth skillset. Despite winning the crown and individual awards, coach Lerma is aware that the team still has to work on their consistency on both ends of the floor.

Who is Lerma Giron as a coach?

Coach Lerma Giron is a disciplinarian but also ensures that she has a connection and relationship with the player, inside and outside of the playing court. “Siguro kaya nagtagal din ako sa coaching kasi I enjoy the company of the players,” Giron expressed. “Yung pagiging masiyahin kasi nila kahit na maraming pressure, kapag nakakwentuhan mo sila, parang one of them ka rin. At the same time, natututo rin ako sa kanila. Kasi different teams, different players, may matututunan ka sa bawat isa na makakatulong sa coaching profession mo,” she added.

For coach Lerma, they could have not won the PVL crown without the efforts made by every member of the team and the coaching staff which includes trainor and consultant Tai Bundit, assistant coaches Karlo Santos and JP Yude, conditioning coach Noel Zorilla, and physical therapist Mark Crisostomo.

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