October 04, 2023

HER SIDE OF THE COURT | More than an athlete: How silent retreat in Ateneo helped Jia De Guzman find her purpose

HER SIDE OF THE COURT | More than an athlete: How silent retreat in Ateneo helped Jia De Guzman find her purpose
Art by One Sports

When you talk to Jia De Guzman, one word keeps coming out: “blessed.”

“I was blessed with siblings who love the same sport as me, with the family who supports me.”

“I was blessed enough to play in a school that had a good volleyball program.”

“I was blessed to train under different intelligent coaches.”

In fact, Jia said that word more than ten times during our interview for the “Go Hard Girls” podcast, though only six made it to the final cut of the episode. And Jia is quick to complete that statement: “Not everyone has that.”

It’s this acknowledgement of her good fortune that helped Jia understand her role in the Philippines’ volleyball scene: To take her privilege, and use it to open doors for others.

“In the latter years of my volleyball career, I started realizing that I'm not getting that same sense of fulfillment I used to get by just playing the sport by just trying to be the best version of myself, to win some games, to get some opportunities for myself,” she shared on the podcast.

Jia added: “And then I went on a silent retreat in Ateneo and then I realized that the purpose that God sets for any of us is beyond ourselves talaga. That's when I felt yung sense of responsibility to pass what I know to the next generation and provide opportunities also for them to be the best version of themselves.”

Jia decided that she wanted to teach—something that she didn’t consider before, because she thought she wouldn’t have the patience for it.

“I started working with Solid Seven. It was founded by Coach Ed Ortega and, uh, Ate Gabrielle Ortega. They're both athletes from Ateneo. Coach Ed was a setter and Ate Gab was a libero,” she shared. At the time, the Ortegas were having weekend tournaments where people could play, practice, and enjoy the community.

“And then I told them that I wanted to teach. And they're very passionate people so they were very supportive and they told me, "We've been thinking of the same thing.’ So that's when we started Solid Seven Academy. So it's been going on for a few years. Of course the pandemic was hard on us also, but then we went online. We wanted to keep the teaching environment going,” Jia said.

Solid Seven Academy has grown to teach men and women of different ages and skill levels—young or old, beginner or experienced. That spark that Jia felt during her silent retreat in Ateneo has grown into a fire.

The experience has given her a new perspective on her career. “At first, I really felt that I could help push Philippine volleyball forward by being in the national team, being the best I could be,” she shared. “Eventually I realized that it's more than just playing in front of a crowd.”

She smiles: “There were women before me who inspired me to be like this. So now I want to inspire the next generation to take the same initiative and raise their voice and attempt things that, you know, they never thought were possible.”