The former Ateneo Blue Eagles star turned something bad into a fuel to get better.
It's not easy to be a student-athlete. It's harder to be a volleyball player in the Philippines, no thanks to all the bashers who throw below-the-belt mockery at players and teams they don't like. It's not a secret, this dark side of Philippine volleyball and its toxicity.
Former Ateneo Blue Eagles star and new Cignal HD Spikers recruit Vanie Gandler knows a thing or two about it.
In an intimate conversation in Carmela Tunay's Volleytambay Kumu live, Gandler shared with the host how the bashers affected her collegiate volleyball career, and how she turned an initial negative outlook into a career boost.
The revelation started when Tunay, a former student-athlete herself, asked Gandler about her most unforgettable moment in college—most unforgettable in a bad way. The former Blue Eagle said it happened in UAAP Season 81, her rookie year.
"For me, it's my first year. I was the most bashed player that season, as in," Gandler shared.
Tunay, a former UST Golden Tigress, chimed in jokingly, "Me, [most bashed player] of all time. It's not fun."
Ateneo eventually won the title that year, but Gandler had her fair share of harsh criticisms after the Blue Eagles lost against their rivals, the De La Salle Lady Spikers in the season opener.
"First game, La Salle-Ateneo, tapos I played my worst game ever. From there I was super bashed. I get why because I played bad," Gandler said.
Admittedly, the open hitter said she wasn't mentally prepared then for the circus that is collegiate sports.
"Coming into college volleyball, I didn't expect this [the bashing]. I didn't expect the mental side of it, I thought, play lang," Gandler said.
The bashing from that La Salle loss took a toll on the then rookie.
"For a long time, I didn't know how to stand up from that, I was really lost. That year, I remember crying all the time. I was super lost," Gandler added.
Things changed when the pandemic hit. With Season 82 cancelled, Gandler was able to contemplate her next moves, and it was at that point when she decided to pick herself up.
She started by confronting the truth.
"That La Salle game, Season 81, I couldn't watch for many years. The pandemic when I decided to move forward and be better, that's the first thing I did. I'm gonna watch this game, I'm gonna accept and move on from that," she said.
"From there, I was able to accept criticism na. It helped me become who I am today. It helped build me."
Years later, it is safe to say Gandler turned out to be a better and stronger person from that debacle.
Tunay, though, has a stern reminder to all volleyball fans.
"As athletes, hindi naman tayo robot na palaging maganda laro mo. It doesn't make it valid for people to nasty words at you. Ibang 'yung constructive criticisms e. Meron talagang below the belt diyan."
Watch Gandler shine in her new home at Cignal as she is set to debut in the PVL Invitational Conference this coming June.