Michele Gumabao: The Journey of a Philippine Volleyball Star
Michele Gumabao's ascent in the Philippine Volleyball League (PVL) reflects not just her individual skill and dedication but also mirrors the growing popularity of volleyball in the Philippines. Starting as a college athlete at De La Salle University in Manila and rising to become the opposite spiker for the Creamline Cool Smashers, her story is intertwined with the evolution of the sport in the country.
From Collegiate Courts to Professional Lights
At De La Salle University, Michele began shaping her volleyball destiny. It was here where she first noticed the burgeoning popularity of the sport. "When I entered college, volleyball wasn’t that big yet," Michele recalls. But by the end of her college years, she was playing in front of the largest crowds the sport had seen in the Philippines, marking a pivotal shift in its public reception.
Her transition to professional volleyball with the Creamline Cool Smashers marked a new chapter in her career. Michele observed a difference in the fan culture between college and professional levels, stating, "The difference in pro is that not everybody supports all the teams like back in college." Perhaps glaringly obvious to Gumabao as she is a part of, by far, the most supported team in the league. This shift exemplified the changing landscape of volleyball fandom in the country.
Championing Women's Volleyball and Team Philosophy
Michele played a significant role in the rise of women's volleyball's popularity. She attributes this to the engaging nature of the games: "I think women’s volleyball is just more entertaining to watch because of the long rallies [and] the intensity as well." Her perspective highlights the distinct appeal of women's volleyball in the Philippines.
At the heart of the Creamline Cool Smashers' success is their 'happy-happy' philosophy, a term Michele credits to their former coach. This approach emphasizes enjoying the game and supporting each other, creating a positive atmosphere both on and off the court.
Balancing Stardom with Personal Space
As her fame grew, so did Michele's interactions with fans. She values this connection but also emphasizes the importance of personal boundaries, especially during intimate family moments. "Especially when I’m eating food or at a restaurant... I always talk to the fans to tell them to wait a little bit," she shares, highlighting her approach to balancing public and private life.
Advocating for Broader Horizons in Volleyball
Michele Gumabao actively promotes the inclusion of international athletes in Philippine volleyball. She sees the Philippines as a unique arena for global players to showcase their skills and experience the vibrant local volleyball culture. Michele shares, “Whenever we have imports who come here, we always tell them [that] the level of play is very different... But it’s a different experience to play in front of fans, in front of people shouting and cheering for you." Her belief in the enriching experience offered by the enthusiastic Filipino fan base underscores her commitment to expanding the sport's reach and appeal.
Recent Achievements and Future Aspirations
Michele's recent career highlights with the Creamline Cool Smashers include significant team victories and personal accolades. Her team's championship win over the Petro Gazz Angels and her recognition as the “Best Opposite” at the PVL Open Conference 2023 are testament to her ongoing impact in the sport.
Looking to the future, Michele remains focused on further achievements and growth, both for herself and the Creamline Cool Smashers. The potential for volleyball in the Philippines is vast, with increasing fan interest and a rising standard of play.
Michele Gumabao's journey in volleyball, from her collegiate beginnings to her current professional achievements, mirrors the growth and evolution of the sport in the Philippines. Her story, interwoven with direct insights from her experience, showcases a balanced blend of athletic prowess, team spirit, and personal integrity. As volleyball continues to flourish in the Philippines, Michele's role as both a player and a public figure will undoubtedly be pivotal in shaping its future.