Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra stays connected with his Filipino roots by inspiring the kids who hope to be like him someday.
Erik Spoelstra was born and raised in the United States but has always kept close to his roots in the Philippines, thanks to his Filipino mother, who grew up in Laguna. In fact, when he was younger, Spoelstra dreamed of playing basketball professionally in the Philippines in the PBA. But, his path took him to the NBA, where he rose to become the head coach of the Miami Heat.
Even as one of the most revered NBA head coaches in the league’s history, he never lost that sense of connection he had to his mother’s home country. But, instead of becoming the PBA’s best player, he instead inspires others to be.
“Once we started coming over here with the NBA, and doing camps and clinics, that’s where we really wanted to be involved in — the grassroots level,” Spoelstra told the media after one of his training camps in Manila.
This is how Erik Spoelstra inspires the younger generations through the game of basketball.
Back in Manila
The Philippines is one of the co-hosts of this year’s FIBA World Cup. Because of this, Manila has become a city filled with basketball legends, rising stars, and champions. Among them is the Filipino-American Erik Spoelstra, who has arrived in Manila as an assistant coach of Team USA — a role he has dreamed about. Even though coaching one of the most high-profile teams in the competition, however, Spoelstra made the time to do what he loves doing: getting into the grassroots of the sport.
Just a day after his arrival in the Philippines, Team USA conducted an elite basketball clinic in the Kerry Arena in BGC to train around 40 high school and college players from around the country.
Spoelstra led the clinic, giving the players a series of skill development workouts and drills. As the athletes took turns executing the instructions given to them repetitively, the Filipino-American NBA head coach oversaw the drills himself. He would give players high-fives for getting the skills right and give pointers to those who needed more guidance.
Throughout the entire hour-and-a-half, Spoelstra was very hands-on and involved with the training program. And after the players finished all the drills, they got the opportunity to ask their burning questions in a Q&A session with the two-time NBA champion himself.
During this session, Spoelstra looked back on his experiences in the sport and imparted the lessons he’s learned along the way to the kids before him, highlighting the value of hard work and gratitude.
“Every step of the process, just enjoy it,” Coach tells the players in response to one of their questions. “When nobody has any idea that you’re out there working and improving — those are the times when you’ll probably be making the biggest improvements. So it’s not for Instagram. Everyone thinks that’s what it’s about. It’s about the sweat and the grind when nobody is watching. We have a saying with the Heat: There is beauty in the grind. There’s a beauty in the sweat, a beauty in the work.”
After the Q&A session finished, the players got up from their spots on the floor looking refreshed and motivated, even after a tiring training session, given the rare opportunity they had just been handed — to interact with a legendary NBA head coach. But, this is not the first time Coach Spoelstra conducted a training camp for Filipino players, and it likely will not be the last.
Creating a lasting impact
“Through this beautiful game of basketball, I’ve been able to travel the world and come out here several times,” Spoelstra told the media after the clinic concluded.
“Basically what we did today, we would do four or five of those kinds of clinics every day for 10 days or two weeks and we’d just try and see as many places as we could in Manila. So this always brings me back to those trips, some of my favorite memories in my career are coming here in the summer.”
The first time Erik Spoelstra took a trip to Manila to run basketball camps for the youth was in 2008. Back then, he came back to the country for four consecutive summers, doing the same thing for many different communities all around the Philippines.
Once, he even got the opportunity to conduct a training camp at the school where his mother studied.
At the most recent clinic at Kerry Arena, Spoelstra shared that some of the players that he trained in those camps from all those years ago have gone on to become coaches themselves — proof of the impact he is creating in the Philippines, even without having been able to fulfill his dream of competing in the country.
As an NBA head coach, Spoelstra has worked with some of the biggest names in the sport. But he says that the values he teaches to professionals are the same ones he teaches to all the kids he works with.
“I think the values you learn from this game are learning how to be a good teammate, learning discipline, learning how to sacrifice for the greater good of the team, learning how to serve, learning how to accept a role for the betterment of the team, where it might not always be the best thing for yourself individually,” he shares.
“All these things are incredible basketball lessons that transcend the game. They’re also life lessons and the longer you’re in this profession, the more you start to see that those things are closer and closer aligned.”
Images courtesy of M2.0 Communications.