FORMER University of the Philippines head coach Godfrey Okumu was at the Philsports Arena not just to watch his former players' international debut, but to support his daughter who plays for the Japanese national team.
Okumu's daughter, Hawi, debuted in the Asian Volleyball Confederation Cup for Women on Sunday against Southeast Asian powerhouse Thailand, scoring two points in Japan's straight-sets victory, 25-18, 25-19, 25-22.
"I was nervous at first, but I think it feels good," the Kenyan coach said. "The first time I saw her playing for the national team was when she was 19, when she was playing for the U19 in Thailand [...] This is now the second time after four years."
[READ: Okumu steps down as UP coach]
Hawi, who plays for Hitachi Rivale in the Japan V. League, was supposed to play for Japan in the Volleyball Nations League that the Philippines hosted two months ago until health concerns hindered the 24-year-old outside hitter.
"She was good, I was nervous for her. I was expecting to see her in the VNL but she did not make it because she had COVID so she had to stay away."
Aside from Hawi, Okumu is humbled to see his players and former Fighting Maroons Tots Carlos and Lorie Bernardo suit up for the flag and country. This, he said, continues to humble him as a mentor.
"Coaching in two different countries and you have your players playing in the national team from different countries. I think it's a great feeling, I'm very very much humbled. I feel that the hard work that I put in all the way is paying now.
"And I expect and I hope that many other players will be in the same position as these other three are at the moment," he said.Okumu recently made headlines after stepping down as UP's head coach after four years in charge, with Cignal head coach Shaq Delos Santos replacing him.
Under his helm, the Fighting Maroons nabbed two pre-season titles in the 2018 Premier Volleyball League Collegiate Conference and Philippine Superliga Collegiate Grand Slam, with a fifth-place finish in UAAP Seasons 80 and 81.
As he remains on the sidelines, the 53-year-old coach is yet to figure out what's next.
"You know, people asking me these questions, and I feel like this has been my pilgrimage, you know? [...] So I can't, I'm still waiting for the next opportunity, but I don't want to rush it, I don't want to be in a hurry, to rush it," he said.
"For now, I think I can only hope that I get a good team to work with, but I still wanna do volleyball, I wanna volunteer my work to other teams, especially for grassroots volleyball, while waiting for that opportunity to work and coach another team again."