With the pressure on its member schools and their varsity programs to win championships, it is easy to forget that the UAAP is essentially a grassroots league.
A star like Jarvey Gayoso, no matter how impressive he was as an Ateneo Blue Eagle, still has lots to learn to fulfill his potential.
Gayoso came on an interview alongside his Azkals Development Team coach Scott Cooper with hosts Cedelf Tupas, Paolo del Rosario. and Nate Burkey in the Tiebreaker Vods’ Crossover Podcast, presented by SMART. There, the third-generation athlete shared what it’s like to move on from the college level.
“It was a big jump. It was definitely a slap in the face moment for me because at one point in my college career, I was actually hanging on to that idea. And without the help of coach Scott, I don’t think I would actually have been at this point of my career,” said the two-time UAAP gold medalist.
“Coach Cooper was actually probably the only one who gave me the talk about how I needed to improve at this and that. And I remember our conversation for Suzuki Cup 2018, and that’s kind of where it was basically a slap in the face moment for me, where I realized there are so much more to improve on. And he was very welcoming to actually help me develop my game.”
For Cooper, Gayoso was coming into his program as a player with a blank slate. While the 23-year-old’s resume was impressive locally, his game still had much to improve if he wants to survive against the top players here and abroad.
“Sometimes where you played before doesn’t necessarily transfer into what comes next. And sometimes people feel like you can go from a college team and step right into the Azkals, [which] is absurd from a football perspective. You only have to look at Major League Soccer — kids get drafted from a college team, you don’t see any of those going straight to the US National team,” said the former Thai League mentor.
And with that intuition, Cooper immediately worked on Gayoso’s mindset. At this level, the former UAAP MVP needed to start from scratch, and accepting that early definitely sped up the process.
“When I met Jarvey, a lot of people told Jarvey exactly what he wanted and that’s not always what’s in the best interest of a football player,” said the 50-year-old coach. “I felt like Jarvey is a great kid, has a great attitude, great talent, but I felt there were too many people telling him all the things they thought he should hear as opposed to what he needed to hear.
“Maybe those people didn’t really know what he needed to hear because they weren’t aware themselves. And so for me, Jarvey, it was just a matter of segue from that college setup and mindset into a professional level, and showing him what the gap is and where he needs to get to.”
From that point on, Cooper tested Gayoso’s mettle in different areas on the pitch. While local football fans advocated that the homegrown star should continue playing as a forward, the veteran instructor was determined to persist with his idea.
“I’ll be honest, we had a couple of one-way frank conversations where I put it on the spot and his attitude has been wonderful. He’s flourished in those days, he’s worked on his game, the position is a nonsense debate because… Players play several positions to get respective of other positions, and Jarvey’s played left wing, left-back, left midfield ,” said the national team coach.
With so much to prove, Gayoso took the task at hand very well. It is never easy starting from zero after leaving college, but it is one challenge everyone goes through in life. There’s a humility needed to prove one’s self in the real world despite all those university honors.
“Let me talk about the ADT alone that you have a set of guys that are… (The) future of football. So everybody’s giving a hundred-percent even off the field ,just for that future that we wanna have compared to college. So the motivation is so much different, and then the competitiveness is so much different even in our own team,” said the Las Pinas resident.
“When it comes to the starting lineup — because we have been able to shuffle a lot of players because everybody is just competing for that spot… Everybody is just doing their best and giving 100 percent. And that’s not always the case in college football. Even in just the mental aspect, it’s already a big difference.”
At the end of the 2020 season of the Philippines Football League sponsored by Qatar Airways, Cooper divulged that Gayoso and some of his other teammates like Mar Diano have caught the eye of scouts from the Thai League — a testament to the ADT’s mantra of developing players for bigger opportunities.
Playing for Cooper’s squad against the likes of United City Football Club and Kaya Football Club-Iloilo hastened the development of Gayoso and his teammates. It also opened their eyes about what world they were actually getting into now that they’re up against the big boys.
“For me, it was the same observation that I had coming from the UAAP scene and then playing in the SEA Games. It’s basically the players who are in the team that we are going against, maybe in the PFL or in the SEA Games. They were there because they were there as a living. They were doing that for a living,” said the 6-foot-1 player.
“Playing with college people, not everybody has that certain passion for football that would take you beyond schooling. Some were there just to play just to get through college, and then after they graduated they stopped playing football. There is a lot there. I think there’s more transition in that road rather than being a professional football player, especially in this country, so that was the biggest difference. You have a full set of guys in the PFL for each team.”
While it is too premature to tell how Gayoso’s professional career will pan out, it is safe to say that playing under Cooper with the ADT in the PFL has only been good for his development transitioning into the next level locally or abroad.