The Animo Squad
For 77 years and counting, people have been buzzing about the different games for the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) season. However, only a few take time to notice the people who are behind the drums and cheers that hype up the crowd. The people responsible for that job belong to a team called the Animo Squad.
History will attest that De La Salle University was the first university to form a pep squad in the country in 1926. Back then, the team was mainly dominated by males. Soon enough, women were asked to join as well.
The Animo Squad charged with boosting the school-spirit of the crowd and the athletes during games regardless of a win or lose. This is done in every single game played by the different teams of DLSU. As a whole, the squad is composed of cheer dancers and cheer leaders. But in recent years, the team had decided to separate the drummers who were then part of the cheerleaders. Each of the members had to undergone a system of challenges before they are carefully chosen to be officially part of the team.
Different personalities flourish within the team. As a matter of fact, you will be surprised to see contrasting personalities get along efficiently. The team believes that it is important to have a working chemistry among its members in order to have the same, united sound.
Respect is one of the main values that each member should uphold for not only does it benefit them in what they do, but in what they dream of doing in the future.
Every member gets a chance to play the drums during games, we take turns after every quarter. Attending games is the perfect opportunity for us to strengthen our bonds and to enhance our teamwork. We play all throughout the year, starting from the first round games to the second round games up until the FilOil games during summer.
But we do not just play during games, we get to have a chance to play drums and get to do drumline performances whenever we have gigs outside the playing field. All drumline routines are made and done by the members, this is where we freely express our creativity and playfulness through beats, steps, transitions and formations.
We asked coach Tiger Espina and head drummer Russel Manalili to help us know more about the Animo Squad Drummers. When asked about the biggest struggle that the team may have faced, Mr. Espina answered “For me it is not really a struggle but a challenge. My biggest challenge in coaching the team happens every start of the school year, during tryouts. Every year there is a different set of people, with different backgrounds, different characters, different skill sets & different physical statuses. The challenge there is the approach which I can’t say that what I did in the previous seasons will work with the current bunch, every year it’s different.” The seniors of the team hold an annual recruitment in which they select only the best of all the tryouts. In relation to this, they prefer quality over quantity so that they are able to maximize each member’s potential. “Sometimes I change my approach, sometimes I only need to tweak it. The key to handling the challenge is flexibility, I have to be flexible in dealing with them at the same time consistent to our system” added Mr. Espina.
On the other hand, head drummer Russel Manalili talked about the team’s expectations with regards to the newly-accepted members of the team. He said “These batch of drummers are different, their potential is higher than usual. As long as they continuously train eventually they will reach the standards that we have set for them especially the rookie drummers. Of course my expectations are high because they are my teammates and I trust them.” For this year’s set of drummers, the team has recruited about 20 rookies who are still active up to know. Given the high number of members, the team has admitted its strengths and weaknesses.
“Our biggest asset has always been the members, we take pride in what we do. The team’s heart, passion and work ethic is immeasurable. No matter how few or plenty we are, no matter what quality or state our equipment is in, the Animo Squad Drummers will always be there to back up our athletes for the glory of our beloved De La Salle University.”
Currently, the team is experiencing an obstacle with the wear and tear of the equipment, mentioned by Mr. Espina. Every year, the team is given a budget by the Office of Sports Development. This budget is inclusive of what they lack, what they need to repair, and what they need to play for the different UAAP games. Knowing that this season will be a pressure not only to the players of the different teams participating in the UAAP, but also with the Animo Squad members for they are the 6th men in the arena. Moreover, Mr. Manalili emphasized what will be expected of the team and what keeps them motivated to achieve such given that they are still students before athletes. “With this roster of drummers, expect us to be different this year where our intensity in every game would be higher.” He even added, “As the captain of the squad, I have to set an example. Balance in both academics and training is a must. Together as a team, we are driven. It’s not difficult to motivate them in trainings and games for they do it automatically without coach Tiger and me inflicting it on them.” Mr. Manalili was determined that his teammates will be able to balance both academics and training well. Furthermore, he urged that balancing both is actually attainable in a sense where they need not to compromise.
Of course, La Salle’s teams do not always remain victorious in every battle. Everyone has their own setback. A defeat of one team entails a defeat on the side of the Animo Squad as well. Mr Espina mentioned about how they are able to handle defeat. “Part of my style in training is to teach them how to respond to failure. As I have said, these guys have the biggest heart. Defeat only makes them work even harder. You don’t always win, but every time you lose, you get better”, stressed by Mr. Espina. He urged how the team is able to bounce back despite a defeat not only in terms of UAAP games, but also in terms of their goals in life as students. Working with a team in the Animo Squad requires great participation from every member. Coach Tiger emphasizes how important it is for each member to fulfill his or her role to make the team work efficiently. “The number of tryouts are high, but they go through our screening process. Only those who meet our standards make it. From then on we have to maximize their potential through trainings and exposures” added by Mr. Espina. “Since we go to almost all of the sports competitions, everybody is utilized. Balance is also important, I always remind them that they are student-athletes. They have to balance their responsibilities in both fields. Discipline and time management is very important in this team.”
As much as possible, the team is able to distribute its members to be present in all games whether men’s or women’s. Given the rigorous training and balancing done by the members, Mr. Manalili stresses the reason that keeps the members active for the past seasons. He answered brotherhood, togetherness and a second home were three of the most important factors. He further explains how the members treat each other like family. Making sure that no one is left behind in terms of skills, the team is able to build a chemistry which encompasses the work that they do, and makes each and every member liable of each other. Furthermore, the UAAP season will always come to an end. Hence, Mr. Manalili stresses what he envisions for the squad given that the UAAP is over. “I envision the squad to develop a sense of self sufficiency, where they will be able to hold out on their own, and be able to exercise initiative when deemed needed.” The team attends different gigs in which they are asked to make a piece and perform it for that same event. Apart from this, the team undergoes team-building which they would need to strengthen collaboration of each one. “They would be ready to lead the next generation of drummers for years to come and as long as our coach is here, I am sure that there will be continuity in our system. I also envision the squad to uphold our motto which is to always strive to improve every day in both academic and training”, he added. Relative to the hype that is experienced in the rivalry of Ateneo vs. De La Salle, coach Tiger stresses what makes it highly-anticipated not only for the members of each community, but also for the Philippines community as well. “I think it’s because of the rivalry. You can always expect these two institutions to bring out the best and sometimes the worst in each other, it’s a competition at its highest form. It’s never boring”, urged by Mr. Espina. He even added, “Two top universities with a deep rivalry going at it on the hardcourt? Who’s not gonna want to see that?”
Consequently, the Animo Squad Drummers aim to develop for a good cause; to surprise the crowd of their performance. However, this cannot be attained by having one or two members to step up. Each member aims to improve every day and to keep a competition within themselves. For the coming UAAP games, the team is on fire to deliver what they have longed for and that is to reign supreme by keeping in mind the Lasallian values and morals.