This article appears in SunStar print and online editions on September 3.
Kickass Soccer Coach with his Titanium Ankle
I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Dhon Lazo and his wife, Lourizza, since our children were in pre-school. In fact, we often joke around that we have to thank our older set of kids, who are now in high school, for this friendship. For awhile, Dhon became more than a Tito, as he also coached my two older children when they were still active in soccer.
In the past, Dhon has served as a soccer coach for Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan) College Varsity and Rosevale School Soccer Club. Currently, he is the head coach for Xavier University Junior High and Senior High School.
Back then, while his wife, Lourizza and I waited during meets, she shared that Coach Dhon’s battle-cry song is actually: “You shoot me down, but I won’t fall, I am titanium!” See, while playing for the inter-color tournament of City Hall Football Club (now, known as Sabado Gang FC) in 2003, Dhon dislocated his right ankle. It was a terrible injury that required surgery to reinforce his foot with metal rods and screws.
Having played soccer since 1990 in high school, thanks to the influence of his friend Hajji Ratunil; and never stopping since then, to say he was merely disheartened by that injury is a huge understatement. The devastating setback broke his heart and killed his spirit. Being compelled to rest was difficult to accept.
Thankfully, the encouraging words and prayers of his co-football club members, along with the support of his family, somehow softened the blow. He narrated: “Even my former soccer coach in high school, Miguel Lumbay visited me in the hospital. Ever since, he has always been thoughtful and encouraging. I was touched that he found the time to show me he cared. And this is the caring type of coach I aim to be.”
Dhon shared that recovery wasn’t easy because, for several months, he was not allowed to put weight on his foot. He felt frustrated relying on crutches because he could not be as mobile and agile. By the time he was allowed to step on his foot, the muscles on his right foot and leg had atrophied. He had to work hard at getting back into shape so that he could once again live an active lifestyle.
Jack of All Trades
As the current Head Coach of XU Football/Futsal Team, he aims to mold the kids not just to be good players but to be good people. He believes that an effective coach is one that can dish-out constructive criticism without building resentment in his players. A coach’s words should inspire and motivate above all else.
He said, “I really feel blessed that I can share my passion and my talents to children. I also feel extra proud because my daughters LJ (g11), Nice (g10), and Ella (g7) are part of the team. I can see myself in them. It is really very rewarding that I was able to influence them to love soccer. Sports keep them healthy and teach many things: perseverance, discipline, teamwork, focus, and hard work.”
Moreover, Dhon also plays for the Magis FC as the striker. He is also commissioner of Xavier University HS-Alumni Basketball Association with more than 18 batches, President of Demolay Association of the Philippines Bulawan Chapter19, Lifetime Member of International Demolay, and a member of the Rotary Club Metro CDO.
On top of all these, he is also a full-time businessman running their homegrown company, the Darling Foods Corporation. Darling offers processed premium meats such as chicharon, chorizo, ham, longganisa, and tocino. In line with this, he is part of the Northern Mindanao Food Safety Team as member, trainor, and speaker.
Unbeknownst to most, he is actually a consummate cook who also loves good food. (My favorites are his sisig, humba, and chicken halang-halang.) He breaks the alpha-athletic-stereotype by being in charge of their home and business kitchen. He takes care of product development and quality control at Darling Foods, being a Food Tech Graduate of Xavier University.
Man for others
Coach Dhon credits God, his ever-supportive wife, Lourizza, and his parents, Boy and Darling, as the reasons why he can manage time to engage in these endeavors. He also shared that he is thankful for the many things he has achieved because of the formation he received from Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan).
He said, “The reason I am supportive of Xavier is because I had the best times of my life in that campus. I went to HS and college there. It is now my time to give back.” Truly, this good guy has imbibed the Ateneo way of being a man for others.
As I have personally seen him in action on the field, I can honestly say that his coaching style shows genuine care for each player. He treats them like they are his own kids; critiquing them when necessary to keep them on their toes, assuaging them when they’ve suffered a setback, or giving them praise for a job well done. It is not surprising that his fatherly instincts take over because he is a dad of five children.
From his dedication, it is clear that he considers coaching as more than just a task. His passion and purpose are evident in the way he mentors the players. He affirmed this when he said, “You can’t coach people unless you truly care for them.”
Coach Dhon Lazo epitomizes a man of strong character that is indeed fit to coach children. He is a living inspiration because he never gave up after suffering a major injury. Now, he continues to use the lessons he learned on his journey to recovery as tools to motivate the kids he coaches. “Football is family. Football is life!” he concluded with a smile.