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VOLLEYBALL GODFATHER RESTS

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By Patrick LujanBlaine

For the past 30 years, Blaine Afaisen was on the forefront of the Guam volleyball community as a successful coach and President of the Guam Volleyball Federation as well as an educator in our public school system. His involvement the past 16 years was marred by a stroke he suffered in 1996, leaving him paralyzed on his left side. But he still stayed involved with volleyball until he passed on Dec. 22. Afaisen was laid to rest on Friday, Jan. 4.

Afaisen’s roots are deep in the historic village of Inarajan where he ran the community center at a very young age after coming home when his father retired from the military.

“Blaine’s love and passion for volleyball and his IQ for the sport was shaped initially by his dad, Uncle Manny, who himself coached a team of young men from Inarajan from the courts in the center of the village,” said close friend Larry Gamboa. “Blaine was one of the finest volleyball coaches on island and the region. He started with the resources he had: his current pool of players. He was a natural coach who later developed himself professionally as an educator. Blaine had a love and passion for teaching and learning that extended beyond the volleyball courts to the classroom.”

Blaine founded the Inarajan Hawks Volleyball Club in the mid 1980’s and built the legacy of the Notre Dame Royals from the early 80’s to the early 90’s and also coached the 1991 South Pacific Games women’s team in Papua New Guinea.

He was the President of the GVF when he was stricken by a stroke during the Christmas season of 1996 and still served in that roll until 1997. He was relegated to a bed or wheelchair from then on but still was involved in the sport he loved dearly.

“He had the passion even though he was in a wheelchair,” close friend and fellow volleyball coach Bobbi Quinata said. “He would write notes (at my GW games) and give it to his caregiver to pass it along to me. He would see something on the court and send the message to me.”

Afaisen and Quinata met as youngsters at Inarajan Junior High School in the late 1970’s and it was Blaine who got Quinata involved in volleyball.

“Blaine was the one that molded my passion. He said he knew that volleyball was my passion. And that was his nature, to feed off that nurturing,” Quinata said.

His teachings were simple: stick to the basics and let the mind overtake the physical aspects of the game.

“He didn’t have to jump for a kill and he knew exactly where to place the ball,” veteran Inarajan player Frank ‘Z’ Taitague said. “He was that good. He taught me how to bump, serve and how to play the net.”

But it was the mental part of the game that Afaisen emphasized the most with his players.

“He always said it’s not how high you can jump, but how smart you are on the court,” Taitague added. “He also taught us how to be humble. He said we shouldn’t judge our game, that the people watching will do the judging of our game.”

Blanket Defense

It may be because Afaisen actually used blankets during practice so his Royals can’t see where the ball is coming from the other side, but his defensive scheme was simply known as the ‘Blanket Defense’.

“This term referred to how well his ND girls covered the volleyball court by being on their toes and body language (to confidently defend against one’s opponent) to their benefit,” Gamboa said. “Blaine also knew that ball placement was equally important, though not as glamorous as strong powerful hits. Blaine prepared his team properly, but he also mindful it was a sport and to have fun.”

Former Royals All-Island player (’87-’90) Debra Bell Sablan remembers the defensive system well.

“He started the ‘blanket defense’ and he kept that with every team at ND,” Sablan commented. “Full coverage of the court at all angles. He had an unorthodox way of teaching it where he’d actually get blankets to cover the net so we don’t see the other side of the court. It was one of his strategies to have that awareness and to be alert.”

Afaisen will be laid to rest in the village he loved and never left.

“Blaine believed in what he was doing. He loved INARAJAN. He was from Inarajan and will forever be from Inarajan,” added Gamboa.

Darrell Pereda, former GW boys championship coach: Blaine was a great friend and mentor to me. He was like a big brother. We always kept in contact through facebook or he’d call me to wish me luck or congratulate me. He followed pretty much all my games when I coach at GW and my brief times with Notre Dame. He always knew what to say and he always commended me. He was the kind of guy that you could turn to through good and bad. Even with his situation, he never let that bring him down. He always told me to do what I’ve been doing cause it works and it shows from all my success. Never let anyone bring you down and think that you’re not good at what you do. Because you are. I’m really going to miss the talks, & advice. He has definitely made an impact on my life. Blaine & his family are great people whom are loving and caring. My love and prayers go out to them. Rest in Peace my brother & friend. Until we meet again. Adios! Esta Ki.

Larry Gamboa, former Guam National volleyball player: He was a son of Chamorro culture and tradition, an educator, a coach, a mentor, an athlete, a brother, a leader, a classmate, a friend. For each and every one of us who had the pleasure to know him, he genuinely shared with us who he was at the very core – a warm-hearted, compassionate and caring individual. Blaine’s actions, as noted by his players, showed the immense respect they had for him.

Debra Bell Sablan, former ND Royals player, league MVP (’90): Everybody knows Blaine is the most inspiring of all coaches. He was a true motivator and he knew what type of potential each person had. He knew the strength of each person and not just a select few. He made volleyball really fun and it didn’t seem like work. Of all the coaches, he was the most true. He would actually coach you and tell you what you’re doing wrong. When he’s mad at you, he’d take his finger and poke at your forehead. Blaine always gave all his players the opportunity to play. Everyone had something to give to the team because he knew what to do. I would never want to play under anybody else but Blaine Afaisen. The reason I went to ND was because of him. I wanted to play for him.

 

PHOTO GALLERY BROUGHT TO YOU BY:

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Inarajan Hawks

Inarajan Lady Hawks

Inarajan Men's Hawks

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Lady Hawks

ND Royals

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Royals 83

Royals

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Village

with Bobbie Quinata

Mens Hawks

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