Italian performance coach in Bohol

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

Theres an experienced Italian strength and conditioning coach, specializing in basketball, living in Panglao, Bohol, organizing mini-tournaments and pick-up games for kids, willing to lend a helping hand to any team interested in his services. Francesco Berre, 38, earned a degree in Sport Science at Urbino University, has worked with players at all levels from youth to elite and lived eight years in China before deciding to settle in Panglao with his Russian wife Irina last March.

It was in 2018 when Berre invested in the Namaka Bar along Alona Beach in Panglao. “I was looking for an investment with my wife and we both love the Philippines since we travelled to Boracay and El Nido in the past,” he said. “The opportunity came up and we both decided to give it a try. Its not easy now to manage during this pandemic with no tourists but still, we enjoy living in such a wonderful island. I couldnt go back to China as the border was closed while I was away and even if my club Xinjiang was trying to give me a new visa, they werent able to do it. So Im in the Philippines now and doing the best that I can to help the community.”

Berre said he fell in love with Panglao instantly. “I went to Panglao only when I knew about this business opportunity,” he said. “The bar is in good hands with my management team so I would love to go to Manila or Cebu to get back to my passion, working in basketball. I know how Filipinos love the game, how they follow the NBA, how they appreciate the good results of Gilas in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers and how proud everyone was when Gilas almost beat Serbia in the Olympic qualifiers.”

Over eight years in China working with the Shenzhen Aviators and Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the CBA, Berre learned to speak Mandarin. “I worked with Zhou Qi, very professional, always doing extra, puts in the work, bulked up from 230 to 265 pounds,” he said. “When he played in the NBA, I dont think he was ready. If he wants, he can get another NBA shot, hes very ready now. Two players whom I worked with to improve themselves were Giovanni Severini and Zhao Yiming. Giovanni had major ankle surgery and doctors gave him a 50-50 chance to come back. But we did a rehab program that made him stronger and got him ready to play again. Zhao weighed 330 pounds when he was 14. Hes 7-2. In three months, we brought him down to 270. When they were youth players, I worked with Marco Spissu and Simone Fontecchio who are now with the Italian national team. I also worked with NBA player Dave Andersen. I find working with young players very rewarding, helping them grow, improve and stay healthy.”

Berre said gaining the trust of the coaching staff and players is critical in succeeding as a strength and conditioning coach. “I owe a lot to Nik Popovic whom I worked with for six years in China,” he said. “Nik is now the high performance manager of Melbourne in the Australian league. Its important to have a good relationship with the head coach. In China, I worked closely with head coach Adiljan, whos very strict. With data and technology, you can analyze the condition of a player and know what to do to make him reliable on the court for the coach. Personally, I try to set an example for the players. I wake up 5 a.m. to do workouts. The other day, I biked 110 kilometers. You feel good about yourself if youre fit. Nutrition is critical. Abs are made in the kitchen and thats a key to good performance.”

Berre said when he arrived in China in 2012, he didnt know what to expect. “I had no idea,” he said. “But Nik brought me in and I loved the experience. Basketball is growing in China and Chinese players work extremely hard to get better with a high volume of workload. Ive learned a lot from how Italian basketball has grown, particularly at the national team level. Maybe, I can get a chance to share what I know with Philippine basketball.” Berre may be reached via his email address Francesco.ljg@gmail.com.

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