WITH all the headlines the Philippine Azkals are getting these days, it may seem ironic that their team manager, Dan Palami, is hesitant to acknowledge his role in the sport’s transformation in our basketball-crazy country. “I’m only about to start my second year [with the team],” he tells us, humbly implying that all the praise may very well be premature. The accolades are deserved, nonetheless, and here Palami shares the lessons he’s learned since the start of his tenure.
On Continuing The Football Frenzy
I think only a person who is crazy enough about football and has a passion for it can endure all the things that happened [to me] the past year: Dealing with the politics of the sport, the difficulty of forming a competitive team — nobody wanted to play for us in the beginning. Playing in the UAAP or NCAA was considered more prestigious than being part of the national team — and the sacrifices needed in maintaining that team. Every now and then, before I go to bed, when everything’s silent, I ask myself, “Is this something worth pursuing?” Then you wake up in the morning and you see kids in the street playing football, the excited faces of the fans when the Azkals play, and players who are as passionate and who are as proud as I am of what we have achieved.
On Dealing With Change
The beginning of the Azkals was a happy experience. We started on a very negative position. I brought in what I had — I’ve managed private companies myself — and it wasn’t so difficult [to meet expectations] because the team was unknown and the members didn’t even have allowances. They didn’t even have a proper training kit. So when I came in, my goal was to professionalize it. So every little thing you did was a plus. Now it’s more difficult because not all the players share the same experience. Like 'yung magtre-training kayo pagkatapos matutulog ka sa sahig lang. Chieffy Caligdong, Ian Araneta, and Aly Borromeo all experienced that. But now, when we train, the players expect to be billeted in a hotel, be served with good food. The standard has risen. But I’m glad kasi it simply means we are evolving and the bigger the challenge, the more it excites and motivates me.
On Keeping Level-Headed
My relationship with the team boils down to one word: respect. They know that what I tell them and what I want them to do will benefit the team. And in the beginning, I had to be both the sponsor and the manager of the team. Nakita naman nila na I put my money where my mouth is. When I say na this is going to happen, whether somebody is sponsoring it or not, it will happen. So I think that is one of the reasons they respect me. But, mutual respect is always something we’ve had. I’m actually more of a friend to them. But they know that if what they are doing affects the performance of the team, especially if they are preparing for an important game, I will put my foot down [and tell them to stop]. I have a simple rule: If we’re preparing for a competition then the distractions have to go, if you cannot let go of the distractions then the team has to let you go.
On Showing Emotions
I prefer to be the stabilizing factor of the team. While everybody is panicking, I’ll be smiling and nonchalant. I’m used to pressure kasi, with the businesses that I handle. You know, there is always a solution. At the end of the day, I leave them on the pitch and I stand on the side and watch. It’s during games that I’m most excited, when I show emotions.
On Simple Solutions
I’m a very patient guy. The only thing that irritates me with regard to the players is when they can’t execute our plays; it’s more of the technical side of the game. On the management side naman I keep it very simple: if you can’t do the job, I won’t get angry, I’ll just look for another person who can do it. Life is too short to dwell on things that you don’t love. Enjoy it. Don’t allow yourself to be frustrated by things, because eventually your passion will wear out. You’ll be thinking more about the problems than the game.
1. START WITH PASSION. Work becomes easier if it’s something you are passionate about.
2. APPRECIATE CHALLENGES. Face them with fervor and draw motivation from it.
3. NOBODY IS BIGGER THAN THE TEAM. Or the company, family, group of friends. Believing that you’re the most important person in the world won’t generate admiration.
4. VALUE PRESSURE. It will make you a better person. But you must first find a way to handle it.
5. STICK TO THE BASICS . Don’t overthink, nor overact. Simplicity is key.
(Article first appeared in Men’s Health, January 2012 issue)