A Game of Character

Phoenix Fuel Master’s JC Intal talks about the importance of discipline, staying grounded, and knowing his financial priorities as a family man

Basketball has a way of helping young boys get into the groove of life—staying active, making friends, learning the importance of teamwork, and having a dream. Thank God it’s easy for boys to chase after their basketball dreams in the Philippines. After all, there is no sport that Filipinos take more seriously than basketball. JC Intal was one of those boys. The Phoenix Fuel Master’s shooting guard sat down with FWD Life Philippines to talk about his journey to the PBA, and how having the right attitude and making good financial choices are now paying off for him and his family—wife Bianca Gonzalez-Intal and daughter Lucia.

You’re living the dream in the PBA, when did you discover your love for basketball?

It began when I was in grade school. I started playing basketball when I was in Grade 4. Since then, I fell in love with the sport. But I didn’t think of it as a career at first, just a passion. But in college, when I was playing for the Ateneo Blue Eagles, I realized that maybe I could push this further. And so in junior year, I decided to become part of the PBA. I joined the draft and here I am now.

As a professional athlete, what’s more important to you: effort and attitude or fundamentals of the game?

I go for effort and attitude. In basketball, it all boils down to your attitude toward the game, your discipline, how you train, and how you take care of yourself. The fundamentals of the game, you can learn that over time. The will to exert effort to improve yourself and your skills are crucial if you want to succeed as a professional athlete.

What’s your advice to collegiate players aiming for a spot in the PBA?

Follow their coach. If they want to go pro, they have to have a professional attitude and to show their worth every single day. Hindi pwedeng tatamad-tamad sa college basketball. You’re not just playing for the school, you’re studying as well. Use your time in college to prepare for the big league. In PBA, you get to meet and work with veterans, superstars, and the best coaches. You have to be a good team player. Also, in the pros, you must remember that you’re not only playing for your team, you’re playing for yourself and the future of your family and loved ones.

How would you describe the importance of strength and stamina for athletes?

I’ve been playing basketball for 10 years now. But regardless if you’re a rookie or a veteran, it’s inevitable to feel tired sometimes. Tao lang din tayo. There will be days when you won’t feel like practicing or training. As an athlete, however, you have to be mentally tough and steadfast when it comes to your fitness. If basketball is your bread and butter, your body is your capital. So you have to take care of and invest in your health and your body. You owe it to yourself and the people who depend on you to exert extra effort in your fitness and stamina.

A lot of young boys and athletes look up to you. How does that make you feel? How do you make sure that you’re being a good example to your fans?

I’ve always kept a low profile on and off court. But as for acting or being a certain way, I’m just being myself and doing my best to be a good dad to Lucia, a good husband to Bianca, and a good example to my siblings and relatives—whether privately or publicly. I’m really flattered that PBA players get a lot of support from fans.

How does becoming a father change you as a person?

It’s true what they say that when you have a child, your whole world will revolve around her. My whole perspective and priorities changed when Bianca and I had Lucia. I’m turning 34 this year and I want to be there for her longer—see her get married, have her own children. To do that, I have to start thinking of my well-being, my health, my own future, and how I can secure hers.

How about your financial goals and priorities? How did it change now that you’re a family man?

Bianca and I are partners in everything. When it comes to investments, family decisions, paying bills, saving up, and parenting, nagtutulungan kami. As for finances, I’ve always believed that it’s not how much you earn. It’s how much you save and what you do with it. Saving for the future is really something that athletes must take very seriously, especially when they already have their own families.