AFTER rising from being a UAAP player to executive director of SBP, Erika Dy has proven that the right man for the job can also be a woman. | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF ERIKA DY

Hard work and building relationships are key factors in thriving in a career, especially in a male-dominated sport like basketball.

Take it from Erika Dy, who broke stereotypes by working harmoniously with ranking basketball officials in a historic project before eventually being appointed as executive director of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas early this year.

The 41-year-old Dy said she had a feeling that all the hard work she put in at law school at Whittier Law School and the University Athletic Association of the Philippines was a prelude to something bigger, something greater for Philippine basketball.

“I went through all that without the World Cup in mind,” said Dy, whose crowning glory was when she served as deputy event director of the FIBA Basketball World Cup — the biggest and most prestigious basketball event outside the Olympics that the country hosted last year.

“I never knew that I would land that job in the future but it was as if I was going through different phases in my life to be ready for this task.”

“My faith in the Lord is deep and I believe that he has a plan for all of us. This is a clear demonstration that He holds our lives.”

But emerging as the SBP executive director — Philippine basketball’s main man — isn’t an overnight process.

At Ateneo de Manila, she studied Management Economics while playing in the UAAP in which she emerged as Season 63 Rookie of the Year in 2000. Four years later, she towed the Blue Eagles to the finals but they were humiliated by a seasoned Adamson University side in a best-of-three series.

After her stint with the Blue Eagles, she flew to the United States to pursue a law degree in California and Master’s degree in Sports Management at Columbia University.

Dy, who comes from a family of politicians, said she never imagined herself engaging in debates despite dreaming of becoming  a lawyer.

“I always dreamed of becoming a lawyer, but I never pictured myself in a courtroom,” Dy said.

“I wanted to use my skills as a lawyer in business and management matters.”

When she returned to the country, Dy was hired by the Blue Eagles to run their women’s basketball program as head coach. Then, she became the school’s assistant athletic director, giving her a golden opportunity to establish connections with the UAAP Board of Managing Directors.

“My experience in the UAAP was very good. I kept in touch with them and had very close ties with them,” she said.

“The camaraderie in the UAAP board is good and you can say that the officials had the athletes in mind whenever they were making decisions. That’s a good environment to be in when you are with athlete-centric individuals.”

But the UAAP is just a small pond for her to swim in.

Little did she know that, soon, there will be a big ocean waiting for her.

Dy was appointed as chairwoman of the International Basketball Federation Legal Commission before SBP president Al Panlilio tapped her to become the deputy event director of the country’s hosting of the FIBA Basketball World Cup.

With these roles, Dy displayed exceptional skills, wheeling and dealing with local and international basketball and government officials to make sure that the prestigious 32-nation tournament will run smoothly and the country will come up with the best-ever and unforgettable hosting.

Her resilience was put into serious test when World Cup head of operations Richard “Dickie” Bachmann was appointed as chairman of the Philippine Sports Commission in December 2022.

But instead of getting demoralized due to the departure of her chief colleague from the organization, Dy took it as an opportunity to bridge the gap between the local organizing committee and the government.

“It was a big deal for the LOC that he became the PSC chairman because he (Bachmann) used to be with us. So when he was appointed, it worked wonders for the LOC because our coordination was fast. The (PSC) chairman truly understood our needs,” Dy said, adding that gender wasn’t really a factor in organizing a male-dominated sport event like the FIBA Basketball World Cup.

“Even if the event was men’s basketball, it was not male-dominated per se. We had a very good diversity in our workforce for both males and females.”

“Yes, there were a bit more male than female staff, but the work literally required heavy lifting. There is no discrimination when you are working with FIBA as they respect female leaders.”

Dy said her appointment as the top man — or woman — in the federation next to the SBP chief allows her to give back to the sport she truly loves.

“It was first brought up to me during the World Cup. I guess they saw how well the event was organized so they talked to me about it since ED (executive director) Sonny (Barrios) announced that he will be stepping down after the World Cup,” Dy said.

“Thankfully, no one from the SBP board objected and voted me in. It’s a big responsibility but being a basketball player in my younger years, a team manager and above all, a basketball fan, it was such an honor that they were considering me.”

Aside from running the day-to-day operations of the federation, her background as a lawyer also enabled her to understand the legalities of the papers presented to her.

“It’s very useful. A lot of contracts go through my desk everyday so instead of passing it on to our legal department where there are so many layers, the process speeds up because I was able to read and review it,” Dy said.

“I still bring the documents to the legal team but that’s just for a second opinion since I already know what I am looking at and what needs to be prioritized in the document.”

Dy said climbing the totem pole of a male-dominated federation like the SBP isn’t easy.

But with her hard work, determination, and the relationships she forged along the way, nothing is impossible — the right man for a job can also be a woman.

“Take care of the relationships you built along the way. I learned that since my playing days that you can’t do everything on your own,” Dy said.

“What I can share is to not limit yourself to your gender. Don’t look down on yourself just because you are a female. Let’s not bring that mentality whenever we go to our respective fields.”

“You are all equal so do what you need to do to deliver the work.”