Meet the Coaches: Marco Palacio

The hits keep on coming, as this week we talk with our Men’s Head Coach, Marco ‘Papi’ Palacio, about his years at the club.

Can you introduce yourself please:

My name is Marco (my dad named me after Marco Tarelli and his timeless goal celebration in the 1982 WC) but people around the club call me Papi; I am the head coach for the Mens Football teams and I love it. I was born and raised in one of the most football-obsessed countries in the world, Mexico.

Why did you choose to coach for the Melbourne University Soccer Club?

Our club is quite unique, it has such a rich history (5th oldest club in Victoria), it plays a crucial role as a community sporting club for the City of Melbourne with a strong focus on inclusiveness, and we host football enthusiast from all over Australia and the world (60+countries in 2019) which just enriches your experience so much.

What appeals to me the most (besides our grounds and location), is the amazing potential our football club has, with the right support, we will be able to develop a program that matches the excellence of Melbourne University and supports the City of Melbourne on every way possible to continue to do what we love, in one of the most liveable cities in the world.

What do you feel are the main benefits of coaching for MUSC?

I love that I am surrounded by people who share an important core of values, this encourages me to become a better coach and person, I learn something new every day as I deal with club members with so many different backgrounds and professions.

On top of that, our location is perfect, Princess Park is such an iconic place, training at night with city views and high-quality pitches is always a plus.

Football-wise, I get to coach quality players who come from different clubs (Australia and overseas as we do not run an academy); who add unique skills and experience to our squad. I also get to develop young players and try to be an important part through their journey as students; I loved my time as a University student which lead me to Melbourne, I guess I want to share my experience with others.

Has there been a favourite season at MUSC, if so why?

Every season has its up and downs, however, my favourite so far was 2019. This was my second year as Head Coach and a continuation on trying to rebuild a team that had gotten relegated two seasons in a row before I was given the opportunity to take on this role.

We had a fantastic season, a strong squad, supportive coaching staff, and the board backing my project. The results were great, we finished third, very close to promotion scoring +3 goals per game and winning 68% of our games, but most importantly, I got to share amazing times with a great bunch of guys. Also, to mention, I was awarded the Harry Gill medal which was such an honour, the guy as a living legend.

Has there been a standout player you have coached at MUSC?

Players stand out for many reasons; I’ve had the pleasure to coach amazing footballers like Luiz Gonzales, Andreas Pannek, Matthew Donnan, Mohamed Habib, Massimo Santucci or Raffee Brenan. Then I’ve also been lucky to coach players who have become lifelong friends like Edu, Matt Misfud, Micky Owen, Kerry Robinson, Bell or Alex Gounis, legends of the club like Marco Sani, Rai Spiller and Aras.

However, as a coach, my number one is Tom Mullumby. He’s one of those players who are like an extension of the coach in the pitch, a true leader who represents the club and University values like no other. 

Who is your coaching idol? Who do you find inspiration from?

My coaching idol is my dad, he was my coach as a kid and in his very own way, he thought me the love and passion I now feel for this game. He also showed me all the intangibles football has to offer, so I guess every time I have my coaching hat on, I want to do a great job to make him proud as a thank you for all he has done for me.

How would you describe your coaching style?

I love tactics; however, my real focus is on social competence. I give more importance to man-management, relationship attributes and togetherness amongst the teammates.

I believe that every player is motivated by different things and needs to be addressed accordingly, I invest a lot of time making sure I surround myself with people who I can trust and vice-versa.

My teams are always on the standing foot, we love to press high, I think that by attacking opponents in their own side of the pitch, we will have better chances to scoring and will have more fun.

I don’t see myself ever practising parking the bus and playing long balls, that’s boring to me.

Finally, I make a big emphasis on respect, that is huge for me, respecting our club, referees, teammates and community in general, we represent the values of the best University in Australia, but most importantly, we intend to lead by example and that, is non-negotiable.

Do you have a particularly memorable moment relating to your coaching experience?

Last season we paid Surf Coast a visit, top of the table game; we knew they were a very strong team and needed the win to boost their promotion opportunities. The game was fantastic, they were solid and motivated; however, we played an amazing game, to the best of our ability and ended up winning with authority even when the local ref did all he could to help his local team. We stayed at Torquay for the night, we all went out for pizza and beers and had an amazing time together as a team. I realized how lucky we all are to be able to be part of something so special in such a cool place.

How do you prepare for a match on gameday/do you have any quirky pre-match rituals?

I don’t usually run pre-match preparations, the coaching staff gets the ball rolling and the boys set the mood as I am always watching our reserves team play,  to me both games are equally important and it is the only way I can evaluate performance, also I’m big on squad rotations.

My favourite part would be choosing the starting line ups and the pre-match chat with the boys, after that, the show is run by them and I usually sit back and enjoy the game.

Besides soccer, do you have any other hobbies or passions?

I don’t really have much spare time available, to be honest, my time is always split between work, the club and my family. But to be honest, in the back of me head, there is always football, it’s in my blood and I can always have a bit more of it, whether it’s reading, watching, fantasy football or learning new stuff, I am one always up late at night doing something related to it.

Are you interested in joining our coaching team? Find out how to become a coach at MUSC:

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