Between success stories and struggles, there’s a joy for the sport within every Filipina
baller. By getting access to the sport, the joy can be nurtured and dreams can come
Filipinos’ love for basketball is deeply rooted and pervasive. Much like eating sisig or hitting high notes on a videoke, Filipinos take to the sport as if it were part of their DNA. It’s a safe bet that every street corner and alley in the Philippines features basketball hoops–many of them makeshift. The game continues even on bustling inner streets, where traffic halts to watch neighborhood hoopers execute basketball plays.
“There are so many courts in the Philippines. Everywhere you look, on every corner, there’s a basketball court. Everyone loves to play basketball,” affirms Mariana Lopa, Founder of Girls Got Game Philippines, a non-profit organization that has been organizing sports camps for young Filipinas since 2015.”
Fans and teams, families and friends have celebrated, cheered, and sometimes shed tears at games. But amid the thunderous applause, there’s a deafening silence: the lack of recognition for women as equal heroes in the sport. Despite their undeniable talent, female ballers have struggled to find their rightful place in the spotlight. It’s not that Filipina ballers haven’t been making their mark; they certainly have, displaying incredible determination. However, opportunities to play basketball have been skewed in favor of men.
“From my personal experience, I had to be at the court right after lunch, around 1 pm (when the sun is scorching), or else the boys would arrive at 3 or 4 pm after school, and that’s it; you get eased out. So, for Nike to create The Courtyard and have specific hours for girls on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 PM to 9 PM is huge. Because then nobody can interrupt our playing time. It’s kind of funny when the boys come on Tuesdays and Thursdays and find out it’s HER HOOPS time,” Mariana says, with a gleeful smile.
Nike’s mission has always been to promote diversity and inclusivity in sports. When it established The Courtyard by Nike at the heart of BGC this September, one significant reason was to break down barriers that have excluded Filipina ballers from the basketball mainstream for too long. Besides offering weekly pickup games, basketball camps for various skill levels, and opportunities for community groups to join, one of The Courtyard’s distinctive features is a 5-hour time slot on Tuesdays and Thursdays dedicated to girls owning the court. Named “Her Hoops,” this exclusive period from 4 to 9 p.m. on those two days caters exclusively to female ballers.
All About Her Hoops
On September 2, 2023, The Courtyard brimmed with Filipinas who showcased their basketball excellence as Nike inaugurated its newest court, designed to build and nurture the basketball community. The event brought together three distinguished figures in the world of women’s basketball: Coach LA Mumar, the head coach of the Ateneo De Manila University women’s basketball team; Jhaz Joson, a Blue Eagle and Gilas Pilipinas player; and Mariana Lopa , whose Girls Got Game aims to use sports as an avenue for young women to find inspiration through the athlete’s mindset of hard work and determination.
In a panel held at the Courtyard that day, Coach LA, Jhaz and Mariana talked about the growth of girls’ basketball, their invaluable experiences as athletes and coaches, and mentoring the next generation of female ballers. “A coach can make or break a female athlete’s career, especially for us because for women’s players, there’s nothing to look forward to afterwards. There’s no professional league. So, a coach is super important. At college level, the athletes are closer to their coach and that relationship is super important,” Mariana believes.
The following week, a Her Hoops 3×3 basketball tournament was held at The Courtyard, providing girls with even more time and opportunity to engage in healthy competition, showcase their talents, and foster camaraderie, sportsmanship, and values that extend beyond the court.
Passing the Ball From One Generation to the Next
Her Hoops is a declaration that the world of women’s basketball in the Philippines is ready to make its voice heard. It is a platform where Filipina ballers can exhibit their skills, share their stories, and inspire the upcoming generation of athletes.
“I think it’s wonderful to have events like this because younger girls can interact with and look up to the earlier generation. They can interact, play against each other, and realize that they have the potential to achieve what these older girls have already accomplished. It’s a fantastic opportunity for networking, getting inspired, and simply having fun within the basketball community,” says decorated Filipina basketball player Camille Clarin.
Confidence and Conquering the World
Now that Her Hoops is gaining more and more momentum, women ballers can’t help but feel inspired about the future of women’s basketball in the Philippines. “These tournaments make me and my team more confident, like we can conquer the world. Through Her Hoops, we’ve overcome weaknesses while realizing our strengths even more. Future generations (of women ballers) should keep working hard. They shouldn’t lose hope even when women basketball players can’t enter bigger teams or join big
tournaments. You’ll get there,” Team ARMY ALTAMA, winners of the first-ever Her Hoops 3×3 Tournament, advised.
“It’s actually super nostalgic when I look back at the time when I was playing in college. Women’s games then were played in the smallest of gyms, they were not televised. The only people in the stands would be our families and friends. So when I see now that most of their games are televised, and they get covered on mainstream media, and have companies like Nike making sure that the progress continues, we have come a long way,” Mariana sighed. “I sometimes can’t believe it when you turn on the news and see news about the national women’s team. That’s unbelievable,” she added.
So it’s not just about the games. It’s about the stories behind each player. It’s about battles fought, dreams pursued, and barriers that have been shattered. It’s about the love for basketball that knows no bounds and refuses to die. It’s about dreams coming true, at last.
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