MANILA — Philippine women’s basketball has made waves in the international scene recently.
The Gilas Pilipinas Women will remain in Division A of FIBA Asia after a historic campaign in the FIBA Women's Asia Cup 2023, while its under-16 team was promoted to the upper echelon as well. Meanwhile, a couple of local organizers are continuously making efforts to further Philippine women’s hoops to the next level.
But for an emerging country like the Philippines to improve even more, it should start by supporting the game right from the grassroots level.
This, according to four-time FIBA Women's World Cup gold medalist Sue Bird, who is in town for the FIBA World Cup.
“The best way to start it is to put the emphasis on why this is good for younger people,” Bird said in the FIBA Women’s World Cup press conference, Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“I think, what we’re talking about for young people in terms of what sports can give young people, if more of those that are in charge view it that way, I think it would change where they put their resources, where they are able to maybe, build a budget to put more importance on sports.”
And while this has been already done, for the most part, it is not focused on the girls having the chance to improve their skills and talents consistently.
“Especially for little girls, ‘cause they’re probably the ones that are gonna receive even less of the opportunity.”
That is why for the five-time Olympic Gold medalist, people -- especially those in power -- should see the sport as a platform that will elevate the youth in various facets of their lives.
“I wish people would view it more as a tool. A tool for education, a tool to better yourself, to become a more well-rounded person overall,” she said.
“Through that, hopefully, you can bring in people from other countries that can develop things for knowledge.”
And it’s not only about putting up support just for there to be one, which is why Bird emphasized that it must come from those who really understand what they are going to deliver.
“You have to be able to understand to gain knowledge. I feel like in women’s sports, a lot of times there is just that gap that exists ‘cause things in women’s sports are just different than men,” she said.
“Not worse, not better, just different.”
“You have to have knowledge of the game itself, and that’s more specific if a country wants to build something,” she added.
But for those who will not be able to continue their lives as athletes for whatever reason it may be, Bird said that following and understanding these principles are also applicable even if you live a life outside of sports.
“Everything I have learned in sport — and by the way, this doesn’t have to do with elite sport, this isn’t because I’m sitting here as a former professional athlete, everything I’ve learned from sport — has segued into life,” she said.
“How to get along with people, you know, how to set goals, achieve them, and I think the message for little girls, little boys [is], while I do want to acknowledge that time management becomes a thing as you get older, especially when you know, go into higher education or maybe you get your first job, I totally appreciate that, but staying in sport is gonna give you the life lessons you give.”
“[In] school of course you’re gonna learn, you’re gonna get a lot of knowledge, but sports gives you the important life lessons that you’re gonna carry with you and you’re never gonna forget for the rest of your life.”
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