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HERo: Camille Clarin is here for the future

From realizing basketball was the sport for her until being part of the national team, Camille Clarin shares her thoughts on the future of women’s basketball here in the Philippines.

WORDS by Addie Cuadra

Camille Clarin etched her name in Philippine basketball starting-off as a stellar rookie for the National University Lady Bulldogs back in 2019 and being part of Gilas Women, which have been clinching medals in international courts. 

The NU Lady Bulldogs and Gilas Women guard was only about nine years old when she first decided to play basketball. Before finding out her passion for hooping, she also played a bunch of sports like figure skating, swimming, golf, and volleyball. With the influence of her dad and sister, she decided to join the sport to try it out for fun since it was not her priority at first.

“It was a family thing,” she told SLAM Philippines. 

From simply having fun, Clarin realized basketball was the sport for her. Since there weren’t really leagues that cater basketball for girls, she started off playing in an all-boys league. At a young age, she got a taste of knowing that she will not always be respected as a woman in sports. After eventually realizing that, she got motivated by the fact that she could score on guys. 

“Playing in an all-boys league made me appreciate the sport,” she said. 

Playing as a woman now in basketball leagues made her tougher as a player because she always had to fight her spot on the court. Apart from the set-backs, her experiences helped her make lifelong friends.

 “Tough at first. Interesting looking back at it. Never had an issue playing with boys. It felt natural because it’s a sport. Never occurred to me that it was weird being the only girl who plays with boys,” said Clarin.

However, she would like to emphasize to girls in sports nowadays that not everyone can take the same path as she did, like starting off basketball with playing in an all-boys league.

“It was a good experience for me, but it’s not for everyone,” she added. 

For Clarin, basketball wasn’t only a sport. Over the course of her basketball career, she found a purpose in basketball in different ways. First it was opening her up to new people, meeting new friends, and challenging herself on how to stay fit.

Basketball served as an avenue for her to explore different things. Although she admitted that initially, her priorities were her studies, she thought that if she kept playing basketball, she could be granted scholarships to study for free, travel the world, and go wherever she wants. 

Moving to the Philippines, she had a different purpose. It was more like what she could do for herself. Clarin said that when she thinks about her future, it’s not necessarily in basketball but it’s to make an impact with the girls around her and the culture of basketball here in the country.

It was the big reason why she stayed in the Philippines because realistically there’s not a huge future for women’s sports in the Philippines and women’s sports in general. So instead of building opportunities for herself, Clarin uses basketball as the very foundation of her aspirations to make a change for the future generation of girls to have other options. The future here is what she’s more after. 

When asked if Clarin has plans to play for the Women’s National Basketball League, she said that her current priorities are to get more experience from playing overseas and focus on the Gilas.

“My priority is to go overseas. The back up plan is to stay with WNBL because it’ll always be here as a league but personally, I’d like to try playing overseas somewhere,” she shared. 

Even though Clarin is a very much known player for Gilas women, she admitted she never really thought of playing for the national team. She shared her first experience playing with Gilas when she was 12 and blew the gaff on not being able to play her best during her first actual tryout.

“I played awful. It was so embarrassing and one of the worst experiences and so I thought my future with Gilas is done,” she said. 

It felt like a long shot for Clarin and even when she felt a little down after her first tryout experience, she still had her hopes up because she had no idea where she would go for college yet and she continued to develop her game. Hooping her way back to the top, the opportunity for UAAP came up. Clarin used this opportunity to make her way for Gilas. 

“Definitely a reality check. Gilas  was the dream since I thought I could never play for (team) Canada. I wanted to represent my home country with my roots. Eventually I had to work for it. Because it definitely felt like a long shot,” she said. 

Gilas women’s stellar run in the SEA games helped them triumph in securing a gold medal for the country. With Clarin contributing great plays to the team, she mentioned that part of her next goal is to continue the momentum they have with the team right now.

According to her, the Gilas Women are in a very good spot in terms of developing and building their program. Although the responsibility of being part of Gilas was tough since the players all had different priorities and responsibilities outside the team, they have a goal to continue the drive they have right now. Even though they don’t get to train consistently, the team would want to put emphasis on continuously training throughout the year and focus on the goal of retaining the SEA games gold and be more competitive in FIBA. 

Gilas Women’s eminent performance in the international court gained attention from the Filipino fans and definitely opened up the opportunity for younger girls to play because they have seen the success of the team. For the Gilas women, the goal is to keep winning to show that they’re worth the support. They’re definitely up for the challenge especially now that there’s a younger group of girls coming into the program and the veterans are slowly exiting from the team. The transition across the next two to three years in terms with the lineup is something basketball fans should look forward to. 

Recently, the Gilas girls U16 team made noise when they made a 3-0 sweep in group A in the FIBA Asia U16 Women’s Finals and eventually led them to bagging a bronze. The U16 team made an impression to which Clarin spoke highly of their performance as a whole and praised those who stood out in terms of individual performance. 

Clarin’s goal of making an impact for girls and the culture of basketball can be mirrored to the rising traction the U16 girls gained. Her hopes for the girls to continue to stay in the program made her look forward to playing with them in the future. 

“Once you put on that jersey it feels different and you don’t really realize the impact until you stay with the program for a long time so I hope that those girls stay, continue to develop and make the most out of the opportunity they get with Gilas and hopefully they work their way up to the women’s team because I would love to play with them,” she said.

She had a talk with the U16 girls and they shared that they’re anticipating for the next tournament and expressed their eagerness to continue playing for the U18 team so they can represent the flag again. 

“It’s so nice to see that they cherish the opportunity to represent the Philippines even though they’re from the States because I was in that boat and my first time with Gilas was also the same,” she said. 

With more girls being drawn to hooping, Clarin is still looking forward to having more college teams. She expressed her desire to have more collegiate partnerships like the NCAA hoping for them to have a women’s basketball league and more grassroots program that will enable them to have the whole thing for Gilas Women with a full U16, U18, and U23 lineup. 

“We just have to put priority on helping out the younger generation, especially the veterans and the people who’ve been in this league. They know how it is and they know how hard it is to get started especially here in the Philippines,” she said. 

Raised on the opposite side of the world where there’s not much stereotypes and gender bias in terms of what sports is played, Clarin expressed how different things are here in the country where stereotyping and gender bias in sports are obviously an issue. Thanks to non-profit organizations like Girls Got Game (GGG) which was founded by female athletes which aims to empower and provide opportunities for young women through sports, more girls can now add to the winning culture for sports in the Philippines.

Clarin thinks that it’s so important for them to keep doing that and continue to get funding for that.

“I hope girls in the future don’t have to fight for their spot in the sports world here in the Philippines where they can just play basketball and pursue their passion because it’s hard enough waking up day and day and trying to practice trying to be the best you can be and there’s so much outside noise,” Camille said. “It’ll be so much better for the girls in the future if they could just play basketball, be happy about basketball, and not have to worry about anything else.”

Women’s basketball is not something new but the hype Gilas women have brought made Filipino basketball enthusiasts anticipate for more. With the U16 girls on the way, will there be enough Filipina basketball players to continue the legacy of Gilas Women? 

Clarin is uncertain but she’s looking at the bright side. She believes it’s up to them who are currently in the running to become the face of women’s basketball in the country.

“We really have to show them that there’s a future in women’s basketball because it’s hard to pursue something when it’s not something in front of you to look up to. It’s hard to imagine yourself in that position so I think it’s up to us to continue to play, to continue to show these girls that their passions are worth pursuing and I think that they can keep the momentum going,” she said. 

Looking back in 2019 when Clarin first came here, the sudden increase in the recognition of women’s basketball left a mark in the winning culture of sports in the country. 

“It doesn’t look like anything really but if you think about it they’re still lacking covered support but compared to 2019 its a world of a difference and it goes to show once you put time and effort, people will come, people will support,” She said and thinks they’re on the way to getting a good grassroots program but there’s still a lot more work to do so and as players, they definitely have to push themselves. 

This ignited the fire within Clarin to find in herself the initiative to take care of the next generation. 

“It’s time to continue the battle so that there is a new generation of players to replace us eventually,” she added. 

With the upcoming UAAP season looming close, Clarin is now gearing up as she prioritizes training with NU. During the last season of the UAAP 3×3, she only had little breaks between her practice with NU and Gilas.

“I practiced around six hours a day. NU in the morning and then Gilas in the afternoon,” she shared. 

A much deserved break for her as she mentioned training has lessened a little bit. The priority for Clarin is with NU right now since they won’t train as much for Gilas. She’s in great shape as her training with Gilas is limited to only 3 times a week which is definitely a big change to her body giving her time to recover and concentrate on the upcoming UAAP season. 

The NU Lady bulldogs are anticipating the competition for Season 85. They caught a glimpse of the stakes at 3×3 but Clarin thinks it’ll be a great battle this year since they’ve got a whole new squad. With the guidance of their new coaching staff, the NU Lady Bulldogs are excited to see what they could do on the court and are ready to retain the gold back in Sampaloc. 

The future is definitely bright for Clarin but her hopes for the future of women’s basketball here in the country are much brighter. Living up to being an Idol in the court, Clarin leaves a few words for younger girls who wish to pursue hooping:

“Keep yourself to your dreams. Pursue your passion. If you don’t work hard you’re not gonna get anywhere. Don’t be afraid to go outside of the box. Go against the grain if you can. Failure is part of the journey.”