Jearzy Ganade: On battling stereotyping and finding success as a female student-athlete

Dribble Media’s ZerJosh Serrano talked to UE Lady Warrior Jearzy Ganade as she discussed the hardships of being a female student-athlete, and how vital the WNBL is in improving women’s basketball in the country.

Graphics by Abby Tamayo (Original photos from David Cubangbang)

Graphics by Abby Tamayo (Original photos from David Cubangbang)

As the Philippines’ basketball landscape continues to recover from the hiatus brought upon by the pandemic, the recent creation of the Women’s National Basketball League is one of the few feel-good developments in the past few months. WNBL already had its first tournament last year, but it was only last August that the Games and Amusement Board has promoted it to the title of a professional league.

For the many Filipina basketball players, the thought of playing in a professional league was only a far-fetch dream. There’s a reason why it took decades for the country to establish the WNBL, and that was because people aren’t even interested in the first place.

But with how the likes of Afril Bernardino, Janine Pontejos and Jack Animam have spearheaded Perlas Pilipinas’ rise to glory during the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, it’s now time to debunk the notion that women cannot withstand the physicality needed in the game of basketball.

UE Lady Warrior Jearzy Ganade admitted that people around her deemed it unusual for a female to pursue basketball dreams. But Jearzy emphasized that she is at her happiest when she’s playing hoops, a sport that she grew to love since she was still a young kid.

Jearzy: “Natuto ako maglaro kasi tapat lang talaga ng bahay namin yung court. Nakikita ko yung mga kuya ko na naglalaro. Then sabi ko sa sarili ko, bakit hindi ko subukan? Noong nag-start na ako gumaling sa paglalaro, may mga naririnig ako na bakit daw babae naglalaro ng basketball? Hindi ko sila pinansin. Tinuloy-tuloy ko lang yung pag-iimprove kasi masaya ako dito.”

Photo by Joaqui Flores/Tiebreaker Times

Photo by Joaqui Flores/Tiebreaker Times

Despite being clouded by the uncertainty of a future career in basketball, Jearzy didn’t stop from aiming high. However, it didn’t come easy because not a single UAAP school offered her a roster spot. Jearzy confessed that she was already on the brink of giving up on her basketball dreams until a coach encouraged her to try out for the University of the East.

Jearzy: “Sabi ko sa sarili ko, by college gusto ko makapasok sa big schools sa UAAP. I attended tryouts sa NU, UP, and UST kaso hindi ako nakuha. Halos ikutin ko na lahat ng schools. Muntik na ako huminto noon, na parang gusto ko mag-aaral na lang ako.

Then isang araw, naglaro ako sa isang One-Day League sa baranggay namin. Yung coach ko doon sinabi niya na subukan ko sa UE, tutulungan niya daw ako. So pumunta ako kasama siya and yung father ko. After ng first day of try-out, kinuha na kaaagad papers ko.

May naka-plano pala sa akin. Para dito pala talaga ako sa UE.”

Despite being pegged as a playmaker for UE, Jearzy would become a double-double machine in the UAAP, constantly racking up double digits in both scoring and rebounding. There’s no doubt that she has carved a name among the current elite players in the league.

Still, being a female student-athlete is not all fun and games. It doesn’t come with all the privileges and support as compared to their male counterparts. While Jearzy admits that this is true, she says she is still more than happy to play basketball while earning her degree in a prestigious university.

Jearzy: “Totoo na mas napapansin talaga at mas nabibigyan ng suporta ang Men’s team. Gaya na lang tuwing UAAP games, hindi po talaga pansinin ang Women’s teams lalo na kung sa crowd ang pag-uusapan.

Pero wala po problema sa amin yun. Kung ano lang makukuha namin, ayos lang. Ang importante sa amin is yung makapagtapos kami ng pag-aaral.”

It’s a sad reality, but female hoopers like Jearzy will not back down from these challenges. At the back of their minds, they are still hoping that a basketball hotbed like the Philippines will finally realize their on-court abilities.

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That came true when WNBL came to fruition, a development that Jearzy is excited about.

Jearzy: “Masaya and excited ako na may WNBL na. Lahat naman ng babae na naglalaro ng basketball, eto yung pinapangarap na magkaroon ng pro league. Para hindi lang nasasayang yung talent namin at after college, meron kaming mapupuntahan.”

It’s been a long time since women’s basketball was established in the collegiate ranks, but it has always been a dead end for them. They put in the hours in the gym, working on their craft, and shedding tears and blood to grow in the game they love.

But right after they graduate, there’s no basketball career waiting for them. Sure, they learn lessons along the way such as time management, discipline and perseverance. Yet, they can only resign to the fact that their basketball glory days are already in the past.

But as they say, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. The WNBL will indeed provide female hoopers the platform to showcase their hard-earned abilities.

Jearzy: “Gaya ng mga lalaki na pinaghihirapan yung mga pinapakita nila, ganoon din kami. Gusto namin ipakita yung bunga ng hirap na ginagawa namin sa training. Ipapakita namin sa tao na dapat lang maging pantay ang tingin nila sa women’s at men’s basketball. Alam namin na kaya naming makipag-sabayan at ipakita lahat ng natutunan namin.”

So for all aspiring female athletes, not just in basketball but in every sport, there’s no reason to back down from any challenge. Jearzy wrapped up the interview by encouraging women to always have the hunger for growth, and not let stereotyping and discrimination hinder them from chasing their dreams.

Jearzy: “Sa lahat ng players na babae, huwag niyong sukuan ang pangarap niyo dahil lang sa tingin niyo na walang pag-asa. Huwag kayo mapapagod matuto. Araw-araw, pwede natin  ma-improve kung ano yung kulang sa atin. Doon mo makikita na kaya mo pala. Kung willing ka at masipag ka, walang hahadlang sayo.”

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