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Girls Got Game’s Nikka Arcilla and Krizanne Ty: Empowering Girls Through Sports

Girls Got Game’s Nikka Arcilla and Krizanne Ty: Empowering Girls Through Sports

What have you done lately to help your country? Well, if you ask Nikka Arcilla and Krizanne Ty, they’ll tell you exactly what they did just last month: held their inaugural sports camp for their non-profit program Girls Got Game, which aims to use sports to teach young girls from not-so-fortunate neighborhoods values and confidence to help them break the cycle of poverty in our country. The four-day sports camp was held for kids from Balara in Quezon City and featured lessons in running and sports fundamentals, basketball, volleyball, and football (or soccer, if you prefer).

Although quite busy with the camp, which was held from May 21 to 24, 2015, the two co-founders took some time out to tell about their organization. Keep reading to learn about their inspiring project, what they hope to achieve, and how you can help them out!

Girls Got Game founders and managing directors Nikka Arcilla (left) and Kryzanne Ty (right) pose proudly in front of their event tarp at their inaugural sports camp
Girls Got Game founders and managing directors Nikka Arcilla (left) and Kryzanne Ty (right) pose proudly in front of the event tarp at their inaugural sports camp

The first thing we asked these two ladies to tell us about was the Girls Got Game mission. “There is this finding that the adolescent girl can actually be the one to end the cycle of poverty,” Nikka shared. “Because if you get to stay in school, graduate, get a good job, get married at the right age and have kids at the right age, you literally prevent the next cycle of poverty from happening because if you think about it, the person who gives birth to the next cycle of poverty are usually teenage girls. So we subscribe to that belief and want to help her make that happen and we want to empower her to lift herself up.”

But while their end goal is a broad one, they’ve narrowed their focus on how they plan to achieve it. “We want to do that with sports. Because we know that sports teaches you athletic skills, but it also teaches you values, values like determination, sacrifice, hard work, discipline above all things. So these are the values that we impart to our athletes who are part of Girls Got Game. Ultimately, it’s empowering these young girls through the values that sports can provide.”


Athletic Inspiration

Although the two girls were batchmates in college, the Ateneo de Manila University graduates didn’t reconnect until they were working and wanted to put the organization together, as each knew the other was keen on athletics and had been from a very young age. And it’s the thought of how they grew to love sports and athletics as kids that inspired the idea for the organization in the first place.

Krizanne shared, “Ever since I was young, my mom kasi made me try different sports, and I tried [everything] from badminton, basketball, volleyball, football, etcetera. She wanted me to decide what I wanted to do, ‘yun ‘yung na-realize ko. And that’s what we want to do for these kids. These kids don’t have, I mean, not everyone has that opportunity. So ako, I’ve been playing basketball, then there’s tennis, badminton, [and] volleyball, but I love basketball the most.”

Nikka, who played basketball in grade school and high school and got into track and field in college, was put on her path as an athlete by her father. “For me naman, I was kind of forced into sports by my dad. When I was young, he forced me to go to basketball practice, and I cried because I hated it. But then I grew to love it it, and I realized it’s shaped, it’s influenced, so much of who I am now. Like, for example, in the working world, you can tell who’s an athlete, who’s not an athlete. I guess having a strong sports background, really makes you a different person entirely. So, the fact that I was introduced to sports at an early age is something that I wanted to give back, also.”

And because many of the other volunteers for the organization are athletes (whether professional or not) as well, Nikka describes Girls Got Game as “for athletes, by athletes, of athletes.”

As for why they thought of setting up sports camps for girls and girls alone, Krizanne explained, “[There are] not many sports camps for girls, number 1. Number 2, ang sports kasi for girls is different. It has to have structure, a different set of programs [that is] different from boys’. So we wanted to be specific to the girls, the focus is on the girls, parang if there’s a girl and a boy, the girl might not get passed the ball.”

Nikka added, “And like for example football—football is more of a challenge ‘cause it’s not the immediate favorite of girls, usually, like volleyball. And it’s probably because, one, they probably don’t see so many people playing football, it’s not a very common sport, and when they do they’re all boys. So that’s why they think, ‘Oh it’s just for boys,’ which is not true. Which is why we deliberately surround them with other girls, so that they see, ‘Hey, [girls] can actually do it also.’ So I think these little girls need to see ates playing the sport, and not a lot of camps or whatever can give them that, so we wanted to be the ones to give them that.”

Krizanne also explained why they picked basketball, volleyball, and football as the sports to highlight in their camp. “First, in the Philippines, these are the most-known sports. Second, they’re team sports, so much values in learning collaboration and teamwork together, ‘di ba? And lastly, they’re the most easily executable sports, so you just have a field, just have a court, and then you can easily play.”

Girls Got Game sports campers learn to play football
Girls Got Game sports campers learn to play football


Turning the Dream into Reality

In the beginning, it was just Nikka and Krizanne and their plans for (they joke) world domination. “Sometime last year, we just decided, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be nice if we did something like this?’ So I guess we just happened to be of the same wavelength, and then we decided, well, we can’t do it alone, ourselves, so we thought, ‘Why not pitch it to a bunch of people and see who’s interested to come and join us?'” Nikka said with a grin and a shrug. “So November of last year, we invited a whole bunch of people and we had a presentation and said, ‘This is the idea. This is what we’d like to do. What do you think? And if you’d like to join us, raise your hands. If not, that’s totally cool also.'”

Fortunately, quite a few hands went up, and that, along with help from sponsors like Milo, Gatorade, Mizuno, and more, have helped them organized their first sports camp. “This is our inaugural camp. It’s a four-day thing, so we have running/fundamentals on the first day, and football, basketball, [and] volleyball. And if you notice, everyone who’s coaching are athletes also. It’s a bunch of athletes coming together to help other people.”

While some of the athletes were brought in with the help of GGG’s sponsors, many of the ates and other coaches were there on a strictly volunteer basis, taking time off work to give back. “Nobody gets paid,” Nikka said, laughing. “So we’re legit! We’re non-profit, we all have our own day jobs, we all work on this after work or on weekends. The task of people who volunteered was, just be committed and just want to give back. Everyone already has their own athletic background, but we just want athletes who are well-meaning, who want to do some good in the world.”

Of course, the road to turning their plans into actual events wasn’t without its pitfalls. “Like all organizations that start off, one of the things that we’re most concerned about is finance—how to fund this whole thing,” Krizanne said. “It doesn’t come cheap, ‘cause we didn’t want to sacrifice quality, that’s the thing, so we get individual sponsors, corporate sponsors to help us out. Me and Nikka, we’re the managing directors, and everyone working in the different departments, we don’t want [them] to focus on that. We want them to focus on whatever their positions are.”

Nikka agreed, adding, “We have these managers, coaches, managers, logistics, and our role as the managing directors is to give them the resources they need so they can do their jobs. But, yeah, I think that was one of the challenges—how do we make sure that we have the right resources? So individual sponsors help so much to get us liquid, and then our title sponsors like Milo, Gatorade, Mizuno—we barely had to pitch the to them. And they were like, ‘Game, we’re gonna help you.’ So I guess their willingness to support something like this even if they just met us really counted for a lot.”


How Girls Got Game Works

The organization coordinates with other non-profits as well as with local government units. Nikka explained, “For some of the schools, we went through an organization called Teach for the Philippines, they recommended some schools to us. But for the most part, we go through barangays that we know are not so fortunate. So some of our core team members actually happen to know the barangay captains of those areas. So we just ask them to help us with the girls. And they worked out.

“We also bring in the parents, ‘cause we know that if the parents don’t give their buy-in, they’re not going to send their kids. They’re not gonna let their kids get on those jeepneys. So like two weeks ago, we had a pre-camp orientation. We invited the kids and their parents, sat them down for a couple of hours, and we’re saying, this is what’s gonna happen, the kids are in good hands, we’re all first-aid certified, stuff like that. That’s how we get the buy-in of the parents and their trust. And so far, they’ve been pretty supportive.”

And while not every single member of the GGG team is trained in first aid, thanks to a member of the Philippine General Hospital’s emergency med team, who sponsored training for the volunteers, all the coaches who deal directly with the kids are certified. “We have what we call team leads, they’re the ates of the kids,” Nikka explained. “So in these groups of 10, there’s one ate to make sure that all the needs of their kids are [met]. They just make sure that the girls are there from end to end, like, they are picked up at the right time [and] they get home safely [on] all four days of the camp. So those ates are the ones who are certified.”

Krizanne added, “Although we have a first aid station here, we want to make sure na, initial [response], alam nila kung ano first dapat gawin, then we get [medical professionals] if necessary.”

The first batch of Girls Got Game beneficiaries proudly show off their certificates of participation
The first batch of Girls Got Game beneficiaries proudly show off their certificates of participation


How You Can Help, And Why You Should

If you have P5,000 to spare, you can donate that amount to become an individual sponsor of Girls Got Game. But, Nikka and Krizanne said, they accept whatever help you’d like to give. Nikka said, “People can volunteer. If someone wants to donate equipment, that’s fine. If they wanna help coach, that’s fine. If they wanna connect us to sound system, that’s totally fine. Give us food, that’s fine. Again, we’re a nonprofit, so, and we ask nicely, that’s how we get to operationalize everything.”

“We just get to know the people who want to volunteer, and then, along the way, we just see how they can help and fit them in,” Krizanne explained. “Some people here, actually, the volunteers actually emailed [us]. And then we talked to them, to walk them through the whole thing, see where they fit, then they’re here.”

We asked each of the founders to share what rewards they personally have received from all their hard work. Nikka was on fire to be the first to share. “When you get to see these kids enjoying a sport that they’re playing for the first time, and then at the end of the day, saying, “I wanna be a volleyball player! I wanna be a basketball player!”—then you know your work is done. Our goal is not to make them elite athletes, right? We just wanna get them to fall in love with sports. And they will do it on their own, right? So when we hear them give feedback like that, it just feels so good, and when they smile when they’re making new friends, and they have ates to look up to, it just feels so good, ‘cause you know you’re making an impact on their lives.

“But I guess, on the backend also, the other people who are involved are also people who wanna give back. These are all athletes [and] coaches, and at the end of their coaching session, they come back, and they tell us, ‘This felt so good, to give back.’ Not just through donations, which is what normal organizations do, which is totally fine, but to give back using the skills that they have. And it just feels good that you can now give back as an athlete, to create future athletes. And finally, the last bit is, I guess from an organizational point of view, there’s a lot of learnings, there’s a lot of leadership learnings, org dev type of things, so that’s something that Krizanne and I can sort of internalize. But I think, overall, it’s just so rewarding to know the idea that we came up with, just on our own—that tiny curdle of an idea is actually happening now. Now it’s happening, and we’re not exceptionally special people, right? We’re all 9-to-5 workhorses like everyone else, but I guess, if the idea’s good, the intentions are good, people will band together and make it happen.”

Krizanne’s feelings were along the same lines. “It’s actually when you see the girls and when you hear them and get to interact with them, you listen to what they say while you coach them. I’ve coached before, small clinics lang then, and now I see these kids, and I ask, how was your day? They’ll say excited na sila, ‘bukas saan tayo?’ ganyan, and they want to learn. [They’ll say,] ‘Makikita ba namin kayo, coach? Kita tayo ulit tomorrow. And all the more, you see the thirst from these kids that they want to learn.

“And parang you see where they are. We’ve been doing clinics kasi in barangays to refine our sports programs. And it’s partly disappointing to see we don’t have a lot of girls-focused sports camps or clinics. That’s why me and Nikka, we really wanted to push for this. I started out young, but basketball wasn’t a really female sport. I mean, not like volleyball, di ba? But I started playing with boys, [because] I just wanted to learn. So we want to give these to the kids, and it’s really fulfilling nga to see them, to hear them, and to see them wearing their shirts and just smiling.”

She pointed to a huge tarpaulin with the Girls Got Game logo emblazoned on it. “Like how long we worked for that logo! That simple logo, we really thought about this one. It’s an athlete, actually—it’s a G, but it’s an athlete about to leap forward. And that’s the goal of GGG, it’s to open their eyes to the world of sports, and hopefully they get the values from sports like how we did.”

Krizanne looked back to their volunteer orientation sessions, sharing, “What we said sa start to our whole team was, this is a passion project, you don’t get anything out of it, but we ask for commitment. If you’re in it for the long haul, if this is your passion, it’s giving back and playing sports and it’s one of the two things that you’d like to do, you’re welcome to the team, but again, we respect your priorities. We all have our 9 to 5 jobs, so we respect each other’s times, try to come on time, parang ganoon.”

And what’s particularly admirable about the GGG volunteers is that they sacrifice their own free time (and no doubt some of their hard-earned funds as well) for the program. Nikka, for example, is a project manager at Google, while Kryzanne is a foreign exchange trader at Metrobank. One volunteer even flew over from Singapore, where she lives and works, to help out during the camp!

Girls Got Game founders and managing directors Nikka Arcilla (left) and Kryzanne Ty (right) with volleyball ambassador Gretchen Ho (center)
Girls Got Game founders and managing directors Nikka Arcilla (left) and Kryzanne Ty (right) with volleyball ambassador Gretchen Ho (center)


Plans for the Future

With one successful sports camp down, though, Girls Got Game has only got plans for more camps and clinics in the future, and they hope to expand their coverage to the rest of the Philippines and, eventually, the world.

“It’s not just a one-time thing,” Krizanne said. “We wanna do it at least, minimum of two times this year. We might push to three, hopefully, if our schedule works. This is our first camp, and like we mentioned, we want it to be a roving sports camp, so hopefully we branch out to Visayas and Mindanao.”

Nikka added that other groups have already showed interest in bringing the program to other parts of the country. “We’ve gotten requests already from different provinces and different schools, different chapters, to run a GGG camp there. [But] they want us to get this one off the ground first, ‘cause it’s our inaugural camp.”

She’s also keen to take on what she gleefully calls world domination. Although Krizanne had a less ominous explanation of their goals: “Somewhere along the way, can be an international movement also. Any, let’s say, if anyone comes to us, we can send the org structure to them and maybe make a Girls Got Game, I don’t know, Malaysia, Vietnam…”

“Going back, ultimately it’s to give these, empower these girls to the value of sports, right?” Nikka points out. “We aren’t the only developing country in the world, there’s so many out there, so the need is there, the insight is there, so hopefully the formula, the model would work there also.”

But both ladies acknowledge there’s a long road ahead of them. Still, they say, “You know sometimes ‘yung challenge sa amin, it gets tiring to get so many hurdles, pero at the same time, we love what we do, so that’s where we get our energy from. Empowering women through sports!”


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