Sofia Roman



L+A:What was it like going back to the Philippines for the first time?

I was anxious because I didn't know what to expect, but I'm always in communication with my grandparents, and they kept me updated on everything going on over there. I remember how hot it was... the humidity. Before going I remember hearing about how warm the people were and the delicious food; so once I arrived everything I had previously heard from stories was true. Seeing my family was also a great feeling considering I haven't seen them I'm years.

L+A: What would you say lead you into a basketball career?

My dad played basketball back in high school and had the opportunity to play in college, but never took advantage of it. At the age of 4 my dad would play ball with me, and I would throw the ball but I wouldn’t even come close to the net. From that young age I was so motivated to make it one day. We eventually moved to White Plains, NY where my parents put me and my sister in a recreational league so that we could make new friends.

At the time my sister was really tall and I was super short, so she would make all the buckets. They would always give her the ball even when we were on the same team; growing up, I felt a rivalry with my older sister. She would always get the better grades and always score on the basketball court. It motivated me and made me want to be a better [basketball] player than her. Ever since then I’ve always worked at my game and I eventually joined a travel team in the 5th grade that played all year long.

I truly love basketball, the adrenaline I get from playing, etc. I was also able to make friends along the way who were interested in going to the next step which was college so we’d workout together, wake up at 6AM , etc.

L+A: What's the process between reaching out to schools and being recruited?

I knew going into through the recruitment process I wouldn't have an advantage over others, I was short but and I was also Asian. I read an article, that less than one percent of collegiate basketball players are Asian. I remember my travel team coach spoke to a college coach once about my game, and my coach asked the guy, “If she were black? How would it be different?” Odds were against me, but I just kept on grinding. Focused on my game and made more of an initiative to reach out to coaches.

I even created my own basketball resume. My dad would film all my games and he would cut clips for highlight reels. We would send them to different colleges. I organized all the email threads into separate folders categorized by college. I must’ve have over 100 colleges I sent my resume and reels to. That’s how I started my connection with and getting interest from colleges. My experience came from me being proactive and to be honest I don't think I would've gotten into Dartmouth hadn't I done that.

L+A: What's the process between reaching out to schools and being recruited?

Yes, of course. I definitely feel as though women’s basketball is treated very differently and I notice that specifically when I was playing internationally for the Philippines. It’s developing and they're trying to be progressive and get more support, but the progress is slow; I sensed that there is this idea that women should not be playing basketball. In the Philippines, volleyball is a very popular women’s sport for obvious reasons - the attire. Women’s basketball doesn’t even have a professional league. Men’s basketball is totally different. They have the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). A lot of the college basketball teams go abroad, even to the US, for training camps. The disparity is huge. My time on the national team definitely opened my eyes and has inspired me to continue conversations around sports equality.

L+A: When people look at you, what do you think they see first your ethnicity or your gender?

I say ethnicity first, even from a personal standpoint when I look at other people I'm always trying to figure out where they come from.

L+A: Can you elaborate on the pay gap between men and women?

This is the really sad part.  The men get a salary while the women get stipended. I was fortunate enough to have a family that not only lived in the Philippines but could also provide for me as well. The women’s stipend was enough to get by but not enough when you compare it what the men were getting. Thankfully our sponsors were pretty big so they would house some of our teammates.

L+A: How did you go from playing basketball to working for the NBA/WNBA?

It was not planned at all. My plan was to finish grad school, play one more year of basketball, get that master degree and then head back to the Philippines to join my team in the tournaments last summer. Unfortunately, I couldn't do that because I tore my ACL 2 weeks before my last season of collegiate basketball.

I had to make a decision - to go back home to the Philippines or try to work here in NY. I was unemployed for 5 months which felt like a year. I was applying everywhere and wasn't hearing back so I felt discouraged. I started reaching out to people in my school that were working interesting jobs and to my friend Hannah who was working for the NBA. I told her I was interested in working at the NBA, but didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do. She referred me for a job on the social team. I was hired by October last year and the rest is history haha.

L+A:How did you get into vlogging?

I love YouTube, I remember in college I would watch Michelle Phan. She had makeup tutorials that I loved watching. I loved how she started in the makeup industry, started getting business off of her channel, and became an influencer.

Despite being an introvert and quiet at times, I love being in front of a camera. I like to act. I have family back home that was in the entertainment industry as actors and actresses so it must be in my blood. Vlogging is a way for me to be on camera and be myself. My job has me constantly traveling and seeing new cities, so I love to take advantage of those moments to capture whatever I can and create.

L+A: What would you like for readers to get out of your interview?

That your platform empowers all women. There are moments in my life where I felt as though I was miscategorized as a Filipino woman. I felt like I wasn’t living up to a standard or that I was doing too much. But empowered women, like everyone who has shared their story so far on this collective, has learned to create their own category. We’ve learned to persevere through adversity. We are aware of the odds stacked against us, but we continue to fight and be better versions of ourselves. I don’t know these women, but I already feel as though I have a bond with them because of their stories, their hardship, their strength, and that’s special.

L+A: What advice would you give young girls?

I would say first, to find what they love to do and then pursue it. You can always find a way to do what you love. Be open to asking for help when you need it because there are always so many people willing to do so.

L+A: What would you say is something you wouldn't have if you gave up when you wanted to?

I would have given up my travels in the Philippines on the national team. I would not gained the experiences of traveling the entire Southeast Asia and learning about the different cultures. I would not have discovered my true calling to be in the social media industry, which eventually led me to my career now.

L+A: What's something you’ve made peace with?

I’ve accepted the fact I won’t be playing basketball forever. But even if I'm not playing, I'm still able to share my knowledge to others. I’ve had so many parents reach out to me for advice which means a lot to me, considering I haven't played in a while now.

L+A: In 30-40 Years how would you want people to know your legacy

I would want people to know me as the type of person who would leave things better than she found it, someone who can inspire young women and pursue their passion to the best of their ability. A person who was humble and made people laugh.

L+A: What's the best advice you’ve ever received from a woman?

She said “go get what's already yours”. I'm a big believer in universal energy. She told me to not limit yourself. Everything I want is already mine as long as I believe and take action.

Photo Credit: Rain Rivers Images; Frankie Torres, Fernando Alvarez