3 AAPI Athletes That Are Great Role Models for Youth Athletes
By Nicole Fong
May 17, 2023
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month—a time to celebrate the history, culture, and contributions of AAPI communities in the United States.
As a youth sports coach, you have the opportunity and responsibility to create a positive and inclusive environment for your athletes by educating your players on the challenges and stereotypes AAPI athletes have had to overcome to find success.
To name a few, AAPI athletes have faced racism, harassment, and violence throughout history, but even more so now due to newer stereotypes introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic. They have also had to challenge the “model minority” myth, which creates a cultural expectation that Asian Americans prioritize school (and that they don’t value athleticism!).
Some of your own players of AAPI descent may be facing similar challenges, and you can help them find confidence in life and in sport by sharing some success stories. Here are some iconic AAPI athletes that can serve as role models for your players, and some of the challenges they’ve had to overcome to achieve success in their fields.
Jeremy Lin (NBA Veteran)
Who could forget when “Linsanity” overtook the NBA in 2012—when the Knicks guard broke out with 25 points against the Nets. The basketball player inspired many young AAPI basketball players with his clutch performances, yet faced racism and stereotypes throughout his whole career, including being called “coronavirus” on the court.
The kicker for the Atlanta Falcons shared his experience being on the receiving end of offensive jokes and name-calling as an Asian American on social media. He would ignore it and try to mind his own business, but due to the rise of AAPI attacks recently, he notes that it is more important than ever to speak out against this hate.
In an interview with ESPN, Olympic Snowboarder Chloe Kim shares her experience as the only minority on her team. Originally, she chose to stay silent, as that is how she coped and she felt isolated and uncomfortable speaking up. She received hate ever since she was a kid, and to this day gets hundreds of racially-driven hate messages monthly. When she won her first X Games at 13, people belittled her accomplishments because she is Asian. After she won her Olympic gold medal in Pyeongchang, she began to speak up and share her story.
As a youth sports coach, you can support the AAPI communities in youth sports by:
- Educating yourself on the history and culture of AAPI communities, and appreciating their diversity and richness
- Addressing any incidents of racism or discrimination that occur on or off the field, accompanied by a zero tolerance policy, and creating a safe and respectful space for your athletes
- Providing resources and referrals for mental health support for your athletes, especially if they are experiencing stress or trauma related to racism or violence
- Listening to your athletes with empathy and respect, and encouraging them to express their feelings and opinions
- Celebrating the achievements and contributions of AAPI athletes in your sport and beyond, and exposing your team to diverse role models
- Fostering a team culture that values diversity, inclusion, and belonging, and promoting good sportsmanship among all players
You have the ability to make a positive difference in the lives of your AAPI athletes. You can also help them develop into well-rounded individuals who can contribute to their communities and society. Remember, as a youth sports coach, you have the power to shape the future of sports—and the future of our youth.
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