Written and originally posted by AFG member Brianna “Bre” Russell, Girls Leading Girls CEO & Founder
As the month of May celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month I am pondering two important questions: why aren’t there more Asian athletes in American sports? And why don’t we have more Asian youth soccer coaches in American sports?
As a Filipina-Venezuelan-American mixed race female athlete, coach, and leader growing up in the Bay Area- I’ve always felt unseen for who I really am.
Others would decide for me what race I was based on what they thought I was more of and based on what race they were.
However, the truth is I identify strongly with all three ethnicities equally. It is important to me to connect to my roots and to my personal mission which is to empower all women to be leaders, to be inclusive of all races (including mixed race individuals) and to provide equal opportunities for all in sports. I personally struggled with being included and often felt like I didn’t belong on and off the field as a youth and still do to this day as an adult. The recent attacks on Asians, especially Asian women, has furthered my own fears of abnegation and has hurt many causing more division in our country.
As the Founder and CEO of Girls Leading Girls, I hope to continue to do my part in creating an inclusive community for all and providing equal opportunities. According to the Collegiate Sport Racial & Gender Report Card by Dr. Lapchick in 2017, at the collegiate level, the percentage of Asian Pacific Islander athletes was only 2.5% for female athletes and only 1.8% for male athletes.
The reasons are similar to that of any underrepresented group: lack of funding and investment in these communities at all ages/levels of play, stereotypes around athletic ability, biases towards players, lack of community support, minimal education and media around these issues.
In a 2020 report on youth soccer coach demographics by Zippia, they found that only 5.8% of youth soccer coaches in the U.S.A. are Asian.
Lack of representation of coaches from diverse ethnic backgrounds is one of the symptoms of the real root cause which is the lack of opportunity for youth of diverse ethnic backgrounds to be able to play sports and to receive training in sports leadership and coaching at a young age.
If we don’t increase the pool of athletes that are female and BIPOC, how can we expect to have a large pool of confident women coaches that are BIPOC?
We need to get more girls of color involved in sports early, keep them in the game, and train them in leadership and coaching from the start! This takes investment, time, intentionality, consistency, collaboration, and commitment. All of which we are committed to at Girls Leading Girls, 95% of girls in our free after school program are BIPOC, 36% of girls in our club program are BIPOC as of Spring 2021 (an increase compared to last Spring with 24% BIPOC players in our club program).
Additionally, 41% of our coaches for the 2020-2021 year are BIPOC, and 50% of our Junior Coaches from the 2020-2021 year are BIPOC. We are continuously working on improving representation at all levels within our organization knowing we have a lot more work to do in making a difference and leading by example.
I am grateful for the progress my ancestors have made and the many more achievements to come for Asian Americans. Together we can #stopasianhate and create a more inclusive, accepting global community for all.