Asians in Sports
I spoke at the NACDA in Washington DC recently, the biggest convention of college athletic directors in the country. The commissioner of the America East conference, Amy Huchthausen, invited me to moderate a panel on Asian Americans in sports - it was an interesting and original topic, and I jumped at the opportunity. We weren't quite sure who would be in the audience that day - so I decided to ask the other panelists, who were also Asian American, to talk about their journey in sports because, speaking from experience, for many first-generation Asian Americans pursuing a career in (insert your dream here) is oftentimes a surefire way to disappoint your parents. Sports is just not seen as a path to what Asian families consider success in America. In fact, Pat Chun, the athletic director of Washington State University, said his mom told him when he was development director for Ohio State's athletic department (a great job), that maybe it was time for him to get 'a real job,' if he ever wanted to raise a family.
We all laughed, but it was a reminder that sometimes the family can be a big obstacle to pursing a career in this business. Ultimately, Yale's athletic director Vicky Chun said, your family wants you to be happy. They may be disappointed for one or two years, but once they see you succeeding, and most importantly, once they see you happy - they'll come around. It also helps to be covered in the local ethnic newspaper - I know for a fact my mom would be thrilled if she saw me on the cover of the Via Times at Seafood City. LOL.
The other big part of this - aside from encouraging more Asians to come to the table and apply for open jobs - is a little harder for any institution to internalize, and that's the concept of inclusion. Do I belong? Yale's Chun had an idea - when she was the AD at Colgate, she had athletes and coaches of color meet up on a regular basis - it was a good way for minority students and employees to exchange ideas and build community. I liked that idea a lot. We all just want a chance.