Asian Women in Sport

By Wong, Joyce S. | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, April 1999 | Go to article overview

Asian Women in Sport


Wong, Joyce S., JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


It did not take me long to realize that information about Asian women in sport was scarce. In fact, as I surveyed the literature, much of the research done in the early 1960s and 1970s seemed to center around the physiological and biomechanical concerns of the white female athlete. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was a shift in research, and more studies dealt with the psychological and sociological characteristics of elite female athletes. Thus, I am writing this article primarily from personal feelings, opinions, and background.

Celebrating the Past

As an Asian American growing up in the United States, the cultural differences were quite evident as I attended regular grade school during the week and spent Saturdays and Sundays at "Chinese School," where I was reminded of the ways of my elders and schooled in the many customs and traditions of our culture.

Sport was not a widely accepted nor understood concept in our household, especially as it pertained to females. It was acceptable as a way to have fun, but not really understood or accepted as a career choice. My interest in sport was due primarily to the teaching and mentoring of my high school physical education teacher. Her obvious love and dedication for what she was doing was evident in her coaching and instruction. As many of you know, athletics in the early sixties for girls and women were a far cry from what we know today. In high school I was fortunate to be able to compete under good coaching in a variety of sports, such as basketball, softball, badminton, bowling, and volleyball. We were exposed to varsity competition as well as playday and intramural competition. I was active and loved the idea that becoming a physical education teacher was a viable career choice.

Unfortunately, at that stage of my life, family values and upbringing were more centered on the value of math, science, and engineering as possible career choices. There were no Asian female role models in sport, and as such it was just an unacceptable choice. My decision to attend college was met with a lukewarm response, especially when my choice was to be a physical education major. My siblings helped my parents understand that a major in physical education could indeed lead to becoming a teacher with the ability to earn a living. I still believe to this day that my parents never really understood what it is like to be a coach and athletic administrator.

The Asian concept of sport is that it is an exact discipline that requires hours of structured exercise. Lessons are developed, and each individual is expected to do exactly as he or she is instructed, without question or reason. There is no tolerance for rudeness or defiance from individuals in the so called "working class." As an Asian female, the values that were instilled in me were based on the belief that the male was the more valued family member. Females were primarily caretakers and homemakers. Education was a privilege that could not be taken lightly. One obeyed and did not question elders or superiors.

I believe that I am in the physical education profession due to the professionalism and mentoring that I received from many great people that I was fortunate enough to come in contact with during my undergraduate and graduate years, as well as during my 30-year career. From day one I was encouraged to become involved with my professional organizations. AAHPERD and NAGWS played an important part in my education and in the shaping of my philosophy and beliefs. They served as my source of information and, more important, as my support group. It was unnecessary for me to have an Asian role model to follow, because I had a dedicated group of professionals who were willing to share their ideas and values in an open and committed way. Celebrating the past is saving "thank you" to the many men and women who served AAHPERD and NAGWS during those times by making presentations at conferences, writing articles for periodicals, serving as officers and staff, and working behind the scenes. …

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