Northwest Asian Weekly recently published its list of the Top 10 Asian American sports figures of 2012. The list was full of Olympians, some of who we covered before covered before, like #6 volleyball player Tamari Miyashiro and #8 wrestler Clarissa Chun, and also had others we have talked about like #7 MMA lightweight champion Benson Henderson. While #1 is no surprise, I was pleased to see a few others mentioned who don’t get as much publicity.
“Looks like we have a team of all liberos!”
When I was coaching The Daughter’s volleyball team, that was one of my fellow coaches’ comments about our team of short Asian girls. For those of you who don’t know volleyball, a libero is a defensive specialist who concentrates receiving on serves and “digging” out spikes that get past the blockers. While there are tall professional volleyball players like Kevin Wong and tall Asians in general who can “roof” people, liberos (and many Asians) tend to be short. Hence the comment.
Tamari Miyashiro is a 5 foot 7 Asian American libero who plays for the University of Washington. This article explains that she was lightly recruited, and while a walk-on (non recruited) red shirt (someone who doesn’t play in order to extend athletic elgibility), she practiced with the national championship team. After helping that 1995 championship team off the court, she wants to win one on the court. She is extremely good at her position, being volleyball magazine’s two time defensive player of the year and is the third all-time in digs in Pac-10 history.
One thing that puzzles me is how she was “lightly recruited” and had to walk-on. I know that Asian-Americans in other sports like Jeremy Lin have had trouble being taken seriously, but I wouldn’t have expected it in volleyball. Being from Hawaii could be a reason, although Kevin Wong was from Hawaii. There is history of excellent Asian-American players, such as legendary setter and Olympian Debbie Green and Olympic competitors Eric and Liane Sato.
Tamari Miyashiro is good example that you don’t have to be tall to make it in athletics and in volleyball. As for the short Asian kids on The Daughter’s middle school team, we always did pretty well and often beat taller and whiter teams. Two of the girls who continued to play volleyball in high school made all league honorable mention last year as sophomores, and I hear that one is being scouted by colleges as a setter. As my bad passing often infuriates my teammates when I play volleyball, I have to say I envy Tamari Miyashiro’s libero skills and wish her the best of luck in her quest for a championship.