Speaking Up for My Community

Not enough people know, but over a month ago, a 91-year-old Asian American man was violently attacked directly outside our Coaching Corps office in Oakland. On Tuesday, eight people were murdered in Atlanta, six of them Asian American women. My heart aches for all the families who lost their loved ones by senseless violent hate crimes. And my thoughts are consumed by the young people now grappling with how to make sense of these racial assaults.

There is an explosion of anti-Asian sentiment in our country with nearly 3,800 anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) hate incidents reported since March 2020, according to Stop AAPI Hate. It is widely believed that the problem is even greater, with the exact number of incidents largely under covered. Whatever the statistics show, the fear, torment, worry and anger in the AAPI community is palpable.

Many times during my childhood, men, women, and kids would suddenly, viciously tell me to “go back where I came from”, call me terrible, racist names, and even menacingly follow me to my car. Feelings of fear, confusion, and humiliation were recurring emotions, but with no guidance or tools on how to cope with racial discrimination, I kept my head down and steered clear of signs of trouble. The anxiety of attracting unwanted attention made me retreat into myself. It became hard to speak to non-Asian adults, never knowing who to trust. “Too shy” is what showed up on my report cards.

Looking back, I realize I would have benefitted from the wisdom of a teacher or coach who had lived through similar experiences with racism and discrimination in America. But where I grew up, there were not many mentors who looked like me and understood what I experienced.

I often wonder if life would have been a little bit easier if I had someone to guide me through what I was going through.

In the summer of 2020, the Stop AAPI Hate Youth Campaign interviewed AAPI young adults about their experiences and feelings related to racism during the COVID-19 pandemic. They found 73% were angry and frustrated, 60% had feelings of disappointment, 46% expressed sadness or depression, 25% were concerned for their family, and 23% were scared. Over 80% reported being bullied or harassed at schools, in parks or online.

Emerging from pandemic-related shutdowns, there are reasons to be hopeful. Children are returning to school, afterschool activities are resuming, and youth sports are re-opening. But for many AAPI kids, the world waiting looks more challenging. They will need caring adults to help them navigate the post-pandemic world and their very real feelings of fear, mistrust, and anger.

Ultimately, what they need is a coach.

Lynne Lee

Executive Vice President 

Kids need mentors. If you are ready to become that person who makes a positive difference in the lives of under-resourced youth through sports click here.

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Going Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

Benita Vargas-Brown, Volleyball Coach at Hampstead Hill Academy

Benita Vargas-Brown grew up in one of the poorest parts of Baltimore. She always wanted to make a difference in the city, which is why she became a social worker. That same passion eventually led her to coach and mentor kids in sports. Learn more about Benita’s journey in her own words.
How did you become a Coaching Corps coach?
I didn’t go looking for coaching, it found me. I was really stressed with my job and my final semester in undergrad, so my husband said, “You’re really not helping yourself. Why don’t you leave your job, take the semester off, and figure out what you want to do next?” So, I went to a volunteering fair, and that’s when I got to know Coaching Corps. It was destiny: They were looking for a volleyball coach, and I am qualified to coach volleyball. They said they needed a coach for Hampstead Hill Academy, which is literally just a walk away from our home. So, it was really perfect.
Can you tell us more about the challenges that the kids you coach face at school and at home?
When people hear Baltimore, crime and violence are among the usual challenges that come to mind, so it was extra important to keep the kids off the streets. I’ve had to drive some of the girls home so they don’t have to take the bus when it’s dark.
There have also been some differences among the girls. The school is located at Patterson Park, where on one side you have the million-dollar houses, and on the other you have boarded-up houses. So you wind up having kids coming from privileged and underprivileged situations. This created some interesting dynamics within the team that led to some difficult conversations, but we got through it eventually. That’s one of the benefits of team sports. We got this whole learning experience that wound up really positive at the end.
You mentioned something about “interesting team dynamics.” Can you share more about that?
This is actually one of the things I’m proudest [of] about my team. The girls take it upon themselves to address differences within the group. At one point, it became very clear during our practice that something wasn’t right. We were on this championship drive but there was obvious tension within the team. The girls came to me and gathered as a group to talk things through. The fact that they came up with that strategy on their own is really amazing. For me, it meant that we’re doing something right. After that talk, we got back together as a team. I’m so glad we did it because I know for a fact we wouldn’t have won the championship without sorting things out. Everybody makes mistakes. At the end of the day, what’s important is to be there and have each other’s backs.
What changes or improvements did you see in the girls as a result of being on the team?
The most obvious one would be the sense of maturity. To be in a position where you have a responsibility over something, to be able to practice and play, there are expectations. If you didn’t come to practice on Wednesday, you’re not going to play on Thursday: that’s the consequence for skipping practice.  Eventually it wasn’t the consequence that really drove them. It was their commitment.
All my [Coaching Corps] girls who tried out for high school sports made their teams. There are two highly-rated schools in Baltimore, Baltimore Polytechnic institute and Baltimore City College. To get into those schools is every parent’s and kid’s dream. They have great education and high graduation rates, and they don’t tolerate gang-related violence, which creates a safer environment for the kids. Fifteen of the girls from the team got in and played for Poly while 13 went to City. That makes me really happy.
Wow! If there’s one way to describe success and promoting equity, that would be it. With all these experiences, what advice would you give aspiring coaches and mentors for kids?
Show up. You have to be there. You have to be consistent. You can’t cancel on these kids. Over the course of my time, if I know something’s going to come up in my schedule, I plan for an assistant coach to take over. Kids know if you care. You can figure out everything else, there are Youtube videos for that. You just have to show up because these kids expect you to be there for them.
Afterschool Partners


Boys & Girls Club of Central Florida

City of Orlando Athletics

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JT Dorsey Foundation

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San Diego

Gompers Preparatory Academy

High Tech High

La Maestra Foundation – Center for Youth Advancement at Generations

The Monarch School

Pro Kids | The First Tee of San Diego

Soccer Kids America

YMCA of San Diego County

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A Place Called Home


After School All Stars: Los Angeles

Boys & Girls Club of Venice

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City of Huntington Park Department of Parks

East Los Angeles Rising Youth Club

Equitas Academy

Girls on the Run of Los Angeles

Girls Play Los Angeles

ICES Education


L.A.C.E.R. Afterschool Programs

Long Beach Parks, Recreation and Marine

Los Angeles Rec and Parks

Major League Baseball Youth Academy

Norwalk La Mirada Unified

P.F. Bresee Foundation

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Street Soccer USA: Los Angeles

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Variety Boys & Girls Club

Watts Rams

YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles

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Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta: Samuel L. Jones Boys & Girls Club
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All Dorchester Sports and Leadership

Boston Centers for Youth & Families


Cambridge Community Center

East End House

Oak Square YMCA

Sole Train: Boston Runs Together