SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2014       Personal Memory Ethnographies


Diversity Dilemma on the Volleyball Court


I played volleyball throughout all four years of high school, as well as in the off season, to get better at the sport I was most passionate about. My being of Hispanic descent didn’t keep me from playing hard and well. I had hoped to continue playing volleyball once I had graduated from high school but unfortunately my volleyball career was cut short.

I began playing volleyball at Youngker High School in Buckeye, AZ.  My high school was very diverse, not just when it came to sports, but the entire school was a mix of every race / ethnicity. The high school gym had a great impact on me because I worked hard and devoted a lot of time to practice and even stayed late; it was like a second home. This place was not only important to me but to my team and coaches as well; we all spent a significant amount of time there. My coaches were Caucasian, and that didn’t seem to make a difference because they were still continuing to prepare us to try out for college teams. The diversity didn’t make a difference to them; we were all there for the same reason and goals. Along with my coaches and teammates, the sounds of cheering fans, squeaky shoes from running on the court, or the buzzer going off for the game point, motivated me to try to play volleyball at the college level. Coming from a diverse high school, I didn’t think my ethnicity could have an effect on the way coaches perceived me.

When I was ready, I did what was needed to reach out to the coaches at the Glendale Community College since I would be attending in the fall semester. I had created a portfolio filled with all my awards, achievements, and public recognitions that I had received throughout the years I played for Youngker high school and the West Valley Juniors club team in Buckeye, AZ. I was able to get in contact with Glendale coaches and they seemed interested since they were communicating back with me. They led me to believe that I would get a chance to show college coaches what I could bring to the team at the college level; weeks went by and I never heard anything back from them. I finally contacted the head coach to find out what was going on and the coach stated that my portfolio was impressive, but I wouldn’t be a good fit for the team. I asked her if she could explain why. She stated it was because of my height; she wanted girls who were no shorter than 5’9 on her team. I was aware that there are volleyball players at the college level who are around 5’4-5’6 and had the chance to prove to everyone that they shouldn’t be judged because of their height. But, because I am 5’4, I had been overlooked and never given a second thought to try out for the team.

Glendale Community College is located in Glendale, AZ, also on the west side of the Phoenix Metro area. The college is also diverse, but when it came specifically to the volleyball team that was a different. I knew that the head coach searches for players all over the county so they were very particular in what they wanted. The head volleyball coach was Caucasian, just like my high school coaches, so I didn’t think I would be treated any differently as a Hispanic. When I attended the first college volleyball game, I realized that all the players on the team were mostly Caucasian; maybe one player was of a different race / ethnicity. It then clicked to me that my height may not have been all there was to do with the coaches’ decision as to why I wasn’t a good fit for the team. Since I did not see but one other player of color on the team, I concluded that I had been overlooked and not given the opportunity because I am Latina.

Now I had a different perspective since I was no longer playing on the court but sitting in the stands watching. I felt bad about myself because the coach had not allowed me to try out for the team. Seeing all Caucasian players on Glendale’s team made me believe I had been discriminated against because of my ethnicity. I had spoken with Jazmyn, a teammate from high school, about my situation.

I believed that Alexis would actually have a chance because she improved over the years and she was a great team player and leader, exceeding our coaches’ expectations. I was disappointed to hear that Alexis would not be given the chance to at least try out for the team merely based on her height. I may be a 6’0 African American, but I don’t think height should matter; selection should be based on a player’s ability and what they can bring to the team. I felt really bad for Alexis because she was trying her hardest to play volleyball at the college level. It’s unfortunate that the coaches did not give her the chance to show how much of a good athlete she is. The coach told her their decision was based on her “height”, although I believe it to be based on ethnicity more than anything.

At the time my incident occurred in 2011, I wasn’t aware that there had been so much going on throughout the early years of the 21st century, with the Latino community in the United States. Ever since the early 1900’s, Mexicans / Hispanics / Latinos have been fighting for their rights to be treated equally. I believe there are certain aspects of these struggles that shaped the way I’m perceived as a Hispanic in US society. Recent immigrants and long term Latino residents have been fused together in people’s perceptions by the recent anti-immigrant legislative acts such as SB1070 in Arizona. This created tension between Latino immigrants and those with Mexican American heritage whose families have been here for generations. Immigration controversies have divided the community; non-immigrant Latinos is still looked at and treated differently because of the anti-immigration climate.  I believe there has been so much going on with illegal Mexican immigrants in Arizona, I it has given those of the same ethnicity but who were born and raised in the states bad judgments and perceptions.  I’m not a Latino immigrant, but just because my background is Hispanic, I still may be discriminated against by others because most white Americans fuse all Latinos together into the same category. We are all tarred with the same brush.

In the end, I will never forget that I was never given a second thought to be a part of the team because of my ethnicity. I had worked hard all four years of high school to become a great player at the sport I loved, and knew that I would have worked even harder to continue playing well at the college level. I do believe at everyone deserves to be given the same opportunity in life no matter what race / ethnicity they may be; in my case the deciding criteria of my “height” had been, in effect, a proxy for my ethnicity.

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