May 17, 2024

Diversity Is Strength Conversations: Asian representation in football

Katie Miyazaki, Kevin Sousa/

Katie Miyazaki and Royce Metchie didn’t have a lot of sport-specific role models to emulate when it came to finding representation in their Asian roots.

Miyazaki, who is part Japanese and part Chinese, looked up to family members as she was developing as a basketball player. She won two national championships playing for Simon Fraser, then took the Saskatchewan Huskies to the U SPORTS final in 2011. She would later find her way into tackle football, playing for the Saskatoon Valkyries and eventually Canada’s national flag football team. In the midst of that, she’s been a paralympic basketball coach for Canada at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Today she’s the athlete and coach development lead at Football Canada.

Toronto Argonauts’ defensive back Royce Metchie is part Nigerian and part Taiwanese. Growing up in Brampton, Ont., he saw Black representation in football but less son on the Asian side.

“I think it’s because of how we were raised, we kind of look to family for support whereas when we see people, like idols and stuff, we acknowledge them, we respect them. But what drives us and motivates us is…through our culture and the people around us,” Metchie told Donnovan Bennett in the CFL’s latest edition of its Diversity Is Strength Conversations Series.

While both looked to their families as role models as they grew up, that’s starting to change, as Asian representation is growing in all sports.

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“I get very excited now about all the up-and-coming ones and all these people that you’re seeing,” Miyazaki said, referencing Kaylynne Truong, the first Vietnamese-American player drafted in the WNBA, in that league’s draft earlier this month.

You couldn’t see Metchie sit up in his chair, but you could feel it.

“What?!” he said. “I’ve got to look that up.”

“Seeing all these things and these opportunities that athletes and people are having now, if anything, I’m inspired by this younger generation that is just clearing the way of all these pathways and breaking down these barriers,” she said. “It’s super exciting to see.”

Metchie is in the midst of his career, as he heads into sixth CFL season and his third with the Argos. Miyazaki is impacting sport from a coaching and administrative level. Both are trying to make their respective sports environments better for the next athletes with Asian origins that we are seeing coming behind them in increasing numbers.

“I hope that I have a huge impact on the game afterwards, whether it be coaching or in a front office,” Metchie said.

“I would love to try things differently. I would love to try to integrate more community and more…just apply things from players and those going through it to have a say through it. When I look at it, as I play now, I’m going through it, I think it’d be more beneficial to the sport and sports in general, players, coaches, organizations are able to communicate and work together as a unit rather than it being players focusing on play, coaches focussing on coaching and scheming, and front office are meant to focus on money, taking care of overhead.

“Opening the floor to all levels allows for (organizational efficiency). There’s communication and understanding. This is me hoping, I have to get a job as a GM first or something somewhere.”

Metchie has post-playing goals of working in a football front office, where he’d like to open the environment up to all levels of the organization (Walter Tychnowicz/

Miyazaki has been a physical part of the growth of women’s football in this country over the last decade as an athlete. Now, with Football Canada, she’s impacting it from the top.

“I think there’s a lot of great things that are already happening across this country to get more women involved,” she said.

“Just providing them with those opportunities and changing what our requirements are, (is important). If we keep using, ‘Oh, you need to have coached football for 15 years to get to this level,’ well, that’s only a certain group of people that can that fit there. So if we add in these little, mentor coach roles, or people are willing to take on mentorship to allow people to have more opportunities, I think that’s just going to rapidly grow the sport.”

She points to the support that Saskatoon Valkyries and the Regina Riot receiver from the Saskatchewan Huskies and Hilltops upon their launch, with coaches from each program getting involved and working with female players to grow the game. Things like girls-only teams at grassroots levels as opposed to co-ed teams can create a comfort level for girls to try a new sport.

“I see football as it has predominantly been seen, as this male sport for men and boys. They’ve always felt welcome in that space, whereas women and girls, they are welcome in that space but that hasn’t that’s not widely known yet,” she continued.

“I think we’re going to see such rapid growth, especially as flag football is in the 2028 Olympics. We just have to be prepared that what’s worked for men and boys might not necessarily work for women and girls and we might just need to set it up a little bit differently.”

As Bennett’s conversation with Miyazaki and Metchie came to its conclusion, they were asked for what advice they’d give to others, as Asian representation continues to grow and new role models make their way into the sports landscape.

“The biggest thing for me has been to get over my imposter syndrome, to know that I belong here and I deserve to be here and I have every right to be here,” Miyazaki said. “If you see someone up there and you want to follow on their path, awesome. If you don’t see someone up there, create that path. You may not necessarily get the benefit from it, but you are creating a path that’s going to make the world so much better for those next people.

“And get excited for these younger ones that are getting these amazing opportunities to showcase their talents to become what they want to become and make this world a better place.”

Metchie thought of some straightforward advice that his mother gave him.

“My mom would always tell me, try your best in everything. Whatever it is, please just try your best. It will pay off 100 per cent. You’ll have fun you’ll never regret it. When you look back you’ll realize you did something great with your time,” he said.

“The second thing is, with all these opportunities coming up your ideas aren’t as crazy as you think they are. They’re only crazy because no one yet has done them. Once you do it, someone else will want to do it. Because if you’re thinking about it, someone else probably thinks about it, too.

“Time is the one thing we’ll never get back. So take your time and when an opportunity presents itself, give it your all.”

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