LocationAlhambra , CA United States
Sydney Huynh developed an affinity for basketball at a young age because of her father’s love for the game. Now, that influence has manifested itself, as she works at the West San Gabriel Valley YMCA as the Director for Youth Basketball. She is the first female, Asian American to hold the position, and her goal is to inspire children, especially girls, to engage in sports in Alhambra.
When I met with Huynh at the Y she had just finished a full-day shift at the front desk. Her workweek extends well into Saturday afternoon, as the Y is always busy. As she starts telling me how basketball feels intrinsic to her, we can hear music from a zumba class being taught in the next room.
Her first interaction with basketball began at a young age. “When I was younger I would always watch Laker games with my dad, and that’s how I originally got into basketball,” said Huynh. Once she was old enough to play in an organized league, Huynh joined the basketball leagues at the YMCA in Alhambra, where she played for two years. She then played in club sports during grade school, then for her high school team, and later in an intramural league during college.
It was at Cal State Fullerton that a friend told her about a coaching opportunity with the Y in Alhambra. Originally from Alhambra, Huynh thought this would be a great way to give back to the community, while also giving her an opportunity to visit her family regularly back home. She took up the position and began driving from Fullerton to Alhambra once a week to coach the youth basketball league. She enjoyed the job so much that she was willing to overlook the traffic. “I loved it. I loved seeing the passion being built in the kids,” she said.
The children in the youth basketball leagues range from 5 to 14 years old, and Huynh tailors her coaching to the different age groups. For the youngest, she incorporates mini games into each practice to build skills. The most crucial objective, said Huynh, is to foster confidence in the kids. “Building confidence within them is one of the most important things, because if they believe that they have the ability to play, then they will,” said Huynh.
For the older children with higher skill levels, she tailors the practice to help nurture their existing talent. She’ll set up mini-scrimmages and host contests to see who can make the most free-throws. There is one thing always present, she said, and that is the element of fun. “If it isn’t fun then the kids won’t want to play,” said Huynh.
Huynh said she finds working within community-based youth sports to be fulfilling, largely because the children express so much of their joy and passion. Since she’s become the basketball director for the Y, Huynh has seen a rise in enrollment. More and more kids are getting involved in sports, and parents are always asking how their children can get involved. “I personally just like getting to see kids grow to love sports, any type of sports,” said Huynh.
Huynh said that she also sees her role as an affirmation that women do play major sports—something that is underrepresented in media outlets. In a study published by the Center for Feminist Research at the University of Southern California, researchers found that during the offseason of the WNBA, there were zero stories about the women’s basketball league on any national media outlet, including ABC, NBC, CBS or ESPN. On the other hand, there were at least 20 major stories about the NBA on ESPN alone during the league’s offseason. Additionally, the majority of WNBA stories only happen via a ticker at the bottom of a televised show, whereas NBA stories happen on the main show.
This disparity is seen even at the youth realm, said Huynh. She said that, from what she’s seen in the YMCA leagues, “ [girls] will often be way more shy than the boys, and lack the same kind of confidence that all the boys play with.” Huynh believes it’s a shame that, in 2016, girls are still shyer than boys when it comes to sports. She thinks this can be reversed, however, with good role models and some guidance to help young girls become star athletes.
“These young girls see that, if I can do it, so can they,” said Huynh.
Editor’s note: This article is part of the Alhambra Source Sports Reporting Program, which trains USC students in applying critical approaches to sports and community news reporting. The students will learn about the impact that sports can have on communities such as Alhambra. The Program was made possible with the support of the USC Annenberg School, the Metamorphosis Project, the Alhambra Project, and COMM 383, a course at Annenberg that is titled “Sports, Communication, and Culture.”
About the Author: Natalie Milian originally hails from San Bernardino, California and is currently a student at the University of Southern California. She is graduating in May 2016 with a BA in Communication from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and plans to pursue a career in marketing.