Football fades back

At California high schools with large Asian immigrant enrollments, football is fading. The students are small, and their parents prefer they play badminton or tennis. The LA Times reports on the San Gabriel Valley, where San Marino High used to be a football powerhouse. Now 70 percent of students come from Asian families.

“For Asians, it’s never been about football,” said Alex Chen, a sleek, 5-foot-6, 130-pound senior taking a break during a recent practice. “It’s always been about other sports like tennis or volleyball.”

. . . “We’re outsized and out-strengthed,” he said. “Asian parents don’t support sports, especially at San Marino. It’s always been about education.”

. . . “I may be the shortest quarterback you’ve ever seen,” he said. “I can’t even see over the [offensive] line sometimes. I’m not going to lie. It’s just a blur.”

His teammate Jeff Chung, at 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds, concurred: “Sometimes he throws the ball, and I can’t see him. It’s like it came out of nowhere.”

The football coach at Mark Keppel High (71 percent Asian) recruits from the basketball and badminton team. “They can play a corner,” he says.

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  1. Oh man that cracks me up. I remember my parents not letting me play little league because it would interfere with my studies. I can only imagine if I told them I wanted to try out for football in HS…

  2. Jetstorm says:

    Perhaps they need a visit from Dat Nguyen, the former Texas A&M linebacker and son of Vietnamese refugees. He was a small Asian guy, and he would light you up if you weren’t careful.

    One of the great myths; you have to be big to play football. My high school team had two guys who weighed over 250 pounds on the whole team my senior year, and we won eight games.

    Of course, if Asian kids just flat don’t like football, then what can you do?

  3. Richard Nieporent says:

    The Bronx High School of Science didn’t have a football team. The rationale was that since most of the students had skipped a grade, they would be younger and smaller than students from the regular high schools. Of course, even if they had not skipped a grade they would still be less athletic than the students from the other schools.

  4. Bob Diethrich says:

    Bet they have a really killer chess club too!

    Sorry couldn’t resist! 🙂

  5. Anonymous says:

    The football coach is 71 percent asian?

  6. My high school (North Carolina School of Science and Math) also did not have a football team. We were only 2 classes – junior and senior – we had no football field, and the student body was only 550 students total. A football program is expensive to run, and we had other sports teams: basketball, soccer, baseball, softball, track, swim team, fencing, volleyball, etc. I doubt we’d have anybody to spare for football. Much less the money for equipment.

    Oh, and some of our sports teams were, indeed, terrible (basketball) in playing against local private schools (because none of the other public schools were as small as we were). Some were very good: softball and soccer. There were plenty of athletic “nerds” there, and we actually got students that had been on football teams at their original high schools.

    Football is an expensive sport to run, and I think that’s reason enough for many high schools to drop it as a sport. Even colleges — NYU had no football team, though they have plenty of other sports teams (I did crew for a little while).

  7. Jack Tanner says:

    Fairly recently there was an Op-Ed piece in the NYT? I believe that suggested the best thing they could do to help education in the NYC public schools was to get rid of HS basketball. Sadly I think they’re right.

  8. FRANK ZAVISCA says:

    One competitive activity where smaller students can compete with the “big boys” is target shooting – GASP – Is this allowed in PC CA?

  9. San Marino parents–at least the more recent immigrants among them– would be glad to dump all team sports. Since colleges like to see that applicants have some athletic prowess, the school keeps team sports.

  10. This ordeal doesn’t really surprise me. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some private schools out there that did not even have sports, I doubt that there is any at the moment, but I would not be shocked if eventually there was a school like this.

  11. I recently read an article about how far school choice has come. An example of the progress being made was a charter high school in Houston, Texas, that (gasp!) doesn’t have a football team. And that the lack of a football program is a major factor in why families are choosing the school.

  12. i just graduated from San Marino High School this year, and i played football there. alex and jeff are right in that we are outsized and strengthed, but it isn’t like we are playing in hopes of getting a scholarship. we’re just playing for fun. its our smarts that will get us through the rest of our lives. also it does help to be big and strong in football, but just because we aren’t big and strong doesn’t mean we can’t compete. i’m 5’7″ and 135 and i used to play offensive guard. i don’t think the coach would have put me there unless he knew i could be good at it.

  13. Richard Nieporent says:


    That does not seem to be the case in the Washington, D.C. area. The elite private schools have some of the best sport teams. That is part of the selling point of these schools.

  14. Yeah, I understand what you mean. Actually, I had a few friends that went to fancy boarding schools simply for hockey. I didn’t think that was the best decision, especially since one of them got terribly injured and really couldn’t participate in the activity anymore ..