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Feb 28, 2024 - Sports

How Westminster women's basketball coach is breaking barriers

A woman in black holding a basketball and blowing a whistle in front of two other basketball players.

Westminster University coach Asami Morita. Courtesy: Westminster University

Westminster University's Asami Morita is making history as the first Japanese-born head coach of an NCAA basketball program.

Why it matters: Despite Asians making up about 7% of the U.S. population, coaches and athletes — they are among the most under-represented groups in collegiate and professional basketball.

Catch up quick: Growing up in Nara, Japan, Morita said people typically coached basketball on a part-time or volunteer basis. She also had no female coaching role models in Japan.

  • It's why she set her sights on moving to the U.S., where she could pursue a career leading a team — a decision initially met with disapproval from her parents.
  • At the age of 23, Morita fell in love with college basketball while attending Idaho State University to pursue a master's degree.

What they're saying: "It's hard to find somebody like me in this business," Morita told Axios. "At the same time, I try to be a role model for [all] my players."

State of play: Westminster hired Morita last summer to lead the women's basketball team. She was previously an assistant coach for the University of Nevada, Reno women's basketball program.

By the numbers: In college sports, "white people still dominate the head coaching ranks," according to a report by the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport released last year.

  • Between 2021–2022, 84.5% of Division II head coaches for women's teams were white.
  • Meanwhile, just over one-third of Division II head coaching jobs for women's teams were held by women.

What's next: The Westminster women's basketball team plays their final game of the season on Feb. 29 against Western Colorado University.


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