Honoring Asian American and Pacific Island Heritages in the USA Rugby Community

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have long shaped the history and growth of rugby in the United States - and internationally. During Asian American and Pacific Islander Month, USA Rugby recognizes and celebrates culture and achievements across the AAPI community. Two USA Rugby athletes share their favorite ways of celebrating their heritage. 

USA Women’s Sevens player Alena Olsen enjoys all the experiences her Filipino heritage has to offer, as well as practicing her Tagalog and connecting with others to share cultures. 

“Emilie [Bydwell] did something really meaningful this year, where she presented to us the pioneer AAPI players, like Bui Baravilala, Kelly Griffin, Irene Gardner, and Nana Fa’avesi, some of the first players of AAPI heritage to represent the USA in sevens. It gave us a powerful perspective on where we are in the history of USA Rugby.” 

On the USA Men’s Eagles XV squad, Jamason Fa’anana Schultz also enjoys the Samoan dishes from his family’s culture, including Sapasui (Samoan Chop Suey), Pisupo (Canned Corned Beef), Palusami (coconut cream and onion wrapped in taro leaves), Pani Popo (coconut cream buns), and more. 

Food is an easy way for families of all cultures to gather with family and friends, and for Fa’anana Schultz, it’s a way of celebrating and enjoying each other’s company, something he says perfectly complements rugby’s family-oriented atmosphere. 

“Through rugby, I’m able to show the many values and attributes of what being Samoan is, which includes showcasing our athleticism, strength, respect, community spirit, and usually winning most eating contests!

“Rugby has created an amazing platform for our people to be able to travel the world and showcase just how amazing this small island. They say there are 101 current countries in the world playing rugby and you’ll probably find one Samoan on every one of those teams.”