What is sepak takraw?
Sepak takraw is a traditional sport played in much of Southeast Asia. It is commonly described as volleyball played with the feet, chest and head. The sport involves teams of three players passing a ball over a net. Players can use any part of their body, except for their hands, to return the ball over the net.
The game is fairly easy to pick up and understand but to compete at an international level takes work. Professional players jump and spin in the air to kick the ball over the net. Their play has been described as gravity-defying.
Sepak takraw was first introduced in Minnesota by the first wave of Hmong immigrants 40 years ago. Six years ago, Sepak Takraw of USA., Inc. was established In 2016, some Minnesota sepak takraw players came home with first and second place from SkillCon, a convention where unique skills and competitive sports compete.
The Saint Paul Parks and Recreation Department has plans to build five sepak takraw (Kato) courts in two locations. Sepak takraw is a sport native to Southeast Asia and has been embraced by the Hmong community in the St. Paul area.
Funding for the construction of the courts has been partially secured from the Super Bowl Foundation, Ramsey County, the State of Minnesota Legacy Funds and the City of Saint Paul. The Saint Paul Parks Conservancy and Sepak Takraw of USA, Inc. are partnering to raise the additional funds to complete the $450,000 project. This is where your help can make a difference.
A partnership to support active lifestyles, vibrant places and a vital environment.
The sport originated in Southeast Asia, and the project was request by Sepak Takraw of USA through the Saint Paul Parks and Recreation online Community Project Pre-Proposal form. The Saint Paul Parks and Recreation Systems Plan recommends providing flexible spaces in parks to support outdoor Kato/Takraw by working with the community to monitor trends in this sport. In addition, our Parks Design and Construction Division Equity plan recommends that racial equity is taken into consideration in park distribution, quality, space and amenities. As a result, the City applied for and received funding from the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee to build two courts at Marydale Park and Duluth and Case Recreation Center.
After completion, the Sepak Takraw (Kato) courts will accomplish the following:
- Develop, promote and educate the public about the sport of Sepak Takraw in the United States
- Organize league competition locally, nationally, and internationally
- Promote healthy living and competitive play by providing alternative recreational activities for youth
Partial funding for the capital project has been secured. Funding from a grant from the Minnesota Super Bowl foundation, Ramsey County, the City of Saint Paul’s Capital Improvement budget and a grant from the Minnesota State Legacy Fund will be used to build the courts. There is a funding gap to complete the entire construction including referee stands, spectator benches, practice stands and fencing.
The Saint Paul Parks Conservancy and Sepak Takraw of the USA, Inc. along with members from the local Hmong community seek to secure from private sources the funds necessary to complete the project.
Supporting this project would promote alternative recreation in Saint Paul. It supports the diversity of the Hmong culture. Construction of the courts began October 10. The project can be completed in its entirety with additional support from private sources.
Over the past four decades, Saint Paul has become a primary center for Hmong refugees. During this time the Hmong have had to adapt to American culture. Hmong culture is constantly evolving and changing, especially as younger generations grow up in the U.S. and adapt more to American culture. Minnesota has also changed because of this community of newcomers.
A sport native to Southeast Asia, sepak takraw, has caught the passion of the Hmong community in Saint Paul. There is a vision of Saint Paul developing players for the first U.S. Olympic team. To fulfill that vision, the sport needs a permanent place to play, to train and to teach the next generation.
Saint Paul’s East Side is about to become one of the first neighborhoods in the U.S. to receive permanent sepak takraw courts. The Saint Paul Parks and Recreation Department has plans to construct permanent courts at the Duluth and Case Recreation Center on the East Side and the Marydale Park in the North side.
The courts are history making for the Hmong community in Saint Paul. They offer the opportunity for Southeast Asian descendants to embrace their culture. They offer the opportunity for everyone in the neighborhood to experience the culture.
To have Saint Paul be home to the first sepak takraw courts in the U.S. means a lot of for the older generations and is a way for the younger generations to connect with their culture.
The Hmong are members of an ethnic group that has lived in Southeast Asia for thousands of years. Although they have not had a country of their own, they have developed their own independent culture within their small mountainous farming communities. During the Vietnam War in the 1960s & 70s the Hmong people in Laos partnered with the Americans to fight against Southeast Asian Communists, and many became refugees when Laos fell to a Communist group in 1975. Although there are Hmong in Thailand, Vietnam and China, nearly all of the Hmong who settled in the U.S. are from Laos. The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, have become a primary resettlement center for these Hmong refugees, and currently Minnesota boasts the second highest Hmong population in the U.S.
Hmong families are usually large and multi-generational (there are only 18 Hmong family surnames in the world.) In short, the Hmong have a completely different definition of family than traditional Americans do. In the 1980’s Saint Paul Mayor George Latimer saw his city declining in population and struggling economically. He declared that Saint Paul would have an open door policy to all immigrants and the city would take measure to encourage refugees from all part of the world to relocate here. Saint Paul already had a growing Hmong community and the Hmong who lived here began to gather their families together. Soon there was a concentration of Hmong that the area around the state capitol that had historically been African-American shifted to being predominantly Asian.
The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, have become a primary resettlement center for these Hmong refugees, and currently Minnesota boasts the second highest Hmong population in the U.S. Saint Paul has the largest Hmong population per capita in the United States. The Hmong community is disproportionately youthful. The median age for Hmong residents in Minnesota is 19.7 years old. (The median age for the state’s general population is 37 years old.) The Hmong income and measures of socioeconomic status have substantially improved over the past two decades. The proportion of Hmong residents going on to higher education continues to show impressive increases. Education disparities between Hmong women and men appear to be falling by the wayside, especially within higher education.
Click here to download the project and campaign budget including secured funding sources.