Lexi Ellis – Oregon Track and Field

“Track has been both an extremely grounding and elating experience, much like life. There are moments where I feel like I’m on top of the world and nothing can touch me, and there are moments where I feel like everything is working against me. It’s a constant rollercoaster of emotions; track is one of the most mentally exhausting sports because you’re working nearly year-round for literally inches of improvement, so the most important lesson it’s taught me is to embrace the lows as well as the highs because that’s what really makes me better.”

“I’ve tackled a lot of different things—family, weight, heavy academic loads, you name it. It’s been exhausting, but it’s also made me a fighter. It’s made me a lot tougher mentally and physically, and it’s also taught me where my limits are and how to push them without pushing too far.”

“I think one moment that’s defined my career and who I am thus far as a person would have to be this past indoor when I PR’d my first meet. I had a terrible freshman collegiate season/year in all aspects (in comparison to past seasons), and to finally see such a major breakthrough after so long of struggle made me realize that as long as I keep fighting I’ll be good regardless.”

“Advice I would give younger me: Keep. The. Pressure. On yourself, on the competition, on your teammates. No matter how you feel, what you’re going through, just keep it going—because it WILL pay off.”

“Preparing for the Olympics post-postponement has been… interesting! I tried to keep up with some sort of training from March through May but, after so long of uncertainty I just needed a break. I’ve been back at it, weight lifting heavily for the last two months and I start fall training in a few weeks so we’re still at it!”

“I’d want people to recognize that I’m a Black woman, a mixed student-athlete, but that’s not all that I am or that I identify as. I’m so much more: an artist, a music-enthusiast, a complete dork, a dancer, I can’t even name it all! There’s so many more facets to me that not everyone gets to see, and I want people to understand that all of these pieces are part of my journey. It’s not just my race that makes me who I am, but it is an important aspect of who I am.”

Angie Benson – Virginia Tech Lacrosse

“Lacrosse means the world to me because that’s what it has given me. It’s taught life lessons on the field that I can take off the field and use in my everyday life. Some of the obstacles I’ve faced in my career have/has been doubt, from other people. I have fortitude. Having the courage to face adversity head first in my sport has shaped me to be the woman I am today. I have drive. No one but me is allowed to doubt me. I very rarely have doubt. I can do anything I put my mind to.”

“I hate losing more than I love winning. When I started to ‘embrace the suck’ in my training, I started to know the type of athlete I wanted to be, and the type of person it made me. Preparation and repetition is key for my success. Working hard and sometimes doing things you don’t want to do is how life works, both on and off the field.”

“Looking back, the advice I would give my younger self is that it’s okay to feel they way you feel. Stop caring what other people think and do what makes you happy. Strive to be the best version of yourself today and everyday.”

“Most of the teams I’ve played on, I’ve been the only person of color on the team. Sometimes I’ve been the only person of color in the tournament or in a collegiate stadium. I feel like I have to play harder to gain the respect I deserve. People automatically assume I’m bad because they don’t see people playing that look like me. I just want to be recognized as a lacrosse player and not the athletic player. I play lacrosse. I’m a lacrosse player. That’s it.”

“People need to know that it’s not easy having all eyes on you when those eyes aren’t always for the right reasons. My teammates might not feel the eyes but I do. I think we need to be more aware of people and our surroundings. We need to understand that it’s okay to be different because we are all here for the same goal. As a lacrosse community we have to embrace change. We have to love people as much as we love the sport.”

Mackenzie St. Onge – Dartmouth Hockey

“Hockey is a unique sport. You fly across a sheet of ice, try to put a black piece of rubber past a goalie bulked up in gear, balance on two thin blades, and all while another team is trying to hit you… It’s fast, it’s dynamic, it’s physical, and there is nothing else like it. My favorite part though? The demand it places on being a team. At most, a skater can last on the ice for 45-60 seconds a shift. You cannot win a game of hockey with one star player and you cannot win with one star line. You need a team with depth – one that can roll through four lines for three periods straight and trust each and every player to be great in their role. The grinders are just as important as the goal scorers. The penalty kill squad is just as important as the power play group. The game demands that in order to be successful no one can play like they’re too good for the team. To me, this applies to the game of hockey and it applies to life. In everything I’ve done outside the rink, I work to make sure I’m never “too good” for my role on the team.”

“If I could give my younger self advice as an athlete (and as a person), I’d say: Quit taking things so seriously… The worry, the stress, the anxiety, it doesn’t help anything. Oftentimes it ends up being about things you can’t control or that don’t matter in the big picture. A much better use of your time and energy would be to throw yourself into the things that truly and authentically make you happy. No matter what other people might think, live your life for YOU – it goes by way too quickly not to…”

“Leaving hockey and that chapter of my life behind was hard. Harder than I realized it’d be and harder than anyone could’ve warned me about. To be honest no one prepared me for it – that was the biggest shock. There was no ‘heads up’ or clue that I might start to question my identity, my self-worth, or my value outside of my sport. One day it was just done, and that was that… The rest I went about trying to navigate on my own, a stark contrast from the team environments I’d always been in throughout my career.”

“The more I tried to figure out life beyond sport, the harder it was to shake the thought: what if I’m not the only one feeling isolated and confused in retirement? Sure enough, I started to talk to my teammates and other athletes and they were asking the same questions! We were all acting like we had it figured out, but in reality, we had to admit that life beyond our sport was lonely and overwhelming. That’s when the idea for The Sideline Perspective hit me… Why not create a community where we could share our stories and work through these experiences together? We’ve supported each other as teammates for years, that shouldn’t end with our competitive careers.”

“Some of the biggest things I’ve learned since starting The Sideline Perspective is the value of curiosity and that finding a new passion really is possible. I wasn’t sure when I left sports what could possibly light me up the way competing did. I doubted that I’d ever enjoy sitting at a computer or putting large amounts of time into anything other than a physical activity… but here I am, passionately working to build a community and a cause that means something so much more than myself. As I push myself as an entrepreneur I am constantly being challenged to learn new skills and get creative with the way in which I approach growing The Sideline Perspective. This is where curiosity comes in: reframing a tough situation and asking ‘how can I look at this differently’ or ‘how can I grow from this?’ has helped me over countless hurdles. I truly believe the mindset of curiosity is one of the most valuable things we can bring to our athletic careers and beyond.”

“One of the pillars of The Sideline Perspective community is supporting each other as TotalTeammates: teammates not just in athletics but in life. It is both a declaration and a challenge to lift each other up and bring visibility to the things we can accomplish when we embrace the idea of facing life together. When we champion each other for who we are as people, the values we stand for, and the good of those next to us, we can use the platform of sports to change the world. Never underestimate our influence as athletes and always be intentional about how you use it!”

Marshall Warren – Boston College Hockey

“It all started with figure skating. I used to go watch my sister figure skate so when I was about two-years-old my mom made me start as well. I always got made fun of by the hockey guys but now I’m kind of laughing at them.  I think my mom just had an idea that if I was a good skater, then it would help me down the road with hockey. She told me she wouldn’t get me a stick until I could skate to her liking. It took me a little while to get that first stick, but once I did, I ran away with it.”

“Representing team USA lived up to every expectation I had and more. It was surreal. When you’re in a locker room and the coach says, ‘This is bigger than you,’ it really hits hard. It’s always been a goal of mine and I’m proud that I achieved it. I loved every minute of playing for team USA and I’m hoping I can do it again.” 

“Recently I had a very defining moment. I was drafted last year by the  Minnesota Wild in the sixth round. For me, I thought I was going to get drafted a lot higher. I was projected to go anywhere from 35th-100th so I was surprised to go in the sixth round. It’s motivated me to lock in and prove myself. I’ve got a chain around my neck that says where I got drafted. Everyday I look at it and remember. Now it’s time to prove to everyone that was drafted ahead of me that I can be a top player in the league.

“Since the time I was little I was usually the only Black hockey player on the team. For me that difference didn’t really kick in until I started playing overseas and people would call me names on the ice. It made me realize that I have a special opportunity. I’ve got to do my best to prove to everyone that Black people do belong in hockey and pave the way for others to follow. It’s powerful and I’m honored to know that I can make a difference in people’s lives. I think it helps me hold myself to a high standard for those that may be watching. Being Black in hockey is not a burden, it’s one of the greatest motivations and blessings I have.”

“I’m a huge sports fan, and I’ve always wanted to start a podcast and share people’s stories. So finally, over quarantine, a few buddies and I decided to start Coast to Coast podcast and honestly, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’ve gotten to talk to guys like Adam Schefter, Keenan Reynolds, and other athletes that have played on the biggest stages in sports. The coolest part about it is it is just hearing about how genuine people are. I’ve loved every second of it. I think everyone should give it a listen because it’s powerful to get a glimpse into someone’s life.”

“For anyone that wants to play hockey, you’ve just got to give it your all. I learned at a young age that you can’t listen to what other people are saying about you. When I was younger, I lost my love for the game a bit. I just got too focused on the numbers and it took me a while to rekindle that fire inside of me. I finally realized that it’s not about everyone around you, it’s about you so go out there and have a good time for yourself. If you don’t love it then don’t force it, but if you do, then run with it.”

Elvena Gevargiz – Santa Clara Tennis

“Tennis has taught me so much throughout my life. It taught me to persevere, dream big, stay humble and work hard. These things have not only helped me on the court but off the court as well. Nothing in life is given to us on a silver platter. My parents have always told me that my dreams won’t work unless I do, and that’s definitely something I live by. I’ve come across so many different people throughout my years playing tennis – People who have supported me, and those who have tried to pull me down. Your dreams aren’t big enough if they don’t scare you, so dream big and prove everyone who doubted you wrong.”

“Now that I’m 21 years old and have overcome many challenges and obstacles, I think I’d tell my younger self that the journey is never easy and to never give up. As someone who has grown closer to my religion and God within the last year or so, I have become a stronger person mentally. In my first year of college, I struggled a lot mentally. I had to move from Las Vegas back to California with my parents about two months before my freshman year. I lost my grandfather on the third day of classes. I had a really hard time fitting in with the people around me.”

“Looking back at that year now, as I am about to become a Senior, I realized that that was just a season I had to grow through. As much as I wanted to quit because life got bumpy,  I didn’t and I’m here now, stronger and more determined than ever. It’s not about how life knocks you down but how you get back up. So fall, and stand up taller than you did before. 

“Outside of tennis I’m very passionate about making the world a better place. As a sociology major at SCU, I’m planning on going to grad school to master in criminology/criminal justice. I’ve always felt that I have a calling to help people as well as fight for what I believe in. Considering what has happened within the last few months, I’ve become even more passionate about ending racial inequality.”

“It’s so important that we work towards making a change and making that change now. I think it’s very important that all athletes use their platforms to spread awareness on a wide range of topics. No matter what sport you play or how good you are,  it’s important to stand up and serve as a role model for the future generations. We have the privilege of having our voices be heard for those whose cries are silenced. If not us, who? If not now, when?”

Anthony Hamilton Jr – Clemson Track and Field

“Track & Field has taught me patience and discipline when it comes to my physical and mental fitness. Trying something new has also taught me how to be coachable and to trust myself in any process and goal that I’m trying to obtain.The main obstacles I had to overcome were two major knee surgeries in high school. This taught me to believe in myself and to trust my own jurisdiction regardless of what anybody else is telling me. This is something that’s kept me motivated coming back from this energy.”

“Trying to be the best version of myself allowed me to stay motivated to jump divisions. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a Division 3 institution, but I felt like I wanted more than I was offered and I also had more to give.”

“Based on my experiences as an athlete, I’d tell the younger version of myself to make taking care of my body a number one priority as an athlete and a professional. Also, I’d tell myself to learn how to market myself as early as possible to gain exposure for myself younger than I already have.”

“What really got me into dunking is the fact that that’s how I injured myself in high school— I wanted to be the best at it and continued to work to be the best at what I do, after training hard and continuing to grow as an athlete, I started to see a difference between me and an average athlete, which caused me to post more often. My videos caught eyes off bigger platforms, which caused more attention to me, and then proceeded to cause more attention and opportunities for me to grow as a social media influencer and an athlete.”

“Once something feels like a mandatory job is when you start to lose passion for it. I have fun posting and never feel pressured, I know my supporters will be there for me regardless and that’s all that matters. Just being around people that have accomplished and exceeded their own goals motivate me to exceed on my own. They see it in me and that is probably one of the reasons why I’m able to access people that have amazing information to offer.”

“I would want people to know that being a Black athlete in America has caused me to realize how some people only applaud me for what I do, not for who I am. To be a genuine person, you must bring genuine people around you to grow in life – no matter the race or ethnicity.”

Abby Prohaska – Notre Dame Basketball

“I vividly remember my grandma and I sitting in our car in DC for a tournament my Sophomore year of high school when I got the call from my position coach at Notre Dame. I got out of the car in the middle of an alleyway in Chinatown to talk to her. Thinking of Notre Dame as a possibility for my future made my heart skip a beat. It had the academics, it had the basketball, it had an exceptional community of students and athletes. As soon as I got the offer, I wanted to scream ‘Yes!’ but I was chill and tried to play it off. When I got in the car after my first visit I said, ‘Mom, I’m coming here I know it.’”

“Freshman year, I made a point to be friends with the upperclassmen because they had the knowledge that I needed. I remember one day after practice I was in the locker room with Marina and Arike. I had completely bombed the practice and so I was just firing off questions. I wanted to know what I should do differently and to hear from girls who experienced the same lows that I was experiencing. If this exchange taught me anything it’s that it’s really important to talk to people that have endured tough days and learned how to push through.”

“All athletes that have suffered a near career ending injury can vouch for the fear, panic, and pain that accompanies it. I woke up one night to a searing pain. It felt like somebody took a knife and twisted it into my shoulder, slowly edging it towards my lungs. So the morning after I called and described the immense pain to my trainer, and, immediately, we decided to consult the team doctor. The doctor gave me three options: Either I could get an x-ray at an urgent care, get an x-ray at the emergency room, or go back to sleep. Being my stubborn self, I said I wanted to try sleeping. To this the doctor responded,  ‘You know what, I think we better go to the emergency room.’”

“My time in the emergency room felt like days when in reality it was about 15 hours. My ultrasound showed nothing; the X-ray showed nothing, and finally they did a CT because of suspicion of possible problems with my gallbladder. The doctor came in with the results and said, ‘Good news, no gallbladder issues, but you do have a bilateral pulmonary embolism.’ I had absolutely no idea what that meant, but I knew it couldn’t be good. I had a blood clot in each of my lungs. I just thought, am I supposed to be in shock, I have no idea what this all means? My team doctor told me that there was a good chance that I wouldn’t have woken up if I fell back asleep that night.”

“In the beginning, a few of the doctors I had met with told me there was a good chance I would never play again; I told them I didn’t believe them. No matter what, we had to find a way to heal me so I could play again. I met with doctor after doctor until we came up with a progression plan back into play. The process was slow. I started by progressing from body weight to lightly jogging on the treadmill until I was able to play on the defensive team. I was grateful to be playing, it was just so different from what I was used to, especially because I was still deciding whether or not I would come back for the second half of the season. After three months of hard work I decided to sit out the rest of the season because I still didn’t feel fully ready to compete at the level I needed to.” 

“Throughout this whole experience, what helped me the most was the constant communication with my coaches and trainers as well as asking questions like I always had. Having trusted people in your life that know what you undergo and how it affects you is probably one of the most integral components of a recovery. I can’t emphasize how important relationships are in getting you through difficult times, especially during COVID. They help with seeing the process out and asking questions, and, hopefully, those relationships are the ones that encourage you to always keep pushing.”

“I think it’s really, really important to tell kids to keep pushing and to keep fighting. It might be tough one day, but having that trophy with your name on it is worth more than the pain you may go through to get there. Athletes can have a massive impact on little kids, so I think it’s important to relay on a message of hope. Keep fighting and never give up.”

Devon Morris – Ithaca Soccer

“I transferred, my junior year of high school to a small white private school and didn’t really have any friends because I was new. Everyone knew everyone and had grown up with each other so I felt like I was an outsider. I really wanted to do something different. One day, I was kind of joking around with one of my teachers, who was a football coach at the time, and he was really, really cool. I was like, “Yeah football’s not doing too hot, why don’t I come kick for y’all?” And he was like, ‘Yeah, you can go try it out and see what you got.’”

“I would go to school at 7:30am, if we didn’t have a 6am lift. Football practice would start at 3:15pm, then I would change to my soccer stuff at 5:45pm and drive 45 minutes soccer practice. If traffic was lighter, I would stop at the McDonald’s on the way and like grab a couple of chicken nuggets to keep me going. And then soccer practice would end around 8pm and I would drive 30 minutes home to finish homework, and be in bed by 10:30pm. My senior year was challenging, but I knew soccer had to be a part of it if I wanted to play in college.”

“Playing football, it felt like I was by myself the majority of the time, especially because I had to go in the girls locker room to change by myself. If we would travel on the bus, I would have to change and sit in my pads on the bus the whole way or be the very last one to change in the boys locker room. It was tricky but I stuck it out and eventually got the starting kicking spot. Though it was hard, I definitely made some good relationships. My relationships with my coaches were xcellent. Actually, my favorite football coach, Coach Hill recently passed away from COVID. He was a pivotal mentor in my life and he trained me every summer for college soccer.”

“When I got to college the culture shock was tricky because I didn’t know I was going through culture shock. I learned to commit to doing better, kind of taking control of my current situation and figuring out how I was going to make my sophomore year better for myself, versus just quitting. I had to get over minuscule things, daily microaggressions, and the daily realization that I wasn’t from there and I wasn’t like everybody else. It made things difficult.”

“Being a Black woman in athletics has given me tough skin, for sure. Being a student-athlete is already challenging in itself, but adding in those daily microaggressions, along with the constant self-doubt that I won’t fit in or be understood makes things hard. When someone yells the N word during a pregame song, I’m the only one who’s affected by it, and everyone else has the privilege to not be fazed by it. But speaking up right before a game isn’t a good time for productive conversation. It’s also not my job to call out people every time it happens. I had to ask myself, ‘If not me, then who’s going to facilitate the change?’”

“I did the majority of my leading through example. Sports can continue to promote change by amplifying efforts to diversify the athletes and the coaching staffs in teen sports. Also, the importance of committing to one goal that remains at the forefront should be a priority of every team, especially soccer . When we consider how the whole is affected by a decision before the self, we can also help facilitate change in and outside of athletics.”

“Your experience is what you make it. There will be days when it feels like the world is against you, and nothing will go your way. How you react to what’s happening to you is the difference between feeling stuck at rock bottom, and understanding that the only place you can go now is up.”

Reece Whitley – Cal Swimming

“My swim career originally started out as a failed deep-water test at summer camp. The guy that failed me actually ended up being my first primary coach in club swimming. His name was Paul and I broke my first individual national age group record under him when I was 12. I was 6’ 3” back then, so I was only good at first because I was a big kid. By the time I was 13 we really dialed in and set some pretty big goals. By age 15, representing Team USA at the highest level became my dream.”

“A defining moment in my career was having a miserable performance at the Olympic Trials in 2016. I was truly star-struck by the setting and a bit overwhelmed with unexpected media attention beforehand.  At the time, I hadn’t raced at a meet where everyone was that much better than me. I’m in the ready room with guys that are breaking American records left and right. It was intimidating – the lights, the crowd, the whole nine. I definitely wasn’t ready for it, but in that moment of struggle, I told myself ‘Alright, this isn’t really fun and games anymore. If you want to stick with it and see this through, you’re going to have to get through pitfalls like these.’”

“If I had to do my life over again, Cal is the only place I would be. My teammates mean everything to me. The guys will be there for me anytime I need them, but will challenge me to become a better person inside and outside of the pool. From age 12 to 18 I didn’t train with anybody that was faster than me. Now, I’m tossed in an environment with reigning Olympic medalists in each of the four strokes and a load of undergraduates trying to follow their footsteps. It’s an incredibly unique space that I’m honored to be a small part of.”

“My journey is very much out there for people to see, but what many don’t realize about being a Black man in the sport of swimming is that the journey is tougher than it appears on the surface. Walking on a pool deck and not seeing a single other person that looks like you is isolating, particularly when you know the history around segregation in swimming at local pools. I think that if I hadn’t been faced with that situation and others like it, I wouldn’t be as successful as I am now. This has forced me to be more mature and more aware. My experience is my own, but I would imagine that many other Black athletes have similar opinions.”

“Until May, I thought I knew what it was like to deal with social injustice and the climate of race relations in our country. I thought I knew how to handle implicit and explicit racism on a pool deck, but in real time, I was in a low place emotionally. I didn’t know what to do. When George Floyd died, and the country was on fire, people were reacting in all kinds of ways. In the swimming space, because there are so few Black athletes, there was an expectation for me to open up about my experiences and to speak with insight and authority. I did not know how to deal with this at first. It was tough. In the end, my coaches, teammates, and friends eased the pressure. They put me in a position where I could share my experiences, speak my mind and potentially help others find similar success in their social spaces. Once I helped myself, then I could work to help others find similar breakthroughs in personal growth in their respective social environments.”

“I think I’m finally at a point where I can use my voice in a way that helps others. No one is an expert on social injustice and the multiple chasms that divide America at this time. Because of the compassionate listeners I’ve had as an example, I’ve found that it’s best for me to help others find a way for change on their own terms. Through this I can recognize that I’ve changed – even in my actions and the way I provide support to others. When I see something about LGBTQ+ lives on Instagram, I’m going to read it and educate myself. The same goes for protecting women and many others from domestic violence and human trafficking. These are topics I know more about now than I did a few months ago, and continue to educate myself on when presented the opportunity. It’s helped me appreciate my parents through their journeys as African-Americans and so many others with influential roles in my life even more.”

“My advice to younger athletes would be to invest in yourself. Be a little selfish. Prioritize your mental health and personal feelings.  Say when you’re uncomfortable. Say when something is not right because you’re only helping yourself in those situations. No matter if it’s a tough call, no matter if it breaks off some relationships, go out and do what is going to make you successful. I think that is the best advice I can offer.”

“I’ll always be proud to represent my country. There’s nothing like being on a team USA relay. It’s so easy to dial in and get focused when you’re swimming for something that’s 1,000 times bigger than anything you could ever comprehend. I love representing the USA – no matter the present state of our country. I know that my ancestors, my Black ancestors, helped build the foundation for this country and for what it is today. So, I’ll always be proud to represent Team USA because I know who laid the groundwork.”

Carlos Dotson – Western Carolina Basketball

“Basketball has meant the world to me. It has brought me so much joy and so many great friendships, I’m glad I choose to play this sport. The connections I have gained from basketball have been life changing.  In 9th grade I was cut by my basketball team. The next year I made JV but I played a total of 10 minutes the whole season. That changed my life and it woke me up. I worked so hard after that just to prove to everyone that I could be a great basketball player. It made me just have that attitude of never giving up no matter what people say.”

“My junior year of college we played at Furman and  I had 0 points in the first half and I ended up finishing with 27 points. I think that showed everyone who I was and how mentally strong I was by not being down on myself for having a bad half.”

“The advice that I would give to a younger version of myself is to just keep working no matter what someone says you can’t do. Also to have that one person that can be a mentor to you. Mine is Leonard Ellerbe, one of the coolest dudes I’ve ever met. I call him just to talk about life. The talks are always helpful and productive.”

“I want people to know that my journey as a Black man was tough, but life is tough and it will make you so strong that nothing will break you. I hope that everyone gets treated equally. I’m tired of seeing Blacks treated the way they are, but for now, I’m just hoping they arrest the officers who killed Breonna Taylor.”

Chloe Johnson – Ohio State Lacrosse

“Lacrosse means everything to me since I started playing at the age of 4. It has provided me with a lot of opportunities as an athlete, but also as a Black woman. I have gotten to surpass stereotypes and prove I can do more than what is expected of  me. I have gotten to travel and meet so many different people, but mainly it has taught me to open my eyes to my surroundings and be more aware. I have always known that I am different. Lacrosse gave me a platform to speak up for myself and other Black female lacrosse athletes. Being a black woman but basically living in a predominately white environment taught me how to maneuver in that world. There were instances of prejudice and bigotry but I learned how to carry myself during those events.”

“A moment that defined me as an athlete was when I was picked for the Under Armour All-American Senior Game. It reassured that all the hard work and setbacks I had gone through were worth it. Being the only black girl in the entire game made a statement to coaches who had a limited image of me and a statement to myself that the game is bigger than just me. This moment made me desire to be a role model for upcoming Black female lacrosse players. Being a minority in this sport has its difficulties, but it keeps me motivated to see other Black women want to do the same thing.”

“I would tell a younger version of myself to stay true to myself as an athlete and a person. Be confident in my own abilities as an athlete and do not try to compare myself to others. Use my voice and look to make an impact on and off the field. Don’t let the fact that I know I’m different from the majority of the girls I play with affect how I think about myself, and just because they are my teammates does not mean we have to be ‘best friends’. Don’t change or silence myself just to be liked.”

“Growing up in a predominantly white sport I always felt like I was isolated from everyone else. I felt like the one that wasn’t part of the friend group. I felt needed on the field,  but off the field it was a different story. I had parents and their children say racial slurs to me. Even on the field I felt like I was put into a box and wasn’t expected to have the same skillset as the other girls. Feeling that way made me work twice as hard so I would stand out more. Being a Black woman playing lacrosse made me better because I always had to prove myself. As I got older, I was able to find some good friends on my teams. What was most important for me was if they had back in any circumstance.”

“I want the lacrosse community to know that as a Black woman I spent the majority of life trying to fit into a ‘white world’ and learn how to maneuver in this environment. Unfortunately, that effort was not reciprocated. Black female athletes in these predominantly white sports are made to feel as ‘the exception’ and have to assimilate to be accepted. It is easy to judge or stereotype us if we are not what people are used to but I encourage the lacrosse community to get more involved in Black communities. We may have different views and personalities, but I hope Black athletes will feel comfortable and be their true selves. I hope they will be valued as more than just athletes.”

“The best way for athletes to promote positive change is to continue to use their voices. No action is too small when trying to make a difference. Encourage people to step out of their comfort zone and educate themselves. Ask questions if you genuinely want to know and share what you learned. Even though it seems small, that can go a long way to promote change. People need to know we are more than just athletes, Our worth and identities are a lot deeper than that.”

Division II and JUCO Athletes Overcome Obstacles to Chase Their Dreams

Madelyn Broxterman – Emporia State Softball

“I always heard stories of athlete’s careers coming to an abrupt halt, or even ending after being seriously injured. I always thought to myself, ‘I am strong. That could never happen to me.” But then it did. Basketball season my senior year of high school the unthinkable happened. Playing full heart and full speed, like anything I ever did in sports, I tore my right ACL, Meniscus, and sprained my MCL running for a ball that was likely to have been out of bounds if any other person went for it. Little did I know this was the beginning of a long, painful journey full of blood, sweat, and many, many tears.”

“Two months after my ACL and meniscus reconstruction I had to have another procedure to break up scar tissue to get back my full range of motion, so I could even think about walking without a limp again. As a catcher, I was terrified. I could not squat, I could not straighten my leg fully. I could not do anything without pain. I was told I should never catch again. There is something about being told you can not do something that makes you want to do it even more. I will never forget the moment I walked out of physical therapy the day I was told that. I was with my Dad and he asked, ‘Are you okay?’ My response was simply, ‘I do not know.'”

“I got into my car and sat there and cried until I had no tears left. I was not okay. This was the defining moment in my journey where I decided I was not going to let someone decide whether, or not, I was able to pursue what I loved. I had 4 more surgeries across the span of 2 years following my initial ACL and scar tissue procedures. I battled depression, addiction to my pain medication, and identity loss through the course of my healing process. I never slept for more than 5 hours a night for the first two months, I went through withdrawals that made me very emotional.”

I remember times where I would call my sister to leave class to come be
with me in the bathroom while I cried for no reason at all. I lost around 20 pounds and was severely underweight compared to my normal weight. It was terrifying. I am here to tell you I am not ashamed, and I am not chained to these trials anymore. I had to redshirt my JUCO freshman year due to these injuries on top of another meniscus tear right before our fall season started. My sophomore year I transferred to another JUCO in Arizona. I sat out during my fall season there due to my last surgery on my right knee as a result of an infection from the screw. During the spring season I played in maybe 9 innings. I was devastated and wondered why I was not “good enough.” I felt like everyone believed in me except for the people I actually needed to believe in me. Turns out the person that you need to believe in yourself the most, is you.”

“Missing home, I decided it was time to go back to Kansas where I walked on at Emporia State University. My coach took a chance on the kid with an obvious heart for the game. I ended up earning a starting spot as an outfielder halfway through the season. I was really starting to feel like myself again. Fast forward to that next season I earned a starting spot in the outfield and started all 25 games until
COVID-19 ended our seasons. As a result of our shortened seasons, we were able to compete in a college summer series where I was playing left field and tore my left ACL and also have two tears in my meniscus. I am set to have my 7th surgery August 4th, 2020 where I will begin my uphill climb to recovery so I can get out on the field doing what I love once more. I am journaling this process this time
in hopes to one day share my testimony on a bigger stage in efforts to reach out to athletes with similar struggles. However, at the end of the day it is not about my story, but about all of the lessons to be taught because of it.”

“Going through these trials has made me 100 times the player I would have been had I not faced them, and for that, I am grateful. I have motivation and appreciation for the game that only athletes who go through similar trials can obtain. I have learned how to outwork anyone to get to where I want to be.
Not just because I wanted to, but because I had no other choice. When people tell you to never take the game for granted, believe them, because you never know when you will be knocked down on your feet.”

“For anyone facing these struggles, do not give up. Never give up. Fight for what you want and never let anyone tell you that you aren’t good enough or should stop trying. You are capable of so much more than you know and you will always come out stronger.”

Drew Clark – Feather River Baseball

“Junior college athletes are often overlooked because we don’t have the social media platform that comes along with being a Division 1 athlete. Yet, we still go through the same struggles, often without a voice. Plenty of JUCO athletes have the weight of the world on their shoulders because we don’t have a secure four-year school that provides us with scholarships, nice living areas, full time cafes, high end weight rooms, full time tutors, and a great college town to live in. Our futures are always on the line with our performance. And when off the field issues come into play, it’s a whole different ball game.”

“Since my senior year of high school, I’ve been battling depression and anxiety but nobody knew for almost three years. During high school, I was always a standout baseball player, receiving multiple All-Conference and All-State honors, Perfect Game West Coast honors, and being given an opportunity to continue my playing career at Iowa Western Community College, a top 5 programs for Junior College every year.”

“During my Redshirt-Freshmen season, I was clinically diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Not only was I trying to earn a Division 1 scholarship, I was trying to hide my struggles from coaches, teammates, and family. These feelings made me feel like less of a man because I felt weak and embarrassed. I didn’t want anyone to know I was seeing a consoler, living off 3-4 hours of sleep a night due to panic attacks every morning. I didn’t want people to know I cried every day. I didn’t want people to know the thoughts in my head because I didn’t want sympathy. I didn’t want people to know my grades were slipping or that I wasn’t eating. It affected my on-field performance, school work, and everyday life. Baseball used to be an escape, but during this time I lost my passion for the game. Without realizing it, baseball became the biggest part of my life but in a negative way. I was struggling on the field more than I ever have, I kept putting myself in tough positions because I wasn’t playing well and I was being my own biggest critic and using my statistics to define me as a person. I want to let every athlete reading this know that statistics do not define who you are. Sports will be over for all of us one day and nobody will remember you because of your betting average or ERA you posted one season. The teammates I remember most are the ones that had the best integrity, leadership, and the ones with the best attitude on and off the field. The players that had an identity outside of the field.”

“After two World Series runs I decided to transfer, I ended up at Feather River Community College in Quincy, California, a town with two stoplights and 1,000 people, no on campus housing, no athletic scholarships, and no cafeteria. After learning how to deal with my depression and anxiety I was able to impact multiple people on my new campus. We had a small group on campus trying to normalize the stigma of accepting mental health. I was able to share my story and show people there is light at the end of the tunnel. Even though I was helping I still had my own issues to deal with.”

“During the fall season, I had a sub 1.00 ERA and was batting nearly .335. Still with no offers, I started judging myself on my statistics again without realizing it. When the season started up I was doing really well with a sub 2.00 ERA. After a few rough outings, I was back where I was the year before. When the season came to an end due to COVID, my statistics were rough, but I learned to not let that define me as a person. I knew with my off the field actions God would find a home for me. And that he did. I had multiple talks with Morehead State, a Division 1 school in Kentucky. Following my phone calls an injury occurred.”

“I tried I work through it but this injury is something a baseball player can’t play without. I ended up tearing my UCL and underwent Tommy John on July 31st, 2020. I wish I could say something great happened after that but nothing has. Not all success stories happen right away. Some take time, patience, and faith. All that matters is that I’m alive, healthy, and surrounded by great people in my life. Baseball is just a game, and no matter what sport you play, it’s always bigger than the game. Your mental health and the impact you have on the people around you is what really matters. Having success is great, but if you don’t know who you are, and you live vicariously through your athletic success I’d do some soul searching to see who you really are.”

“My story is nowhere near over, but for now my goal is to impact as many of you as possible. Everyone is going through something so please reach out to family and friends and just ask them how they’re doing. Be honest with yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’re all stronger than you think you are capable of. Be you and don’t give up on yourself. Just because we are considered alphas on the field does not mean we are alphas off the field. Athletes struggle as much as anybody and there is no need to feel ashamed whether you’re a man or woman. Don’t let your struggles define you, rather let them build you into someone stronger.”

Elijah Gualdin – Tiffin Track and Field

“Track gave a kid that was nervous to talk to anybody a voice. I grew up stuttering really badly and track has been my way to express myself. It taught me that their are endless amounts of opportunities in this world, you just have to chase them.”

“I’ve fought my way to the top of the totem pole. I earned my spot at the Division 2 level. I’m originally from Gary Indiana and out of high school I wasn’t heavily recruited so I had to make my own way. I signed with an NAIA school, Olivet Nazarene University, with pretty much school paid for. I loved the sport and felt I wasn’t getting any better so I made a bold move and looked for other options. I emailed Division I, Division II and Division III schools and the only school that took a chance on me was Tiffin University. Granted I had never been out the state of Indiana. I walked on to the team my sophomore year leaving a great scholarship at ONU. I worked day in and day out to get a spot on this team while working a part time job and staying in the books. I eventually ran at the division 2 national championship in Texas in 2019 and was apart of Tiffin University’s first 4×100 National Championship.”

“Winning the Division 2 National Championship defined my career because I knew if I put my mind to something and stayed prayerful God would handle the rest. I would tell my younger self to trust your gut, and don’t be afraid to take a risk. Continue to believe in yourself and surround your self by a great crowd. Never lose faith in God.”

“Paths are harder being a Black student athlete because you are looked at differently. My mental health as a Black man is ignored and I feel like the biggest thing in college sports is making sure a student-athlete’s mental health is fine. Now a days you’re ‘soft’ or a ‘simp’ if you show signs of depression or anxiety, but being a student athlete that’s dedicating their time to a sport that could potentially opens paths and pay for school is amazing. Black student takes just want to be loved the same way we love everyone. We want to feel equal.”

“Racial equality in the future for sports will be the biggest stamp in history. As athletes we have a voice, a platform ,so why not use it to get a message across.”

Five Things Your Black Teammates Want You to Know

As we’ve shared athlete’s stories, we’ve had the privilege to catch a glimpse into the lives of so many amazing individuals. We’ve rejoiced with them in their successes, and mourned with them in their hardships. For many athletes however, especially those of color, much of their journey is not always easily seen. They carry a truth that can be both burdensome and empowering. By listening to these athlete’s stories, we can become better teammates, allies, and people. With that in mind, we are pleased to share five powerful lessons we’ve learned about the experiences of Black athletes in sports, from the mouths of those who have lived them. Here are five things your Black teammates want you to know:

  1. “Black” is not my personality

“Over my years playing, people have told me that I am ‘The whitest Black person they have ever met’ or that ‘I am not black enough.’ To me, that’s garbage. Being black is not a personality, and playing a predominantly white sport does not make you less of a black person by any means. I think that’s something that younger black kids who want to play lacrosse, or any other predominantly white sport should know.” -Hank Bethel, Bucknell Lacrosse

2. Representation Matters

“One of the single biggest things that helped me gain confidence in my role as an athlete was seeing Black women excel in sports, regardless of the level.” – Chinaza Ndee, Pitt Volleyball

3. Be Aware of Microagressions

“As a Black [athlete], microaggressions can be hard to deal with because people do sometimes truly think that they’re complimenting you by saying things like ‘You’re so articulate.’ What gets me with a comment like that is the assumption that being articulate isn’t the standard or the expectation for someone who looks like me. They aren’t complimenting me for anything I actually said, but are just impressed that I said it well.” -Thomas Booker, Stanford Football

4. We’re Exhausted

“As a Black man I had to learn how to move carefully and be smart in order to be successful. There is already a target on our backs and any little thing could magnify simply because of the color of our skin. Learning to live the right way is key.” – Ryle Owens, Young Harris Basketball

5. We’re All On The Same Team

 “I would like every athlete – no matter their race – to feel comfortable on their team, in their athletic facility, at their job, as well as in the world. Nobody should be treated differently because of the color of their skin.” -Nya Reed, Florida Gymnastics

Chinaza Ndee – Pittsburgh Volleyball

“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that volleyball has permanently changed the way I approach everyday situations. Volleyball has taught me the importance of cherishing and nurturing relationships and how much caring for those around you can motivate you. It has shown me (sometimes painfully) the importance of time management and prioritizing the things I value. It has made me comfortable with important aspects of teamwork like conflict resolution and problem-solving. I am a better learner due to volleyball and I deal with failure and discomfort in a healthier, more productive way. I am much more mentally tough. I am more willing to take on challenges and tasks that take me outside of my comfort zone. I have found a new appreciation for self-care and how it can really help improve my performance when necessary. These are skills I take with me on and off the court, so along with all the lessons I’ve learned about being a better athlete, I truly believe volleyball has made me a better student, athlete, daughter, sister, friend, and person.”

“Actually, one recent moment that has defined me as a person was when I saw the George Floyd video. Of course, the events in that video are not new. There have unfortunately been many videos of Black people dying due to police brutality circulating the internet for years. I have always been invested in social justice, but have deliberately not been very outspoken about it. I did not want others to know that I cared about police brutality. I didn’t want to be the “angry Black woman”. I wanted to be liked by my white peers. I wanted them to be comfortable around me. So, I would quietly do what I could and would then use my busy schedule to distract me from the pain that each and every hashtag would bring. However, being in quarantine without the usual activities to distract me as well as the clear, pure evil shown in the video has moved me to be more outspoken and open about my beliefs than ever. I’ve realized that the people who would get mad or pull away are people I don’t want in my life anyway. I’d rather have fewer people in my life that care for me in my entirety. I am no longer making myself small to please other people. I am Black 24/7. I can’t run away from this, so I am no longer allowing those around me to run away from it either.”

“I would tell myself that I am inherently valuable. When I was younger, I would often shy away from stretching outside of my comfort zone because I was scared to fail. I placed so much of my value on my successes and whether I felt like I was “achieving my potential”. If I wasn’t doing well, then I wasn’t good enough. Now, I would tell myself that my value is something that cannot be swayed by achievements or accolades. The process of achieving my goals and bettering myself as a student, athlete, or a person includes awkward moments, failures, and plateaus along with the big successes, accolades, and peaks. Therefore, the times when I feel discomfort or insecurity cannot diminish my value when they, too, are moments of growth and progress.”

“Like many black women in white-dominated sports, being a black female volleyball athlete can feel isolating. Unfortunately, due to disparities in resources and (in my opinion) lack of representation, there is definitely a lack of diversity in the sport, especially in higher-level clubs. That’s why I am grateful I played the majority of my club years at an elite volleyball club with significant black representation across the board, from the players to the coaches to the directors. I never felt boxed into a stereotype of what a black volleyball player should look like. This allowed me to holistically develop as a player in a way that black girls are often not able to.”

“Now, I am an athlete at a predominantly white institution (PWI) on a team that is mostly white, and when I started at Pitt, I was the only black girl on the team. While this initially scared me, I am glad to say that I have loved my time on the Pitt volleyball team. This can mostly be attributed to a coaching staff that has been supportive and thoughtful and committed to inclusion since day one. Unfortunately, I know that my story is not the norm for black athletes, especially at PWIs, and even more so in white-dominated sports like volleyball. I think the main thing I have taken away from this experience is that leadership matters, especially for black athletes and other athletes of color. This is not to take away from personal responsibility, of course. However, in a sports environment, there is an inherent power imbalance and players often take cues from coaches and other leaders on what is acceptable. Team culture often starts from the top, so a commitment to a safe, inclusive environment for black student-athletes must be championed and embodied by those with authority, from individual team coaches all the way up to administrators and athletic directors.” 

“The last thing I’ll say is that representation matters. One of the single biggest things that helped me gain confidence in my role as an athlete was seeing black women excel in sports, regardless of the level. I was inspired by watching older black players at my volleyball club or rooting for the black women on the college volleyball teams I would watch on TV before I came to Pitt. And, of course, then there is Serena Williams. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Serena. Of course, she inspires me on a purely athletic basis due to her dominance and mastery of her sport. However, just seeing someone who looked like her (black woman, muscular, dark-skinned, all of the above) succeeding and thriving in a sport that is overwhelmingly white while also speaking up for what she believes in has inspired me more than her skills themselves.”

“Athletes have much more influence than we might even realize. There is a tendency for athletes, especially Black athletes, to be almost dehumanized and seen more as machines and sources for entertainment and profit. However, as we are seeing recently, athletes are opinionated and care about injustice just like everyone else. So, I think the best way for athletes to promote positive change is to just start talking. Start asking questions. Start having hard conversations. Start spreading awareness. Start speaking up for others. Just start. Athletes often have the attention of people who won’t hear what we are saying from anywhere else. We need to take these conversations into spaces that others might not be able to reach and start talking. We cannot let opportunities for vital interactions and even the slightest amount of change pass us by. There is so much work to be done, but talking is something well within our control.”

“After volleyball, I am planning on attending medical school. I’ve wanted to be a physician for as long as I can remember. Of course, the initial draw was a combination of scientific intrigue, giving to others on a daily basis, problem-solving, and leadership. However, as I’ve grown and learned more about racial disparities in healthcare as well as the lack of black representation in the medical field, I feel even more compelled to enter into this career field. I am grateful that I have so many people in my life at Pitt and beyond that have remained supportive of my future goals.”

Katelyn Hutchison – Ithaca Track & Field

“I remember at the end of my freshman year of High School, I ran in the Chicago Public Schools City Championships. I was freaking out. Nobody was expecting me to do anything crazy and out of nowhere I won. A couple weeks later we had the sectional qualifier. When they got to my name, the announcer said, ‘Katelyn Hutchison is the only freshman.’ I didn’t qualify for state but I did still run pretty fast which I was excited about. At the end of that race I thought, ‘Wow this is for me. I want to do this.’” 

“My dad is my biggest supporter. He’s crazy when he comes to these things. During my senior year, he would say, ‘I think Katelyn’s gonna run 54 this year,’ and everybody was looking at him like he was nuts. I thought he was nuts too. But you know, him always having that faith in me, as well as him doing literally whatever he could to make sure that I had everything I needed made a difference.”

“At times with track I was very inconsistent. It’s not like I struggled with some crazy depression while I was running track, but the mental aspect of it was definitely a huge thing that I struggled with. It’s something that I’m still working on. I would tell myself that I wasn’t good enough, or I wasn’t gonna be as good as I wanted to be.  I had to understand that sometimes my coaches saw something in me that was harder for me to see.” 

“Choosing to go to a predominantly white institution, I don’t think I really understood what kind of impact it was gonna have on me until I got there. I’m a very outward person. I have a lot of energy, I can be really loud, and I have a really big presence and so I showed myself that way at orientation.  When we started having practices, I had that shock and I was very quiet for like three weeks, which was very very unusual for me.”

“One day we were about to go into lift and I just opened up. I snapped out of it and I started acting goofy again. One of my teammates said, ‘Where have you been? I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had culture shock. Sometimes I would look around and I’d be like, ‘Wow, there aren’t any Black people here.’ I don’t really know what to do about it. There’s just certain ways that I want to act and certain things that I want to talk about that may not necessarily be understood.”

“Thankfully I’ve been in an environment where I’ve always been encouraged to love the fact that I’m a woman and to be strong and empowered in that. I’ve had representation in leadership, because like I said, my coaches, and most of my athletic directors are women. Black women are probably the most disrespected people in America, so I have a lot to think about. Having that support and representational leadership was very important for me.”

“If I were to give my younger self one piece of advice, I would say, ‘Please be patient with yourself. You can be even better than you are right now.’ The challenge to become better is going to be fun. For a really long time I felt like I wasn’t up to par with everybody else, but I learned to be a confident person. That doesn’t mean being overconfident, it’s more about being composed and knowing what you’re capable of and not trying to compare yourself to other people. If you know what you’re capable of, what everybody else is doing doesn’t really matter.” 

“I know a lot of people don’t really like the fact that politics or race are intertwined with sports because they think sports are supposed to be entertainment. The fact of the matter is that these topics are so important. There’s no reason why people with big platforms should not be promoting or talking about what’s going on. Everybody loves sports, so if sports allows themselves to give social justices a voice – then that’s a huge help.” 

Donte Garcia – Ithaca Football

I first started playing football when I was in about fifth grade. I played a bunch of sports as a kid, but once I got into it around ninth grade, that’s when I really started feeling passionate about it, and I knew that I wanted to play football in college. And it has been a dream of mine since then.

I’m the first of three siblings to go to college, and my parents did not go to college. My parents’ goals were to get all my siblings to school, and with me specifically being the firstborn, they were not going to take no for an answer. My parents and siblings, they’ve supported me and I feel like if I ever needed to fall back they would catch me. So I’m really grateful to have the support system that I do here, and I think without my family, and the support that they bring, I don’t think that I would be on the track that I am.

Going into college football, I had a lot of goals. I had the mentality that I was going to fight for what I want, and nothing was going to be easy, but I was going to make sure that no matter how hard it would be, I was going to achieve those goals. I think so far, I’m on the right track. I don’t want to speak too much about what I’ve achieved so far, but from how I’ve grown from these past two years, I just feel very empowered and feel like if I continue to do the work that I’m doing, great things will happen.

I think what I want people to know about me is I believe that it doesn’t matter where you come from, how big you are, how fast or strong you are, whatever it may be. If you have the mindset and the drive to achieve something, you’re going to go out and get it. I knew that I wasn’t going to be the fastest, strongest, smartest guy going into it. And you’re going to fail at some point, but you just have the mentality to continue to drive forward and  get 1% better every day.

Football has definitely told me a lot. In high school football, you’re not thrown into a melting pot as big as what you are in college; you meet people from all walks of life. People from places you’re likely to never visit. So, it gave me a lot of insight, and it kind of opened my eyes a lot to the world and to people. 

To make change, it’s important to at least try. Because if someone is going to listen to another person, it’s going to be someone they can relate to. And if you play sports, there’s hundreds of thousands of people that can relate to that.

I’m obviously a student-athlete of color. I’m one hundred percent Puerto Rican – my father, he’s black Puerto Rican and my mother, she’s white. I don’t like to call myself white and I don’t call myself black because I’m not really either. You know, but I’m starting to learn to be proud of it. And I’m learning to accept that. And I think once you’re comfortable in your own skin it just allows you to achieve so much more because you’re comfortable with who you are.

Kris Alleyne -Professional Lacrosse

“Lacrosse has been everything to me since I started playing in the fourth grade. The game has taught me so many character traits that translate to my everyday life. Leadership, handling adversity, hard work, etc. This game has given me so much in terms of education, lifelong relationships, travel and now as I get older, it’s my turn to give back as much as I possibly can for the next generation of athletes.”

“The 2016 Rutgers lacrosse season is an experience I rely heavily on. The way we were able to come together as a unit, set aside all outside noise and place all of our focus on the process led to us having some success. Although we ultimately fell short of our end goal, I find myself looking back to the lessons from that year both on and off the field.” 

“I feel sports have become too hyper-focused on the next level instead of focusing on the level you’re currently at. While it is obviously great to dream and those dreams can propel you to getting to that next level, you can’t let that ruin your love of the game. Always remember why you started playing the game anytime it gets tough. Become obsessed with the process of improving. No 1/2 measures. Do everything with full effort. Academics, sport, fitness, social.”

“Growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood, playing lacrosse at a young age – I didn’t necessarily feel any differently because I was Black. It took until about middle school where I started realizing I was ‘different’. People would always be surprised to hear I was a lacrosse player when they first met me, and even more surprised that I was a goalie. Before I got to Rutgers, I only had two other Black teammates.”

“One memory that always comes to mind when asked about the negative experiences as a Black player in a predominately white sport came when I was in early high school. Following a winter league game, which my team won, a player from the other team murmured ‘Good game, but you’re still a n*****’ in the handshake line. This was the first time in my life I had experienced hate simply because of the color of my skin. I’m thankful that my teammates had my back and stepped up to the kid immediately after it happened. Looking back it made me realize that despite the majority of people I know who do have my back, unfortunately there is a minority that do not.”

“I love this game, and my love for it is why I want to be on the front lines of making it better than I found it. There will be highs and lows along this journey,  Unfortunately there will be insistences of prejudice and bigotry, but how you navigate this is incredibly important. Continue to educate yourself and those around you, because to make change it takes leadership. In order to improve inclusion in our sport and beyond is to make it an even playing field in terms of acceptance. No player at any age should feel they don’t belong in a sport because of their background, race, religion, sexual orientation etc.”

“No voice or action is too small, continue to fight to stand up for what you believe in. It’s not linear. I didn’t wake up one day and want to advocate for something bigger than myself, but your action may be enough to begin that chain reaction of giving others a voice where they may not have felt they had one prior.”