Jordan Fields – Pittsburgh Track and Field

  1. What has track meant to you and taught you?

While challenging myself physically and participating in athletic competitions has been rewarding, my greatest takeaway from track and field and the student-athlete lifestyle are the life lessons I learned along the way. Being a track and field athlete at a competitive high school and at the Division 1 level has forced me to develop serious discipline and time management skills, which I often use in my everyday life. During my undergraduate career at the University of Pittsburgh, I served on the  Student Government Board, the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Women’s Concerns, the Athletic Department’s Diversity & Inclusion Subcommittee and several other standing committees, in addition to being a full-time student-athlete. I also led efforts to update our University Student Code of Conduct and contributed to the new language that will appear in the revised version this year. My ability to balance my athletic responsibilities in addition to my responsibilities off the track required that I maintain a rigid daily schedule and remain hyper-organized. Doing so allowed me to get a lot done in a single day, and over four years. I don’t think I would have been able to accomplish all that I did during my time at Pitt had it not been for the self-discipline, confidence, and determination that I developed through track and field. Similarly, track has taught me how to fail forward. I’ve fouled countless jumps on the long and triple jump runway and lost a ton, but I always walked away from meets feeling like I learned something or improved a bit. For me, being a track and field athlete has been a true learning experience, and I believe that the lessons I’ve learned and the skills I’ve developed over the last 8 years will stick with me forever.

2. What is one moment that has defined you as an athlete or a person?

I try not to let single moments or experiences define me because I feel like doing so over-emphasizes one aspect of who I am, and disregards everything else that I’ve accomplished as a person. However, If I had to choose one moment, I’d probably say graduating from Pitt has been my greatest accomplishment to date. Although our commencement ceremony was virtual and names weren’t called in typical commencement fashion, my name was one of the few mentioned because I won the University’s Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK) “Senior of the Year Award.”  Every year, one Pitt senior is chosen as the ODK Senior of the Year for their meritorious leadership and involvement on campus and in the Pittsburgh community. The winner’s name is engraved beside previous years’ recipients in a walkway between the Cathedral of Learning and Heinz Memorial Chapel. This year, because of COVID-19 the winner was announced during the virtual commencement ceremony, so everyone watching witnessed my name being called. I’m only the 6th Black student, and 3rd Black woman to win the award in its 90+ year history. Graduation day was a serious accomplishment to me not only because I was named “Senior of the Year,” but because as a Black woman, I know how fortunate I am to have a college education. Neither of my paternal grandparents were fortunate enough to go to college so April 26th was a very important day for me and my family. I wouldn’t say that my college degree defines me, but I think one day I’ll be able to look back at my undergrad career and see it as the beginning of a lifetime of service. 

3. Based on your experiences as an athlete, what advice would you give to a younger version of yourself?

Be fearless in your pursuit of what’s right. No demand or ask is too big when your goal is justice. Anyone that truly values the lives of Black athletes will understand this. Don’t be afraid to speak up. You’re probably not the only one with you. If you really want to change something for the better, be relentless in your desire to get the job done. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and sometimes it requires that you get in the way. 

4. What would you want people to know about your journey as a Black female athlete?

My experience as a student-athlete was very much influenced by the intersection of my identities as a Black person and a woman. As I reflect on my time at Pitt, I think my decision to remain vocal about the things I witnessed and didn’t agree with, probably earned me the label of the angry Black girl. Whether white people in the athletics community admit/understand it or not, Black athletes that constantly speak up are always looked at differently than Black athletes that don’t. Black athletes that aren’t as vocal are “tokenized” by their white teammates, who consider them to be the “good” Black athletes, rather than troublemakers. Look at the NFL for example- players like Colin Kaepernick, Kenny Stills, and Eric Reid were criticized by players and fans alike for protesting systemic injustice in America, while Victor Cruz, and other Black players that criticized their protests, were revered by White fans. 

I knew that most people I would encounter would never understand the Black experience and unfortunately it takes years for some people to recognize what’s been sitting in front of their eyes for so long. Ironically, the work that I’ve done recently has gained a lot of attention & praise from white members of the Pitt Athletics community that initially didn’t understand why I acted/ carried myself in the way that I did. In sum, being a Black female student-athlete was not easy,

5. What inspired you to write the letter to the Pitt athletic department last month? How do you think athletes can best promote change in the sports world and beyond?

I initially wrote a letter to the NCAA with a dear friend of mine, Aubri McKoy, who is an alumna of The College of Wooster. We were frustrated by the delayed/poor response from the national organization regarding the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Aubri and I felt the need to speak up because the NCAA makes millions of dollars off  the labor of Black athletes, and should feel responsible for addressing systemic racism and injustice since it impacts us (Black athletes) everyday. After we posted the letter on social media, Ian Troost reached out to me about writing to the Pitt Athletic Department about their response to the recent police brutality cases, as well  as how they could create a more inclusive and equitable environment for Black Pitt athletes.

As for how current athletes can take a stand, the late Congressman John Lewis once said “Find a way to get in the way.” College athletes, particularly those that play revenue sports, have a large platform. If you work together, organize and agitate, I truly believe that student-athletes have the power to change the historically and systemically racist culture within college athletic departments across the nation. Use your voices, bodies, and social media presence to make noise and demonstrate. Black athletes deserve so much more than they’re being given. It’s time to change the exploitative nature of collegiate athletics. 

6. What is your hope for the future of racial equality in sports or the world in general?

My hope is that Black athletes can one day enjoy their sport and speak about their lived experiences without white people telling them to “shut up and dribble.” I hope that white sports fans learn to respect and value Black athletes like Maya Moore, Colin Kaepernick, LeBron James and Natasha Cloud in the same way they do Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Maria Sharapova. My hope is that one day, everyone views Serena Williams and Kareem Abdul-Jabar not just as elite athletes, but unbelievably brilliant individuals.

My hope for  Black college athletes is that they’re encouraged to pursue their academic interests without white academic advisors telling them that they’re not capable of doing so. I hope Black athletes get paid for the labor they do on behalf of their respective schools, and that they experience the same freedom their white teammates do in every aspect of life. 

Black athletes have historically excelled despite explicit attempts to undermine our success and talents. Had white people learned to embrace and accept our talents  years ago (on and off the field), I believe that our country would look very different right now. Ironically, America’s history of excluding Black people from institutions and  organizations has backfired, and we are just now seeing successes and historic moments that should’ve occurred years ago. My hope is that this country will one day learn it’s lesson.

Generally speaking, I dream of true liberation. 

Steven Enoch – Louisville Basketball

Basketball means the world to me, and one of the most important things it has taught me is how to work hard and trust the process of constant improvement. Sports have an impact on everyone who watches and plays. My hope for the future of equality in sports is for the world to be more accepting of players of any skin color.

The first thing that led me to become a collegiate athlete was the possibility to graduate with a degree and set a great example for my family. With the benefits of being on scholarship at school, I made sure to take full advantage of the opportunity. In high school, my journey wasn’t what you’d think. I didn’t play on the varsity team until my junior year, when I got a lot better at basketball. I then finished my high school career at a prep school where there’s an even higher level of competition. I used this experience as my M.O. as I continued to excel in life and basketball.

Steven Enoch elevates for a dunk against North Carolina.

I had to overcome obstacles that required me to make quick adjustments like going from my junior year of high school to attending prep school and having to stay away from home my senior year. Ever since, I’ve been attending college hundreds of miles from home. It was one of the toughest obstacles I had to overcome but it worked out in the end through hard work.

The biggest thing I’d tell myself is to be patient. Getting where I am today took a lot of that, along with resilience.

As a Black athlete, the most important things a person in my position can do are use my voice and platform and motivate others to push to create a greater narrative for one another.

It will take an effort from every player in the sports world to use sports as a pedestal to represent our country,  but it is very possible for our generation and for future generations to come.

Bryce Owens – New Mexico Basketball

I became a collegiate basketball player because the love I have for the game of basketball is extremely abundant. I knew I did not want my basketball career to end after high school and it has never been something I needed to think about. The goal was to get a scholarship to play Division 1 basketball, and years of practice, games, camps and tournaments were dedicated to that. My journey through high school was a fun one indeed! I mean, I had the best teammates to be able to surround myself with at the time. I promise you there was never a dull moment. Was everyday perfect? No, of course not. But I looked forward to competing by their side every game because I knew who I was battling with was just as eager to win as I was. My high school experience definitely helped propel me forward to get ready for college, really my entire upbringing did! I wouldn’t change that for the world.

Throughout my career I had to overcome a lack of confidence in myself and in my game. For whatever reason, I never seemed to believe I was good enough and it did not matter how many people may have told me I actually was good enough. I think a lack of confidence stopped me from believing I could potentially play professional basketball. To be honest, I didn’t really conquer it until just recently and to be even more honest there are still times I still struggle with it. Lack of confidence has always been a big thing for me.

First, I want people to know that YOU ARE MORE THAN AN ATHLETE. It took a long time for me to realize that I am more than just a basketball player. I thought that fact alone was where my worth and identity was found and that is not true. I will say that as a black female athlete I felt like there were times when I did think that I’d have to do a little bit more, or win more games over players that did not look like me in order to be seen by college coaches. But that was very short lived, I figured out I just had to go out and play my game the best way I knew how and that the right coaches would notice me and see my talent regardless of skin color.

Basketball means the world to me. As mentioned above, in this game is where I used to define my worth but it’s only part of who I am. Basketball has saved my life in so many ways, I really do not know where I would be without the sport. It’s like an addiction, I can’t stay away from it, I don’t want to stay away from it. Basketball has taught me leadership skills, how to communicate effectively, adaptability, time management, discipline, and those are just to name a few! I could play the game all day long every single day and not even think twice about it. I definitely know that I have been blessed with a special knowledge and talent to play this game.

 The advice I would give to a younger me would be to be more confident, basically find your confidence early. There’s only one you and your only competition is being better than the person you were yesterday. I would also say, don’t take this game lightly, give it all you have everyday and on the days you don’t feel like you can keep going that’s when you push harder. Fall in love with yourself first, go after your dreams and don’t let anyone or anything stop you.

Honestly, I hope that sports begin to set the bar high for equality in the world. In one way or another I really believe that sports of any kind (cheerleading, racing, horseback riding, etc.) is a common denominator in the entire human race, somehow it brings us all together and does so much good. My hope for the world is that we all figure out that we are all connected and we all come from the same divine source. There is love in your mind, body and soul naturally because the One who created you is indeed LOVE itself! Ultimately, my hope for the world is that we finally realize that love is our natural state of being.

I think the best way for athletes to promote change is to find what change they wish to see in the world and advocate for that the best way they can. Use their voice and even use their sport to promote change and be an example. For instance, recently one of the top male high school basketball prospects, Makur Maker, just committed to Howard University, an HBCU! That’s HUGE! Sports is a platform in itself, a huge platform, and I think an individual promoting positive change through their sport is a great thing and can create a ripple effect!

Darryll Stinson – Central Michigan Football

“Never let a bad day make you think you have a bad life.  One relationship. One opportunity. One thought can change your life. Hang in there. You may just be ONE step away from a brand new life.”

“Watching my teammates Antonio Brown, and Eric Fisher (the #1 pick in 2013 draft) and other professional athletes that I played with or against was the hardest thing in my life to do. I was happy for them, but their success reminded me of my failure. It took a long time for me to heal. That’s why I’m so passionate about helping other athletes as well. I help athletes build their dream career and/or business after sports.” 

“Just because your career is finished, doesn’t mean your life is. There’s life, fulfillment, and purpose beyond the game. Also, from a mindset standpoint, you are enough! And you’re worth more than you give yourself credit.” 

“I learned to overcome rejection through prayer, study, self-reflection, persistence and having DEEP conversations with others.” 

“Athletes can best support one another through adversity by offering GRACE and LOVE. Love people the most when they deserve it the least. Give others the same grace you wish they’d give to you.” 

Peyton St. George – Duke Softball

“There isn’t one solid defining moment of my career that I felt like has defined me. Yet, my freshman year of college was one of the most challenging years of my life just because when I lost my identity in softball, I also lost my identity as a person. It took a long time for me to realize that softball is something I do, it is not who I am. When I was faced with a rigorous academic calendar and 20+ hours of practice a week on top of a very poor mental state that crumbled so rapidly, my world fell apart. I was depressed, I was anxious, and I no longer had motivation for the things I loved. A game that I had devoted my life to without question no longer brought me happiness and I had trouble defining myself without softball.”

“I felt that this year of college was the key growing point in maybe my entire life up to this point. Before college I had always undermined mental health in athletes, and it wasn’t until I was crumbling underneath the pressure of it all that I started to truly question why something so important isn’t openly talked about. Softball is easily one of the most demanding sports to play in college. You’re playing 4 games a week in season from February to the end of May (about 60 total), the travel and practice hours on top of only 1 day off a week can make it seem nearly impossible to stay afloat with academics and a social life. Between dozens of missed classes and endless hours spent in an airport, it only became harder to keep up with school. I learned to confront these pressures head first and not only to relearn how to love the game, but how to love myself first without softball.

“In the big scheme of things, softball will only be a little part of my life but I can truly say that it has helped me define who I am with and without the game. As a student-athlete at one of the most prestigious universities in the country, I often thought I shouldn’t struggle because I had every resource I needed.  Even when you have everything at your fingertips, it is okay to feel as if you have nothing and I wish I knew that sooner. I am a firm believer that what you put in the game, the game will return.”

“I vividly remember laying in my bed one morning and my mom sprinting in my room to tell me that Duke just announced they would be starting a softball program in the year 2017. Her exact words were… “Imagine how COOL that would be to be on the first softball team at Duke.” As a rising freshman in high school who was very late in the recruiting process, I immediately thought that was a feat so far out of my reach. Fast forward a few years later and I am walking with the newly announced head coach through an empty grass field, the location where our stadium would soon be on Duke’s campus. It wasn’t even a question when I was offered a spot on the team, especially as the first ever commit. Even without softball, Duke is one of the most prestigious schools in the country and that alone would be enough to carry me through life when it comes time to hang up my cleats.”

“The summer going into my junior year of high school I had a few options to weigh with where I would be committing. I was in love with a larger caliber school in the SEC until Duke’s head coach had called me showing interest later that summer. My pitching coach had put it as blunt as he could when he asked if I wanted to go to a school to break records or set them? From that point on it was an obvious answer that Duke would become my home not just for the 4 years of college, but for life. Easiest decision I’ve ever made, now I just needed to set records.”

“Don’t get me wrong, starting a program isn’t all kittens and rainbows as it may seem. Building a culture literally from the ground up has been a very difficult process. Our team has had their ups and downs, and it wasn’t until this past year that we were finally able to see our culture and love for the game in action. A turning point this season for Team 3 was definitely our 1-0 win at undefeated Texas in late February. We were so used to being the underdogs because we were “new”, “young”, and “inexperienced”. This past year really showed how much we had grown as a team and there wasn’t a single person who doubted that we didn’t belong on that field with the #3 team in the country, regardless of how young our program was. Becoming a top 25 team in the 3rd year was the new standard for us and we weren’t going to settle for anything less. With the season being cut short, our once unattainable goal of making it to the NCAA tournament was becoming reality, and little did I know walking through that empty grass field that this team would break records so incredibly fast.”

“Verbally committing to Duke before the softball program really took off was never challenging or fearful to me as a young player, despite the fact that they didn’t yet have an established team or a field. Duke isn’t #1 in the country for student-athletes solely because of their high academic and athletic standards. They are #1 because they create a sense of community among athletes that allow you to excel with endless resources in a tight-knit support system. Many schools that I had visited when in the recruiting process urged me to “avoid” certain majors that may be difficult because they would cut into my athletic commitments. Duke on the other hand not only encourages athletes to pursue any and all majors regardless of their difficulty, but creates programs geared specifically towards the time commitments that a packed season may carry.”

“Duke carries a reputation that is so powerful athletically and academically, always challenging it’s student athletes to be to their full potential in everything that they do. With 6,682 undergrad students, nearly 10% (652) are athletes. To be a part of an environment that is the best of the best was one of the easiest decisions of my life. This also goes to show that you can be at the peak of academic and athletic excellence and still experience the struggles of mental health.”

“I hope my story can help facilitate the talk around mental health and student-athletes, even if it only touches one person. You can have everything there is to succeed and still feel as if you are drowning under the pressure that college athletics throw at you. Being at a school like Duke, there is a large stigma around mental health just because most of the student-athletes excel in nearly everything they do here, it’s the culture that this campus cultivates. Many times, you are either trying to out-perform or out-struggle one another. A lot of athletes throughout their career will never confront the challenges they are faced with, but reaching out for help was one of the best things I ever did for myself.”

“To younger softball players, I hope that they can realize a lot quicker than I did that your performance is not an indicator of your self-worth. At the end of the day your sport is something that you do, it is not who you are. Finding a way to make that separation was crucial for me to grow as a person in college.”

“I wish every single day that I could go back to my freshman self and tell her to enjoy it more. To stop pressing so hard and expecting yourself to be perfect. I wish I knew that the mental struggles I was experiencing were normal among college athletes and then I would’ve maybe reached out for help sooner. Being a rising senior now especially with my last season being cut short, I can honestly say I will never take a single rep, pitch, or game for granted again because for many softball players their journey ends in 4 years. When people tell you to enjoy it because time flies by, they are not lying. If I could be a freshman again stepping on campus for the first time, I wouldn’t let my love for the game slip away. I would embrace the 6am lifts, excruciating conditioning workouts, long nights in the library, and every moment in between because I know when I graduate those are the little things I am in fact going to miss.”

“Instead of internally struggling with failure as a freshman and being so hard on myself, I can see now that being thrown to the wolves at such a young age in a new program has only allowed me to grow. Being a part of a new program was a blessing in disguise because I would’ve never seen growth if I didn’t experience failure first.”

“I hope that sports can bring people together by allowing student-athletes to use their voice now more than ever. By sharing our stories, we can build a community with similar hardships, struggles, and passions…lessening the stigma around mental health. If we normalize the talk around mental health just as much as we did around wins, losses, and stats, more people may feel comfortable when reaching out for help.

Thomas Booker – Stanford Football

“I was interested in Stanford for a long time. Originally, it wasn’t even about football for me. In middle school I was very much into technology and was a huge nerd when it came to mobile technology. I’d ask myself ‘Who is making these apps?’ and I kept seeing that it was Stanford grads. At some point my eyes shifted towards football but my family was very, very heavy on education. They taught me that what’s going to carry you after you’re done playing football is your mind and not your body. That was something that was drilled in me.”

“I think one thing I had to learn to manage in my life was being able to compartmentalize. If I got a bad grade on a test I’d let that carry on into practice. I wouldn’t be able to think about anything else and I’d think ‘How did that happen?’ On the field it was similar. If I had one bad pass rush it’d affect me the whole practice. I had to learn to compartmentalize and deal with things as they were and to not worry about the uncontrollable. That was a big turning point for me.”

“A moment that defined me came my freshman year when we were playing in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. I hurt my shoulder a few days before the game and it was a game time decision if I was going to play. I knew I didn’t have to play, but I had played the entire season and I wanted to finish strong. I think for me that was a big one, because I had to look at myself and say ‘This is really up to you. This is your decision and your decision alone.’ I played and actually ended up winning the most valuable defensive lineman of the game. Ultimately it ended up being a big lesson: Make your decision and commit yourself fully to it. When it comes to the big choices in life you don’t make a good or bad decision from the start, you make yourself right or wrong with the way you execute.”

“The NFL is a goal I’ve always had and is one that I’m currently working towards, but for me, I understand that the NFL could really be a launching pad for a lot of other things in my life. It’s always been my dream to play professional football, but I know that nothing is permanent. I hope to use opportunities in football to further my career. I would love to be a CEO or Chief Operating Officer of a big tech company one day. That would be my dream after football.”

“As a Black man, 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. Other people will more directly demean you and say things like, ‘Oh you talk white.’ What even is ‘talking white’? Is it simply speaking well and with correct grammar? While people might think those are just small comments, they can really get under your skin. They reveal racial biases and assumptions that are usually hidden. I’ve learned throughout the years to not let them get to me, but no one should have to develop a tough skin against casual comments that question their intelligence or blackness.”

“Similar microaggressions exist as a Black student-athlete. Sometimes I feel like people are expecting me to not be articulate, or expecting me to not contribute to class discussions. So, as a student-athlete and a Black male, I feel like I have twice the pressure. As a result, I’ve sometimes unconsciously tried to counter those expectations by being extremely articulate or by making excellent contributions in class that stand out from the rest. A lot of that behavior is just me being interested in my classes, but part of it is me feeling the need to address the stereotypes of low academic success and intellectual acuity that are commonly placed on student-athletes in general, and specifically on BLACK student-athletes.”

“A huge positive is having people in positions of power that look like you. Coach Shaw is a genius at what he does. Getting to come to work every day with him as a head coach is awesome, not just because he’s Black, but because he is competent, intelligent, and a true head coach that knows what he’s doing. That goes for my family too. My mom is a great lawyer and my dad’s a businessman. Being able to see them in positions of power and doing their thing is always going to be a positive for me, because you can really visualize yourself achieving those same things.”

”I think that the conversation has to go where it’s going right now. We need to understand that racism is not always an active entity. It’s been purposely built into our system and maintained both actively and passively. If we do nothing, it will continue to be like this. We need to identify the invisible cogs in the machine that allows racism to persist. Awareness is important but seeing the problem is not enough, you have to displace it. That’s why I’ve been really impressed with Black Lives Matter as a movement. People are converting clicks and posts into protests, donations, and time spent calling representatives. For things to get better, we need to continue to identify what’s wrong, and actually do concrete things to change.”

Shyheim Wright – Pittsburgh Track and Field

“Track has been everything to me in terms of how I carry myself as a man and how I look at things now. Track is different than other sports, with the fact that, when you’re out there, you are by yourself. Your performance is based on how you’ve prepared before the race and how you are going to take that preparation and execute on race day. I feel like that has taught me in life that whatever you do, you have to prepare and execute no matter what it is because at the end of the day, it reflects you and no one else.”

“I’d say the biggest obstacle I’ve had to overcome is the fact that I tore my quad my senior year of high school before coming to college and it was so hard going back to square one in terms of confidence and physically losing some of what I had in high school. With the transition of college it put a toll on me mentally driving to a deep depression with questions about why I continued to run track and if I really mattered in this world. I was put in therapy a couple times a week to give me someone to talk my issues out with and it really helped and now I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even talk to my therapist anymore because of how much my mental health has improved.”

“My injury left a big lump in my leg which you can still see till this day. I look at it and it’s just a testament to how hard I’ve worked to be able to still run fast and effectively.”

“Based on the experiences I’ve had, I’d definitely tell my younger self to not be afraid of change. It’s easy to stay in the situation you’re in because you’re familiar with it and you get comfortable. Now, as a man I’d tell my younger self, you have to work on getting comfortable being uncomfortable.”

“I feel like being a Black man and an athlete was always my shield to society meaning that I wasn’t looked at as a regular person. I was viewed in a different light and with being an athlete, but on the other hand, I am treated differently since I grew up in a nice suburban area. People will look at me and say that I’ve had things handed to me just because my parents gave me a good foundation, but in reality I’ve outworked most people to get where I am today and I couldn’t have done without my parents instilling those hard working values in me.”

“My hope is that we as Black athletes can be looked at as more than someone who can run fast or jump high but we are looked at as people who also have a voice beyond our sport. Our sport doesn’t define us, it just makes us unique but we are humans before we are athletes.”

Candace Martin – Alabama State Volleyball

“Without volleyball I am not quite sure where I would be. Volleyball has played such a vital role in my life for so long, that it is hard to think about life without it. Volleyball has been my saving grace. As a young Black girl growing up in the inner city of Memphis, TN where crime was prominent, I knew that volleyball would be my best option to make a better life for myself. My mom raised four children, all boys and one precious girl (I am the baby and only girl), while working 3 jobs at one point, just to make ends meet. I knew that I had to obtain a full ride to college because there was no way my family could afford sending me to school, so I set my goal, worked toward it, and succeeded.  Volleyball opened various doors for me from being Alabama State University’s SAAC President, the SWAC SAAC President, SWAC Woman of the Year, and a NCAA Postgraduate Intern. Most importantly, volleyball allowed me, a first-generation college student and D1 athlete, the opportunity to bring a college degree home to my mother.”

“Volleyball has taught me to set my goals high and to work my hardest to reach them. Volleyball has taught me the importance of drive, determination, will, stamina, and GRIT. Without volleyball I would not be the woman that I am today. Graduating Magna Cum Laude as a first-generation student athlete has defined me as a person. The ability for me to attend a four-year institution, complete at the DI level, and maintain a 3.9 average GPA (debt free) verified for me that I can do anything that I set my mind to. In addition, I learned while in diapers how to lead, take charge, and let my presence be known, growing up in a home with four older brothers. I believe the experiences I had growing up prepared me for a lot of what I endured as a student and athlete.”

“A closed mouth does not get fed. That is the advice I would give to young girls reading this article. Be confident and empowered by your voice. It is okay to say exactly what you want, but be willing to put the work in and work toward that. There are people that want to help and invest in you, but the only way to identify those individuals is to use your voice. There is no way I would be where I am right now, without the village that helped me along the way. 

“As a black woman and athlete, I was a late starter. Most collegiate athletes, especially at the DI level, began as a young child. I picked up my first volleyball in middle school, 6th grade. Of course, growing up I cheered, danced, and tried tennis (I was supposed to be the next Serena haha), but I realized that none of those were my passion. My mother presented volleyball to me and I tried out for the team and fell in love. However, through middle and high school I only played the traditional season. Club volleyball was not presented to me until my junior year. I played competitive club volleyball only my senior year of high school. One reason being that the volleyball clubs were 30-45minutes away from my home, but most importantly because my mother could not afford the fees to allow me to play, but we knew that would increase my chances of obtaining a full scholarship. Then I experienced for the first time being “the only black girl”. My mother was not able to travel to tournaments to watch me play because she had to work, so I would travel with teammates and their families quite often. So, to the girl experiencing what I experienced, you will be fine. It is never too late.”

“As far as racial equality in sport, I hope that one day inner city children have access to competitive sports at an affordable cost. Therefore, this would not only increase the number of minorities in sport, but also in college.  The way that most people are probably reading this article. Social Media. I believe that individually and collectively athletes can use their platform to speak out about issues in sports and far beyond. Due to the unfortunate and most recent events of police brutality and racial injustice, we have seen more and more student athletes use their voice and social media platforms to promote change in the world we live in.”

Haley Cruse – Oregon Softball

“Softball has instilled so many qualities in me that benefit me both on and off the field. The most important thing it has taught me is how to deal with adversity and how to respond to failure. Growing up, I was a perfectionist who was very afraid of failure. Softball has shown me that the only way to grow as an athlete and as a person is to embrace failure and learn from it.”

“One moment that has defined me as both an athlete and a person was when I did not make the starting lineup in my freshman year of college. I was convinced that I was not good enough to play at the collegiate level. In reality, I was just used to relying on pure talent to be successful. I did not have the work ethic or discipline that was necessary to be successful as a Division 1 athlete.”

“At the end of my freshman year I was faced with a decision: give up or make a change. From that point on, I started putting in the extra work that I needed to elevate my game and succeed at a higher level. I have taken this approach into everything else in my life as well and I haven’t looked back since.”

“I have been lucky enough to develop a platform that I can use to make my voice heard and inspire people. With that platform, however, comes a lot of responsibility. I am constantly learning how to effectively use my voice in a way that I am proud of and that authentically represents my values. The spotlight can bring a lot of pressure and expectations with it, but remembering my values makes it a lot more manageable.”

“I would tell my younger self to hold myself to a higher standard without being asked. Coaches and teammates can try to motivate you, but the only way to grow is to light a fire within yourself. When you put the extra effort into your preparation, you can learn to trust and lean on that preparation when it comes time to perform.”

“The decision to return to Oregon was an easy one. The way the 2020 season ended was not the way I wanted to end my collegiate career. I have spent my time at Oregon developing as a player and a person and I want to be able to use my experiences to help guide the younger athletes in our program. I want everyone on our team to experience the electric atmosphere of the Women’s College World Series because it is truly indescribable.”

“Social media can be very difficult to navigate as an athlete because we are often told to “stick to sports.” However, I believe athletes have the platform to create real change and the ability to reach a lot of people in an authentic and relatable way. No matter what you do or believe, there are always going to be people who disagree with you. I encourage athletes to stay true to themselves and speak up for what they believe in because they have the ability to inspire many.”

Antiesha Brown – New Mexico Basketball

“Honestly, I just remember bumping into the middle school, seventh grade girl’s basketball coach, and he had never seen me before. We had just moved from Turkey and in Europe, soccer is the big deal. If you weren’t playing soccer, you weren’t doing anything great with yourself at all.I was taller than the other girls so he said, ‘Hey, tryouts are on Tuesday. I better see you there, no questions asked.’”

“I barely knew how to spell basketball, nevertheless dribble one. High school was definitely the turning point for me. I think that’s when I found my really competitive drive. I wanted to be the best person on my team and then I wanted to be the best person in the state.. Basketball really became the love of my life in high school. That’s when I really started to appreciate the game, the knowledge behind it, the work ethic of people like Kobe and Diana Taurasi.” 

“My school prior to UNM was a very toxic environment. College sports are almost like a relationship. When you’re being recruited it’s like someone’s courting you. Although I decided to get into a relationship with that first school, I felt like it wasn’t a healthy one. I ended up leaving and gratefully, the position at UNM was filled by Coach Sanchez. Coach Sanchez really pushed academics, which I really respect. Being surrounded by a lot of strong- minded women like myself, gave me the thought, ‘I don’t have any excuses.’ I’d think,  ‘Caroline is third in the whole accounting program at UNM and she’s in the gym almost as much as you are. So you know, there’s really not an excuse to not get better.’”

“As a coach, if you’re not pushing education and if you’re not pushing that bigger picture outside of just being an athlete, you’re doing those young ladies a disservice because you’re not helping them prepare for the real world. The world isn’t always that nice to people or color. I love that Sanchez pushed us. As a Black woman, we have to work hard for what we do and what we get. So I realized early on, ‘I have to get my education.’”

“The reason why I stopped playing basketball was because I tore my MCL. Injuries are very, very mentally trying. When I was injured overseas, and once I was no longer of use, everything changed. It was hard because I went through an identity crisis. I started to feel invisible because I was on the sidelines and no longer in the practices, no longer in the games. My self-worth started to wander a little bit. That’s why it’s so important to find who you are outside of basketball, because having an injury of any magnitude will definitely take a toll on you mentally if your whole identity is based around basketball. That was probably one of the darkest moments of my life; being overseas by myself injured.”

“I think it’s important for athletes to be thinking, “Am I giving too much at this point?” I mean, like I said, it’s just like a relationship. If you invest so much into something and you’re not getting enough in return, it might be time to step away. That’s kind of how I felt about it. Although I didn’t get to play one final game of my career because I was injured, I was really at peace with my career. I didn’t feel like I had anything more to prove.”

“I would tell my younger self that the stress you will endure during all of this will make you grow. Don’t be afraid of the adversity that you’ll face throughout college and at the professional level. I’d  also tell my younger self to stretch and hydrate a little bit better. All that hard work, all the pain, the tears, the injuries, everything, it builds your character, it makes you who you are. So embrace that.”

“I hope to see more athletes speaking up on certain incidents that occur and different things that are happening in the Black community because at the end of the day, those athletes go home and take off their beautiful jerseys and they’re still a Black man or woman. It’s definitely nice to see them speak up on those injustices. If it takes your favorite basketball player to educate you, then so be it.”

Tre Tipton – Pittsburgh Football

“I worked my butt off to get to where I am now.  I come from a small little area called Apollo, PA. It’s not very often they have a Division I athlete come out of my school. I faced a lot of challenges as a kid. I watched my stepfather pass away in front of me. I also lost many family members which unfortunately happened in front of me as well. The hardships molded me into a different type of person, it molded me into the person that I needed to be. It made me grow up a little bit faster than most kids, but it also made me who I am.”

“I was suicidal as a young kid from when I was 7 until I was about 19. I attempted to take my life three times my freshman year of college. I faced a multitude of injuries. My freshman year of college, I played with an ACL and PCL sprain. My sophomore year of college, my lung collapsed on the field in the middle of the game. My junior year I tore almost every ligament in my knee. My senior year my coach and I kind of had a small falling out and I didn’t really get that much playing time. My redshirt senior year I was excited to come in and play, but I ended up tearing my knee again in practice taking a simple step.”

“I remembered what it felt like to be depressed. I remembered what it felt like when I was suicidal. I remember when I experienced anxiety. I remembered all these things and I didn’t want them for any other student-athletes. So I created a program with my friends and we just started working harder to make a better environment for people facing depression and going through life. We wanted to guide athletes along their journeys, so they would always have somebody to talk to and always have somebody to care for them.”

“Being a student-athlete, especially as a freshman, you’re 18, 19-years-old and now you’re in the media. Now all eyes are on you and you’re trying to figure yourself out and there’s a lot of negative energy.  Some kids for the first time ever are having to deal with criticism and people saying ‘You’re terrible.’ I think I reached a point where I was like, I don’t want that for any student-athlete at the University of Pittsburgh. Then I realized that I didn’t want that for anyone. Period.”

“In starting L.O.V.E, we ultimately wanted people to find victory everyday.  A lot of people talk a lot about positivity. One thing I always hated was when people would say to me, ‘Just be positive, it’ll get better.’ I would respond by saying, ‘Okay, but how?’ Now I encourage people to find moments of prosperity. Recognize the positivity within yourself no matter what it takes. If I could give that device to myself at that time, my freshman year, then I’d probably be six years ahead of where I am now. Everything that we do within the program is something I’ve done myself that’s helped me become a stronger person.”

“We have to find a way to make a change within ourselves, not only within ourselves, but our community. We can educate the people around us. Not every single person is gonna want to be educated and that’s fine, to each his own, but as a Black man, it’s terrifying to know that people don’t like you because of your color. It’s terrifying to me and we should work to change that.”

“We have an opportunity to speak up when there’s nobody else speaking. As athletes we’re looked up to. We’re given a lot of advantages compared to other people in the world. automating a lot of kids, probably. Now we have an opportunity. We have a platform and it’s time to use the platform that we have and make a change.”

Yolett “Coach Yo” McCuin – Ole Miss Women’s Basketball

“Basketball became a passion for me from a very young age because of my father.  He was a HS basketball coach and one night after a Championship game his team lost the game; when the gym cleared out I vividly remember him crying like a baby.  I had to be like 6 or 7 because I went up to him and cried too.  That’s when I learned about the passion for the game of basketball.  From that day on I have always given the game my everything and I’m not shy about letting people know how much I love it.  As I’ve grown older, my passion for winning has not been as big as my passion for helping develop young women and I’m blessed to be able to do both.”

“Basketball has taught me so much but if I were to list a few it has taught me discipline, confidence, team work, work ethic  and toughness. Basketball has open doors for me that I would have never imagined.  I wouldn’t be who I am as a mom, wife and coach without it.”

“My journey has never been easy but I’ve always felt that I had a ‘favor’ as Christians would say or ‘calling’ in my life. I think that there isn’t a secret that women of all colors to this day are fighting for equality with their male counterparts.  As a Black woman there’s another hurdle added simply because of how the system was built: Most times when a Black woman gets an opportunity in leadership we are the first in history.”

“Every Head Coaching  job that I’ve gotten I’ve been the first.  So what makes that difficult at times for me and others is that, at the end of the day,  there were not many people I can blueprint off of.  Yes basketball is basketball, but there weren’t a lot of Black Women Head Coaches that I could follow at the time.  I don’t feel like a victim because of it or anything like that, I just know that we have a lot of work to do with having Women of Color in leadership.”

“I would just reiterate how important it is to keep your head down and work.  Comparison is the thief of joy, and experience matters so work to get some. I hope that any minority, personally for me Black women have an opportunity to be in leadership; have a seat at the table when big decisions are made and also diversification when it comes to positions in our sport.  I think representation matters!”

“Athletics no matter what anyone says is the leader when it comes to any type of change. Simply because we are always out in the public eye. I love that student-athletes, administrators and even coaches are using their platform to speak up against any injustice, inequality or the likes.  We are usually the ones to get behind any cause so I’ve been excited to see us move the needle in this regard due to today’s climate.  Sports bring people together, no matter the race or gender, so although the conversations may be uncomfortable right now, I think that sports are the only way as a Country we will get through this and hopefully from a place of competition, diversity, and love.  Because that’s what sports is!”

Ari Morgan – Howard Soccer

“Soccer has meant everything to me. If it weren’t for a miscellaneous AYSO flyer tucked away in my kindergarten backpack, I wouldn’t have met some of my greatest friends or thought of attending college outside of my small home state of Oklahoma. Because of soccer, I was able to attend an elite boarding school and soccer academy in southern Minnesota. I met students from all over the world and truly became a more worldly person! I can accredit much of my confidence for activism and advocacy to the environment at my boarding school. Soccer eventually led me to Pittsburgh and finally my new home, D.C. It taught me to fight for myself whether it’s fighting for my rights or for a spot on the pitch.”

“One person that defined me as an athlete is my first club soccer coach, Tom Odhiambo. Playing expensive soccer, especially at a high-level, in Oklahoma meant that I was often the other player of color on my teams. Finding a coach that understood me or even looked like me was even more difficult. I had so many White coaches box me into the “speedy, Black player” stereotype and never try to develop me beyond that. Coach Tom, an African immigrant with outstanding credentials, saw potential in me and dedicated years to developing my tactical and technical skills. Without his patience and encouragement, I wouldn’t be here!” 

“Oh, man. If I could give advice to my younger self, I would tell myself that it all works out at the end. I was so hard on myself growing up trying to defy all the stereotypes that Black athletes face every day. I would tell myself to continue working, but take a minute to enjoy the moment.” 

“My decision to transfer from Pitt to Howard is a combination of numerous things. One, I didn’t feel comfortable on the campus. With only 5% Black students and many of them being student-athletes, I had difficulties finding a community that could help me grow into the woman I aim to be. I would experience discomfort every day when White students or fellow student-athletes would make crude jokes or say the n-word. My other Black teammate, Mikayla Alcorn, and I would spend hours discussing the various microaggressions we would face and if we intended to stay. Two, the athletic program did not facilitate a comforting environment for Black student-athletes. With very few Black administrators, even in the diversity office, I had very few outlets to express my discomfort.”

“ I had teammates that would frequently question my intelligence, despite being one of the few players with a 4.0 GPA. If I was caught listening to rap music or talking in AAVE, then I’d see the side-eyes and snickers from across the room. I would constantly have to bounce between different versions of myself: Ari the 4.0 scholar, Ari the Black girl that grew up in Oklahoma, Ari the girl that likes to listen to City Girls, or Ari that likes to listen to crime-mystery podcasts. I could never be myself, and I’d rather give up playing in my dream conference than continue to chip away at who I truly am. I am now at a school where I can be all the different versions of myself and am supported in every way. Ironically enough, there was a study released about Pittsburgh (the city) stating it is the worst city for Black women.” 

My story, although a bit more cinematic than usual, is common. So many Black women in soccer are pushed out of the sport either through the increasing prices for elite clubs or stereotypes that deter them from reaching their goals. The soccer community, especially the well-respected White coaches, must do a better job from the recreational to college level. This means that more Black girls should be encouraged to pursue soccer and prices need to become reasonable again. Furthermore, college and club coaches that hold the futures of so many student-athletes, who’s futures often ride on scholarships, need to do more. This could be acting as advocates for their athletes or using their platforms for activism. This goes beyond tone-deaf statements about a need for change.” 

“Everybody has a role in activism. I’ve found that I can utilize my skills in graphic design, public relations, and communications as a form of activism. Everybody’s role is not going to be the same. This does not excuse silence, however. Athletes hold a unique position in our society in that we are revered and often given platforms to share our opinions. As a non-BIPOC athlete, one can uplift the voices of others. This could be sharing information on social media, facilitating conversations with more close-minded friends and family, showing support of Black teammates, voting, or other forms of allyship.”

Jayda Bagstad – Hamline Track & Field

“I did not know if I wanted to continue athletics when I started looking at colleges. Little did I know I was actually getting recruited by several Midwest schools at all different levels. It was shocking to me because I did not think I was good enough to compete at the collegiate level. I remember cleaning my room one day and my sister found a letter addressed to me from Hamline University Track and Field Program. After a lot of convincing, I opened the letter. I read the letter and found out that Hamline University Track and Field program wanted me to be a part of their team. It was surreal. I didn’t even think of continuing athletics after high school. I reached out to the coach and told him that I finally opened the letter and I would like to learn more about the program and what my experience would be like on campus. About a year later, I applied to the school and got accepted. I told the coach right away. I was so excited to continue a sport in college and that I would be an important addition to the Hamline University Track and Field Program.”

“In high school, I always had this saying “Leave your mark”. I knew that I had to leave an impact on every person I met at every place I was. It was important to me. When it came to sports, I knew that I was supposed to be a leader. I did achieve that in high school. As I learned more and more about track, there was something in me that I knew it would make me who I am. Leave your mark. As soon as I joined the team, the culture of the program changed for the better. My first year, there were maybe 5 athletes of color, myself included. After my sophomore year, more and more athletes of color joined and it made the team so much better. The relationships and sense of togetherness is what made us successful and put the program on the map. I had a pretty successful three years at Hopkins High School on the Track and Field team. Making it to finals and placing in the top five at every meet was a goal for me. I did that at every meet. I knew that I had to perform well to make myself and my teammates better. Throwing was almost natural to me. I was gifted. I knew I wasn’t the best, but that didn’t stop me from trying to be the best.”

“My biggest obstacles I had to overcome throughout my career were toxic teammates and toxic coaches. [There were instances where coaches] would treat me differently because of my race and what I looked like as an athlete. This still hurts me today. At times, coaches also blamed team drama on me because I was a person of color and ‘black people like drama’.” 

“I had always had a hard time blending in the team and being the odd one out most of my life. It has simply been because I look different from the rest of my teammates. Now I am a senior, it has always been a goal for me to make the program more inclusive and inviting to everyone. I feel like this will make people better on and off the field. They will all grow as individuals and be better in general. Having toxic teammates is very common. It is hard to call people out and hold them accountable for their actions, but it has to be done so you can feel comfortable in a place where you actually belong.”

“As a Black athlete, I have heard every excuse in the world about why I do not deserve this or that. Being a Black athlete, I have to try 10 times harder I have to put in more time, do more reps. As a young Black athlete, I learned that people will treat me differently. No matter what I do, I will always shock them in one way or another. I have to appear to be my best no matter where I go or I will be referred to as lazy. I have learned so many things and I am proud that I have never let my race stop me from achieving my dreams. I am a proud Black athlete. No one will ever be able to take that away from me.”

“Track and Field is individual because you have to do your best to be good, and then your performance can impact the team. When I step into the ring, it is all about me. The rest will fall into place. Track has taught me that I need to be selfish to better those around me. It has also taught me to celebrate your teammates’ successes. Even if their new best throw is one inch further, that is big. Every inch counts. It is kind of like growth. Everyone grows at their own pace. Celebrate everything. It will make you and your teammates better.”

To my younger self: As a Black athlete, you are given this platform to educate and help those around you. You are a strong Black woman. You will always be that. Do not change yourself because people told you to change. Be proud of who you are and where you came from Don’t look back. Keep going.”

“I want to see more women coaches all over the world. There are millions of women who play sports, why are we not represented in the coaching staff? I want to one day be a head coach of an athletic team. I understand what players are going through. I can help them become better at the sport. I want to help people. I also want to see more women coaches at all levels. Through elementary traveling programs, AAU, High School, NCAA, and Professionals. “

“I believe that athletes can best promote change in the sports by speaking up and using their platform. Especially with our generation and the use of social media, we all have different platforms. Imagine if everyone shared their story and 100 different people shared the story. Each person has a different platform. It will reach a new audience. More people will share and want to see change or help in some way. Speak up now Learn more. Be better. Do something.”

Destiny Thomas – Clemson Basketball

“Basketball has meant the most to me. Basketball has provided me with SO many opportunities. I’ve been able to travel the world, meet so many amazing people, and create bonds that will last a lifetime. Basketball has shown me how to be resilient.”

“An obstacle that I’ve had to overcome throughout my career would be experiencing a coaching change. I had to prove myself all over again. What makes my story unique is where I am from— Pelham, GA. I will be the first DI female athlete to graduate from my hometown.” 

“Advice that I would give to my younger self is to stay hungry. Never get complacent. Never for a moment think that something will be given to you. You have to work for what you want.”

“I would want people to know that I am more than an athlete. Basketball is just what I do, not who I am. I know my who factor. I try my best to use my platform in many different ways. I will always stand for, and with, my people as a Black woman and an athlete. 

“My hope for the future of equality in sports or the world in general would just be that I get to see this change during my lifetime. We’re making steps in the right direction. That alone gives me hope. We have to keep our foot on the gas.”

Altia Anderson – Marquette Basketball

“When I think of basketball my mind starts to go through all the memories, lessons and great people it has brought me that I am forever grateful for. The experiences our sports bring us has no limit in what it teaches us. My sport has led me to some very critical learning points that I will be able to use for the rest of my life. From discipline to dedication the lessons and character builds continue to present themselves as I advance in my career. I am who I am today because of God, my family, friends and basketball.”

“To the younger me I would have to explain the concept of growth. That your mistakes do not define you as a person. The mistakes you make are momentary. However, your response is the real key. Don’t be afraid to fail, in fact fail more, learn more, grow more.”

“With the season ending how it did due to COVID-19 and it being my senior year I was extremely sad. Every athlete’s dream is to make the NCAA tournament and not being able to go to the dance was disappointing. Our team was special and will always be special to me. Those girls, the staff and everyone that came along with it mean the world to me. However, I cannot sit back and be upset about what wasn’t able to happen but cherish the moments that were. Our team had and still has a special bond and I cannot wait to see all that they will achieve.”  

“I think there are many ways that we athletes can promote change. I do not think there is one correct answer when it comes to things of this matter. Everyone has a lane that they can use to spark change, to push for a difference and I say find whatever that is and use it for the greater good. One thing that we athletes need to always remember is that WE ARE NOT JUST OUR SPORT. We have a voice and we can make a difference.”

Derrick Gordon – Seton Hall Basketball

“I tried a number of different sports growing up.  Basketball was the sport that kind of stuck. I went to one of the top rated high schools in the country at the time, St. Patrick’s High School, and played alongside Kyrie Irving. I was one of the top players in the country in my class. From there I went to Western Kentucky University.”

“I transferred to UMass Amherst and then finished off my last season at Seton Hall University. I took three different programs to the NCAA tournament which meant a lot to me. I care more about winning than anything else and we won so that’s what really matters. Being able to take those three teams to the NCAA tournament in the span of four years in college, that was special.”

“Through it all there was always something that was bothering me. My sexuality, you know, me not being like everyone else. I knew I was different so during those times in the closet I had a lot of dark moments. I had a lot of moments when I was on the phone with my mom, and she would always ask me before we hung up if everything was alright. I would always tell her ‘Everything is fine, everything is great’  when really it wasn’t. You know? There’s so many times where I was struggling.”

“When my teammates found out, I did not want to go back to school. I could just feel the tension in the air.  It became so clear that I had to make a decision: Be in the closet or come out and be happy and be myself and play the sport that I love. It was affecting my game on the court. When I came out, everything changed. I started to play a lot better. I lost some friends, but they really weren’t my friends from the get go. I’ve gained a lot of support and helped a lot of people as well. To this day, people are still constantly thanking me for coming out and being an example.”

“With me coming out, Michael Sam, Jason Collins, Wade Davis it’s definitely helped but there’s a long way to go. I think the best thing that we all can do is to continue on the course, to keep taking a stand and fight for justice. You don’t have to love somebody but just respect them.”

“I want people to definitely keep in tune because I’ve changed careers as of May 12, and it’s big. I got to keep quiet right now because my team wants me to but let’s just say when I announce this, it’s going to be groundbreaking. I think it’s gonna help a lot of people, let’s just say that.”

“Everyone has their own interests and there will be people out there who may try to use you. Don’t let that happen. Be confident. Be confident in yourself and don’t let the outside noise get to you. As long as you’re comfortable and happy, that’s all that matters.”

Scotty Pippen Jr – Vanderbilt Basketball

“Some obstacles I’ve had to overcome would be trying to deal with people hating on me because of my dad or just setting me at a higher standard because of him. This is something I’ve dealt with my whole life though.”

“My advice to younger players would be just to know how short your window is and just to always believe that you can be as good as you want to be. I used to think I wouldn’t be as good as some of the ranked players in my class but now I feel that I’m as good as anyone. My goals are to make it to the NBA and to succeed at that level. Some more goals this year are to be able to make the All-SEC team and just to turn this losing Vanderbilt culture around.”

“Growing up with my dad I always felt pressure to perform because I felt people were always watching me and seeing how good I was because of him. This helped me because I enjoy pressure and enjoy having a reason to play.”

“The role models in my life are my dad and my uncles because they have always pushed me and made me a better person on and off the court. Also, just watching how they are and how hard they work makes me look up to them.”

“Racial equality is something that I hope could change not only in the world, but in sports, so I hope it will change fast, but I think only time will tell.”

Untold Athletes Launches New Logo and Discusses Plans For Future

We are excited to announce the new Untold Athletes logo and share with you our vision for the future. Over the last few months we have witnessed that telling stories is empowering. It takes courage to be vulnerable, but that courage comes back tenfold. By giving voice to your stories, we have created a community of support and inspiration, a place where athletes, coaches, parents, family and friends can come together and connect over something we all share.

We have BIG plans for Untold Athletes and believe it can continue its growth as a powerful platform. The power of sports transcends fleeting moments in an arena. Sports represent hope, sacrifice, and love, but so many stories go untold. Part of our mission is to give voice to the marginalized and underrepresented, and to elevate the stories of those that are unnoticed. We want to share those stories.

We have only scratched the surface of how we cover sports. We hope you will continue with us on this journey.

Hank Bethel – Bucknell Lacrosse

“I’ve been playing lacrosse for 16 years. Team sports have always taught me valuable lessons of hard work, empathy, and leadership. Through lacrosse, I’ve made a lot of friends across the country, at every level. I’ve been blessed with opportunities to coach and train younger players. I’ve played with kids from all walks of life and competed against schools from New England, all the way to San Francisco and Arizona. I am truly grateful for what lacrosse has done for me in my life. Lacrosse has introduced me to tight communities where I have grown with my religion and friendships, with individuals who I have played with and against.”

“Growing up in Baltimore and Anne Arundel Counties in Maryland, I was able to play with a lot of great players. I played on national teams across the country. I spent 2 years on a great club team from the Michigan area. They taught me a different style of lacrosse, and they invited me to their team with open arms. They were great teammates, and tough competitors. I played on a club team called Nations United for three summers, who’s main purpose was to showcase diversity in lacrosse by highlighting elite players from different ethnic, cultural, religious, geographic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. They taught me the diversity in the sport of lacrosse that I have never seen before.”

“Being black in a predominantly white sport has sometimes made things uncomfortable. At any given tournament, there were only a handful of other black lacrosse players on the fields. Alongside that, there were always stereotypes about black lacrosse players, that they are only athletic and “raw”. Black lacrosse players in some peoples eyes are only seen as useful defensive players or midfielders because of their “low lacrosse IQ” or poor stick skills. It was always frustrating watching kids who I’ve played with, be written up as a “raw player with a high potential as a great D1 defensive midfielder.” I chose to play defense at a young age because I enjoyed it, but I imagine being told and seeing across the internet that black lacrosse players can only be defensive players limits those who would want to enter the sport.”

“Besides the small nuances that are portrayed to black lacrosse players, I have been lucky to not have experienced much blatant racism in my years playing lacrosse. There were some instances, like when in middle school, an opposing coach refused to shake my hand, and those of my black teammates, in the line up after the game. I didn’t think much of it then, but now, looking back on it, it’s upsetting to think that someone would not think of me enough as a person to shake my hand because of the color of my skin.”

“However, I have had many positive experiences. I have been able to coach for a program in Baltimore called Charm City Lacrosse, that helps provide equipment and coaching to help spread the game to Baltimore youth. Playing for the Nations United lacrosse team as an ambassador for diversity and excellence in lacrosse was special.”

“Being black in the lacrosse community has not always been easy. 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. I will never let my sport define who I am or who I will become as a person.”

“I hope that people will learn to be more empathetic and compassionate in sports and in the world. I want people to feel comfortable playing a sport that may seem unavailable to them, because, for me, sports have taught me lessons that will help me beyond the field, and I want everyone to be able to have the same opportunities that I did.”