Student Athlete Activism



We’ve all been hearing and witnessing demands and requests for change to combat social injustices. In my position in athletics administration, I’ve witnessed an increased focus on athletes, specifically on student athletes and their activism. So naturally, I began contemplating the student athlete experience around athlete activism. 

As a former collegiate and professional athlete and collegiate coach I was always taught to know myself and know what I was up against. I have to ask myself the question: why is it that some people have to ask or fight to be treated like we should all be treating each other?

Like the golden rule says, treat others as you want to be treated. I don’t think it’s that hard unless what we are working with isn’t designed to treat others like we want to be treated.

I find that we spend a lot of time educating our student athletes on curriculums in education and technical and tactical preparation. We spend a lot of time preparing our athletes to play offense and defense or understand strategies or skill instruction. 

But now I’m noticing they are involved in a new competition: the competition for equal rights and justice. 

While I realize this article itself may cause discomfort for some people I believe it’s relevant. I have first-hand experience coaching athletes who wanted to join their student group on campus to amplify their voices. I’ve personally experienced the fallout and consequences of that action and activism. 

Part of me gets really upset when I see people in opposition of another group of people asking to be treated fairly. It’s disheartening.

But I have two ideals that I cling to to help get me through: I think about faith and I think about hope. With those two things I can focus on being a servant leader and helping the athletes to learn and understand what I didn’t experience as a student athlete. 

The word empathy comes up on a daily basis. It basically means to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. I’ve been a student athlete and I’ve been a coach and now an administrator and the one thing I know is it takes everyone involved working together and communicating with love.

So no, I don’t have all the answers. One person never will. But I do think it’s important to keep an open mind, an open dialogue, and most of all, an open heart.

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