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Recap: PCA Roundtable "Sports Can Battle Racism"


On Monday, June 29, PCA hosted a Virtual Roundtable titled "Sports Can Battle Racism: How Coaches, Parents, and Administrators Can Play a Positive Role." The conversation was moderated by PCA's Marti Reed and Trennis Jones and included representatives from PCA's partners RISE, We Coach, and the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation

"We sometimes see sport as this really great space that brings everyone together and so in it of itself solves problems … sport in and of itself is not this great thing, we can absolutely make it great… but we have to be intentional in doing that."

- Dr. Andrew Mac Intosh, RISE

Following introductions, the panelists began by sharing what they see as the biggest challenges regarding race in sports. The three main challenges discussed were access to sorts, the myth of athleticism, and coach education.

  1. All three panelists highlighted access to equipment, resources, and leagues as one of the most pressing issues in youth sports. While sports is often highlighted as an equalizer, this has not necessarily been the case in youth sports where there is a widening gap in access and black and brown communities have struggled to have equal opportunity. Unfortunately, too often young athletes whose families are unable to afford fees and equipment are unable to participate in the game.
  2. Another issue discussed was the myth of athleticism, where youth in the black community often feel that the only path to an abundant future is to be a star athlete. This myth is perpetuated by the lack of representation in other areas of the sports world (ex. Coaches, owners, commissioners, etc.).
  3. The third major difficulty discussed was coach education. Youth sports organizations need to have a solid understanding of what knowledge coaches should possess to work with young people. Having an understanding of brain development could give coaches a better idea of why kids act out as they do. Additionally, it is essential that coaches understand how systemic racism and violence against the black community affects kids and how it can manifest while they are at practice.

Next, the discussion shifted to addressing the misconceptions coaches have about how to address the above challenges. A key takeaway here was to think about understanding each player’s unique talents and unique struggles. Instead of using a blanket approach, coaches should try to consider how to serve the team by nurturing the players as individuals. While it can sometimes feel like the leadership structure in sport isn’t set up for coaches to listen, listening may be the best way to lead. These conversations are based in listening and having faith in the players to be able to share their experiences and thoughts. There is an inherent disconnect between coaches and athletes (especially a white coach and black athlete) unless the coach takes the time to sit with the discomfort and understand the different situations affecting his/her athletes. In these conversations, it is also important to remember that young people’s reactions are often not directed at the coach but created by a set of circumstances. With this understanding, coaches and athletes can work together instead of facing off.

"People will continue to try to harm or get in the way of the progress, but I think that that’s a sign that we are going in the right direction."

- Trennis Jones, PCA

The panelists also discussed how parents can have a positive impact. The three main takeaways were education beyond the classroom, creating diverse situations, and being willing to show vulnerability in these discussions.

  1. It’s important for parents to build on the education their kids are receiving in the classroom, especially regarding race. This can begin by having open and honest conversations about the realities of U.S. History. Additionally, parents can read books or watch movies with their kids that assist in starting conversations around the topic of race and inclusion.
  2. Parents have to seek out environments where people are treated equally. The brain reacts to novelty and stress is caused by new things, so parents should actively look for environments where coaches are creating a community where all kids feel safe. The inequity of access to sports really shows up in environments that lack diversity. In creating diverse situations, parents also model the ability to allow others to be who they are and embrace differences. Instead of “I don’t see color” show your kids that “I don’t judge others based on the color of their skin.”
  3. Conversations around race are often uncomfortable, leaning into the discomfort shows your kids it’s okay to be vulnerable. Looking for comfortable answers has contributed to the systemic racism we see today and allowed society to ignore the full impact of discrimination because it’s easier to ignore it.

Action Steps

  • Start conversations with your kids/team
  • Start the conversation with yourself
  • Be ready with resources
  • Don’t ignore the issue
  • Consider the dose
    • If you’re trying to get stronger you don’t go from 5 pounds to 200, you go 5-10-15-20

Resources Suggested by the Panelists