Starting the Conversation
This past fall season, Varsity Field Hockey read a CNN article titled “WNBA superstar Sue Bird: ‘Women’s soccer players generally are cute little White girls’” in order to discuss and address race in athletics and how it affects Hopkins in particular.
Coaches Susan Bennitt and Jen Morgan, mutually described the purpose, in a joint email, as, “[examining] the ethos of the Field Hockey program and analyz[ing] our assumptions, philosophy, and values to ascertain whether they hinder or support its vision and mission, and determine what, if any, corrective measures might need taking. In particular, our goal was to articulate and elaborate a description of team culture in order to identify its role in promoting equity and socially appropriate behaviors among teammates within the Hopkins community, and the community at large.” The coaches introduced the CNN article and read it to the team as a whole. Then they broke into groups to be able to explore the differences and connections between the article and Hopkins field hockey. They chose to take the time and, as Coach Morgan and Bennitt stated, “honestly address their attitudes, in order to each take responsibility for contributing to anti-racist and anti-sexist behaviors. The conversation was sincere, strengthening the already positive bond we have together, and gave us resolve to use our voices against racism, be it on campus or beyond.”
The article, written by Paul Gittings and Don Riddell, argues for the importance of embracing diversity. The teams at Hopkins are each united by their sport and the community that comes from that. The field hockey coaches elaborated, “As such, we examined our behaviors to examine factors stemming from deeply rooted traditions to our everyday mentorship of trust, accountability and respect of self and others.” Contrasting the issues--racism, homophobia, sexism-- brought up in the article personally with Hopkins Athletics led to beneficial and necessary discussions as field hockey player Sophia Cerroni ’22 said, “The conversation that we had about the article was beneficial because it allowed us all to voice our frustrations and recognize the shortcomings within our own community.”
Sophia Cerroni ’22 stated, “I think that the article covered a variety of issues that are prevalent within the Athletics department at Hopkins. Bird mentioned that ‘women’s soccer players generally are cute little White girls while WNBA players, we are all shapes and sizes ... a lot of Black, gay, tall women.’ While the demographic of female athletes at Hopkins may not be identical to that of these professional-level teams, there are similarities that can be drawn- certain players are celebrated, whereas others are swept aside and denied attention, regardless of their capabilities.”
Many appreciated that the student-athletes voices were finally being heard. Captain Ellie Miller ’21 agreed, “It got the conversation started. I think racism, sexism, and homophobia are generally avoided on every sports team I’ve ever been on. I liked having small groups with a mix of under and upperclassmen because it was awesome hearing younger players’ voices, and it allowed everyone to share their experiences. Senior field hockey player Maeve Stauff ’21 said, “There is a lot of work to be done, and changes within the Athletic Department need to be made. Getting the conversation started was definitely a big step to acknowledge that students at Hopkins experience sexism and racism in sports at Hopkins, but I think including coaches and members of the Athletic department in Hopkins’ 12-step Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives they launched this summer would be another important step in the right direction.”
But what comes now? Field Hockey took the opportunity to, as the coaches described, “discuss standards through which the most inclusive and equitable experience can be enjoyed by all players. We drew from our learnings to create strong leadership and a structured position on anti-racism and women’s athletics among our players, captains, coaches and the field hockey and Hopkins sports community at large.” The general consensus from the athletes was that this type of conversation should be brought up more frequently and implanted into all athletic teams at Hopkins at least once yearly as Ellie Miller ’21 so aptly suggested, “I hope Hopkins Athletics works to make these types of conversations the norm instead of one very specific event.” Following Field Hockey’s example, the Boys Varsity Soccer Team read an article from The Guardian which called attention to social justice issues in professional sports. Owen Lamothe ’22 stated, “The team as a whole had an important conversation on this topic, highlighting past issues the program has experienced in games and in practice and how to better approach them in the future. I think the conversation was necessary to have.”