Community and Inclusion Through Sport

This week marks the fourth annual NCAA Diversity & Inclusion social media campaign, and NCAA schools across the nation are using sports as a platform to create dialogue surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion.  

At Hope College, we believe that sport offers powerful experiences for education and personal development. As individuals from different backgrounds and experiences, the communities of which we are a part of can be our biggest strengths and sources of support. The communities that are formed through sport offer our student-athletes and coaches a space to learn and grow together. 

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion offers additional support and resources for the Hope College community. Follow the Hope College Center for Diversity and Inclusion on Instagram for the latest updates:

Members of the Hope College Athletics coaching staff share how experiences and perspectives are shaped by the community and inclusion developed through sport.

Hope College track and field coach Kevin Cole talks with his team during the 2019 MIAA Outdoor Championships.

Kevin Cole, Head Track & Field Coach 

Track and field is a sport that is uniquely positioned to prepare student-athletes for their future endeavors because of its dual nature as both a team sport and an individual sport. Athletes can experience the exhilaration of standing on the top of the podium alone and also of taking a victory lap with 60 other people who have shared their dreams and goals and helped each other achieve heights (metaphorically and literally) that they could not have achieved alone.  

Seldom in life outside of athletics are we rewarded for mindless dedication to a team or conversely for an ego-driven drive for personal glory. Rather, we are most successful when we strike a balance between these two dichotomies and sacrifice some of ourselves for the good of the team, while also maintaining the special qualities that make us unique and contribute to the huge advances of which we are capable as humans. 

While these thoughts are not likely in the forefront of most track athletes’ minds as they are training and competing, they do contribute to the wide diversity in thoughts, attitudes, backgrounds, talents and even physical features of a championship track and field team. The Hope College student-athletes that I have worked with have been exceptional at utilizing this diversity to achieve more than they ever could alone and I am confident that it will serve them well in all their future triumphs outside of the sporting arena.”

Hope College volleyball coach Becky Schmidt shouts instructions from the bench during a 2019 NCAA Tournament game.

Becky Schmidt, Head Volleyball Coach 

“For me, we spend so much time trying to build cohesion in team sports that sometimes it washes out the value of difference on our teams.  If a team has 6 people on it and all of them have the exact same skill set, then 5 of those people are redundant. We need to appreciate that much like skill sets, a diversity of perspectives and experience can bring about so much greater potential of a group of people. But, respecting and honoring diversity within athletics should not happen just because it leads to more productive or industrious groups, it should be honored because it is the right thing to do when living into the community with others. It may make the process more challenging and the process for growth might have a steeper curve, but we shouldn’t shy away from those challenges in educational, co-curricular sport.  It may, indeed, be where its greatest value is found.

We support diversity on our teams when we seek out the opinions and perspectives of those whose voices are not the loudest. We support diversity by empathizing with the experiences of those on our teams who have had different lived experiences and by proactively respecting their differences. We support diversity by doing a lot of listening but by also creating an environment where everyone is empowered to speak. We support diversity by appreciating that the differences in our perspectives and experiences bring value to our team as a whole.”

Hope College women's basketball coach Brian Morehouse exchanges high-fives on the bench at DeVos Fieldhouse during a 2020 MIAA Tournament game.

Brian Morehouse, Head Women’s Basketball Coach 

“A team requires a group to both bend to what is best for the team and celebrate the differences we all have. This is what makes us more powerful. Diversity on a team is the inclusion of all with no strings attached. When we take the time to learn from our different backgrounds and experiences, it helps us work towards the common goal of being a highly functioning team. I believe that you should be able to maintain your unique identity and feel valued in it. Understanding the identities represented on a team helps to maximize the ability of the group.”

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