“We have an opportunity to create meaningful systemic change.” That was the message from Diana Cutaia, founder of Coaching Peace and moderator of the first plenary session kicking off the 2020 Virtual National Training. Cutaia was joined by panelists Natasha Cloud, Washington Mystics Guard, and Sydney Leroux Dwyer, Olympic Gold Medalist and Women’s World Cup Champion, in a discussion about racial and gender equity in sports.
In remarks leading up to the panel discussion Ed Foster-Simeon, President & CEO of the U.S. Soccer Foundation, said, “we are seeing in real time” the disparities created by systemic racism. He praised the Foundation’s partners and coach-mentors: “In the face of an unprecedented crisis, you have adapted and innovated with one key goal in mind: the children.”
The panel discussed the “two pandemics” facing America right now: COVID-19 and racism, noting that the latter has been a plague for more than 400 years.
Leroux Dwyer talked about when her family moved to Arizona from Canada, saying, “I always felt different,” because no one looked like me. But her mother encouraged her to keep going because “things would be different” when she went to college, which she found to be true. That is, until she went back to Canada to play in a match. “There were racist things taking place during the game. And I said something. But when I said something, no one believed me.”
But with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and the national discussion now taking place, Leroux Dwyer says, “this moment doesn’t feel great,” but it is validating that “what I felt for all of those years is real.”
Cloud, who grew up in an all-white family where she never felt “Black enough or white enough” said acknowledging racial and gender inequities is the first step. As for the next, Cloud said, “Our main focus this time is voting…making sure that we’re educated and understand the power our votes have.”
But change has to come on many fronts, which includes publicly elevating women, who serve as examples for all children. “We need more media coverage, we need more money, we need you to put as much time in us as you do [male athletes],” Leroux Dwyer said. Cloud added, “If you bet on women, if you invest in women, there will be success out of it. No one drives ratings bigger than us, no one drives crowds bigger than us.”
In front of an audience of hundreds of people people from eight countries, Cloud, who is bisexual, encouraged people to fight for equality on all fronts. “You can’t fight for one and not the other…You can’t talk about me being a woman without addressing my blackness or without addressing my bisexuality.” Cloud also credited the NBA for becoming an ally for female athletes. “Our NBA counterparts are stepping up for us huge, like by wearing an orange jersey and driving up attendance.”
Parents and coaches have key roles to play, too. After sharing a story about how her son told her she couldn’t wear a cape because she’s a “girl,” Leroux Dwyer said parents need to remind their boys “we’re superheroes too,” adding that in her family, “we’re all wearing capes now.”
When asked what message they wanted trainees to take from them, Leroux Dwyer responded by encouraging people to ask themselves, “If you had a daughter, what would you want for her? Because we would all want better.”
Cloud’s advice: “Just be a good person. If you try to be a good person, you’ll make other people around you better.” And she encouraged kids to “be unapologetically you because you are perfect.”
The 2020 Virtual National Training will take place August 6-8. Learn more and register here.