The Odyssey of An Auggie Athlete
Despite the fact that the student body is well over 50% people of color, Augsburg is still predominantly white in three significant areas: tenured faculty, administrators and athletics. This issue is problematic for various reasons, with the largest ones being that the university promotes itself to be an “inclusive” campus for people of all backgrounds—including along boundaries of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation—without having the foundational networks to support these forms of diversity.
According to Wikipedia, “A student-athlete is a participant in an organized competitive sport sponsored by an educational institution in which the student is enrolled. Student-athletes are full-time students and athletes at the same time.” As a student-athlete myself, the lack of inclusion of people of color in Augsburg’s athletics is appalling. Despite the various coaches’ “Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity” stamps on their doors and their mini “Know Your Rights” pamphlets, the white coaches do very little to support their student-athletes of color outside of their athletic ability, according to previous athletes who have quit over the past year. I am more likely to hear about the microaggressive experiences that students of color face daily with the majority-white sports team over their personal season highlights and team adventures. More often than not, athletes of color in majority-white teams at Augsburg feel tokenized, isolated and unwelcomed.
Why is it that we don’t get the same attention as a white athlete? Is it because of the color of our skin or the language we speak? Athletes of color feel isolated when they are around the team and the coach. You make us want to be in this little cube with no window to escape. This needs to stop. I am tired of coaches wanting everything done their way and not having to see the needs that athletes of color face. Coaches don’t understand that we have so many other passions, too, like trying to decide a major or what to do with our life.
Many have stood up to coaches and have even been called “stuck up” for not wanting to participate in a game or practice due to family issues, work and more. This issue needs to be discussed not only because of personal experiences but as awareness for white coaches and future athletes of color. As Augsburg prides itself on its “inclusive” nature, it seems that the athletics department has taken various steps back, as they have not met the basic steps to understand the different relationships students of color have with social systems and structures. They think that we can balance it all, but in reality, it’s putting more weight on us, and what makes it worse is that we have no support from the coaches.
As a final point, I stayed anonymous in this piece for several reasons, including personal safety and comfort in my team, having my opinion taken seriously and having my words call for reflection over deflection and/or guilt. I am more than what is to be said, “a student-athlete.” I am a hard worker, I am passionate about my culture and I provide for my family.
To the coaches reading this piece, I know it will be easy to say, “Oh, I didn’t do this!” or “Am I like this?” and question your athletes of color to assuage your guilt. However, DO NOT DO THAT. Just don’t. Don’t say that you are innocent, because what about the time when you verbally attacked someone by asking if they were a citizen just to travel for a so-called “mission trip” in front of the whole team, making the athlete feel embarrassed? Or how about the time you couldn’t send an athlete of color on a trip to California because there was “not enough money from the budget to cover it” even though you did send two white athletes just for the sake of it. And for the coaches that have very few to no athletes of color, you’re not off the hook either; if anything, you are more likely to have deflected this onto your athletes of color.
This is not something you are unaware of. There is no excuse to have teams that reflect less than the student demographics of Augsburg, especially since athletes of color make up the majority of high schools this university advertises to. Sometimes I ask, what is the point of playing for the name on the front of the gear if I’m not being recognized by playing for the name on the back? Athletes of color have talent. I don’t know how Augsburg is just so good at scaring away that talent and not knowing how to retain that. Maybe just ask the coaches.
Editor’s note: The Echo uses anonymous sources on a case-by-case basis.