Today’s class discussion was fascinating to me on many levels. But, perhaps most surprising and pertinent to me was the issue Maya brought up surrounding athletes and diversity and inclusion.
I am a member of the Vassar College Men’s Basketball team. We have a 13 man roster, 11 of which are white. Does that mean we are not diversified? What about the fact that only 3 are from New York? Sitting in a locker room with teammates from Vermont, Boston, Virginia, Arizona and California has opened up my eyes in many ways.
Basketball, and sports in general, create a certain culture, atmosphere, and camaraderie amongst each other that is extremely difficult to replicate elsewhere. When Maya brought up the point of the Lax team being all white New Englanders, what I would have liked to discusses and pushed back against was the fact that the coach has to recruit players to be on the team. Coaches like to find and create recruiting hotbeds where they get a stream of players. I think sports teams, at least on this campus, at the Division Three level, are incredibly hard to diversify in ways that would imitate a classroom setting.
It is my belief (and just that, an opinion and not a fact), that a portion of each sports team that actively recruits (basketball, baseball, lacrosse) has players on the roster that otherwise could not get in to a school like Vassar without the slight help that playing a sport and being recruited by a coach provides. One way to look at athletics at the Division Three level is that we are trying to accomplish the same goals as other students, just with 4 less hours of our day, every single day.
Interestingly enough, I believe the most diverse or “Vassar” team on campus would be Rugby. As an innocent freshman fresh out of high school and coming from standing-room only for all of my basketball games, I asked how come no one goes to our basketball games and the Rugby games have people and are sometimes packed? Knowing full well that basketball is one of the most popular sports in the world, a senior gave me a very poignant response that I believe is true and definitely holds value when he explained that Rugby players do not necessarily come to Vassar knowing that they are going to play Rugby. They choose the school, then decide to play Rugby. A by product of this is that they become the most diverse team on campus who are inherently the most willing of all other athletes to meet new people besides their team and other athletes. (Not saying other teams or athletes aren’t willing, but the Rugby team literally comes to school not expecting to play a sport).