Partnering with the Institute for Sport and Social Justice (ISSJ)—a social justice and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) education company based in Florida—the athletic department has created a roadmap of mandatory DEI training for coaches.
“It’s a six-step program that works its way up to the final step, which is action. So, how do you take all this training, how do you take all this education and apply it to you, your team, the athletic department?” Assistant Athletic Director for Operations, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator Katie Greene said.
As coaches participate in six sessions, starting with one focusing on building community and trust in September, and building up to one addressing action in March, students will simultaneously be working with Jen Fry, an anti-racism advocate and educator whom the College partnered with last year.
“We had really positive feedback from our student athletes about Jen Fry, so we wanted to keep her partnered with our student athletes,” Greene said. “She’s going to work with our student athletes on training … the staff has moved away from working with her and now we’re going to work with ISSJ.”
“[The ISSJ is] trying to empower coaches in organizations to have value-based thinking and lead by example or by action for social responsibility, equality and inclusion,” Greene added.
The ISSJ has been a leader in promoting social justice in sports, educating and informing athletic conferences and large organizations.
“It’s a completely outside organization. They have done a lot of work in the past with conferences or professional sports,” Greene said. “They’ll work with the NBA, or I think they were doing NASCAR for a while. It is an outside organization that uses the power of sport to affect positive social change and social justice. This is our first year working with them.”
Despite Bowdoin being the first small college the ISSJ has worked with, Greene is excited about the partnership that the College has launched.
“Their trainers are assigned to Bowdoin. They work with us for all six sessions, so we don’t have different people on different trainings,” Greene said. “They’re really able to get to know us, they’re really able to get to know our team and how it all operates, so I thought that was actually really cool. We’re not going to be dealing with different people because they have a decent-sized organization.”
Learning from last year, Greene has set this schedule early and informed coaches of the times and locations of required sessions. Greene hopes this will give coaches a better chance to prioritize DEI work within their team.
“Some of the feedback we got last year is just [that coaches] needed a clear picture of what the trainings look like,” Greene said. [They] wanted to prepare before going into the trainings and do some self-education. … We wanted to give them all the topics and dates ahead of time so they can plan and prioritize those around their games and practices in-season versus out of season.”
Sending out this schedule early and being clear about when these training sessions are set to occur has been part of Greene’s goal to balance DEI training with normal athletic activities.
“What we have to get into a pattern of is being able to continue this work and make this a priority,” Greene said. “We have to continue to make this education normal under normal circumstances. We started to make it normal under abnormal circumstances last year, and now we have to make it normal under normal circumstances, so that’s the key and the challenge here.”
If the partnership with the ISSJ goes well, Greene hopes to utilize their trainings in future years, similar to how the department has partnered with Jen Fry once again for student trainings. However, Greene notes that they are always open to exploring different partnerships.
“We’re always going to have DEI education for coaches moving forward. There’s always going to be significant training, it’s just a matter of what we think works in trying different partnerships,” Greene said.