The Black players on the Clippers, like Chris Paul, were expected to speak out first, to make the first stand, even though they were the ones who had the most to lose – their livelihoods as employees of Donald Sterling.
Fast forward to 2020, in the context of worldwide protests by people of all colours against the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others, it’s no longer acceptable to leave the fight against racism to the victims. In sport, all coaches are now expected by many to make a stand against racism to send a message that there’s nowhere to hide anymore.
But, how should coaches start the conversation about race with the people they coach? What’s the first question or opening statement? What happens if a Black player doesn’t actually want attention to be drawn to their race?
For coaches, the Black Lives Matter movement presents an opportunity to connect with players on an issue that affects all of us. Where conversations might have previously focused on technical / tactical or winning and losing, now they can start with fairness, action and accountability.
The question is….
How should a coach talk about racism?
We posed this challenging question to Billy Beddow, head coach of the England Under 15 boys basketball national team.
Within our team, I’ve focused on creating a safe environment for discussion first. We have to be really careful with young people that we’ve got the environment right so that we can introduce challenging topics. We’re going bit by bit and helping them learn the language within the conversation so they can feel more confident talking about it. The focus is not to teach them to be politically correct – we’re trying to help them become anti-racist.
In my experience so far, young player’s understanding of racism is localised and situational. They remember specific instances or stories they heard of racist incidents at school or the local park. They’re still at the beginning of their understanding of wider systematic racism. We’ve had some breakthroughs by sharing films and social posts with the players in our group chat. Then giving them time to think about it before having one-to-one conversations and asking open questions.
- What power are you willing to give up?
- How could you start a conversation with players about racism at your next session?
- Have you got many years coaching experience, or one years experience repeated many times?
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