During the development phase of this website, Div. 47 contacted several graduate students and early career professionals, and asked them to reflect on their own professional and social identities, and their commitment to the work of diversity, inclusion and social justice in the fields of sport, exercise and performance psychology.
They were then asked to respond to one or both of the following prompts:
"Why is this area of sport, exercise, & performance psychology important to you?"
"Why should this be a part of the focus and work of all SEP psych professionals?"
Individuals were given the option to respond anonymously. While some chose to do so, others provided consent to include their names/institutions with their statements.
Leeja Carter, PhD
Assistant Professor, Long Island University-Brooklyn
This area is important because it acknowledges that sport, exercise and performance psychology is at the center of performance enhancement, athlete mental health and athlete advocacy. This section recognizes sport and exercise psychology professionals participate in an institution that can empower and disempower, elevate voice and silence, unify and polarize all at the same time. With a commitment to cultural awareness, athletes’ well-being and sport justice, we won't ignore the concurrences but embrace our responsibility to bring health to a complex system.
Angel Brutus, PsyD, LPC, CRC, DCC, CCH
Clinical, Sport & Performance Consultant
As an individual member of social identity categories that are currently and historically oppressed, it's important for me to address the intersection of sport and activism/diversity/inclusion because this work aligns with values inherent in not only my personal experiences but as a young professional in the field who seeks to educate colleagues on the necessity to support sport, exercise & performance clients of diverse backgrounds. To disregard the holistic experience of sport, exercise & performance clientele is to operate in a reckless manner. Neglecting to create/provide a space that encourages clients to align with their authentic selves not only undermines the effectiveness of supporting optimal performance, it also violates a number of ethical guidelines across the spectrum of human service delivery.
Erica Tibbetts, PhD
Lecturer, Smith College
For me this question has a two-fold answer — one about serving individuals and one about creating a more equitable world for those outside of sport.
We know that athletes perform better when they are motivated, satisfied and safe. But we also know that not all athletes are the same. By understanding the social currents, norms, pressures, expectations, stereotypes, etc., we can understand better athletes' needs and identities. We know that certain individuals are more likely to get injured, drop out, experience traumatic sport events or not even start playing in the first place because of who they are and how they perceive sport to value or devalue them. If we are committed to helping athletes have a good experience (not just a good performance) we have to recognize damaging, racist, sexist, transphobic, classist norms in sport and figure out how to help athletes overcome those. This will lead to greater inclusivity, greater physical and mental well-being for athletes, and, in the end, better performances (not that we should couch everything in performance).Sport reflects and shapes social norms. We can use sport as a place to show that women should be valued as much as men, that gender shouldn't be used as a divider, that racism still exists and we need to focus on eradicating it in our communities, that we can overcome violent norms of competition to instead embrace our opponents or those with different viewpoints. Millions of people engage in and watch sports. If we can create change within sport, we can trickle that change outwards to other areas of society.
Essentially, this is a question of making sure everyone has access to the joy, fun and health benefits that come from sport. But also a question of using sport as a place to instill positive values that will transfer out to other arenas.
Ryan Sappington, MS, MSc
Counseling Psychology PhD Student, University of Maryland, College Park
I think a commitment to diversity, inclusion, and social justice is partly about honoring the full humanness of the individuals with whom we work. It is about recognizing that someone cannot fully embrace or benefit from all that sport has to offer while also feeling unwelcome or unsafe in that space. Sport has never been, nor will ever be, a vacuum. Many of our clients – athletes and coaches alike – have faced racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia in and out of that role. As of 2018, we as professionals continue to work in an industry that uses racist caricatures of indigenous people as sport mascots. And we see, far too often, athletes and coaches who are both survivors and perpetrators of sexual assault and relationship violence. A sport psychology profession that fails to make diversity, inclusion, and social justice a core part of its work will only serve to further oppress and dehumanize already marginalized groups.
When it comes to athlete activism, we need to consider the implications of the phrase “stick to sports.” Demanding silence from athletes of any marginalized identity implies that those identities (and the experience of moving through the world with those identities) must be checked at the door before assuming the role of performer. As a former athlete, I was never asked to deny or surrender my whiteness or my straightness when I stepped onto the field or joined a team. Those identities were welcomed because they have historically been welcomed in almost all spaces. I believe that every professional in our field should be active in helping to build a future when all athletes can perform, compete, and enjoy sports without feeling like they need to deny parts of who they are.