Athletes of Color Form Group in Response to Lack of Diversity

By NICOLE POLLACK

The percentage of students of color on sports teams is lower than Middlebury’s already low percentage of students of color on campus. Middlebury is 63 percent white, and of the ollege’s 2561 students, only 25 percent identify as domestic US students of color, according to the fall 2017 student profile.

For student athletes of color, this reality can feel isolating.

Sebastian Sanchez, one of two athletes of color on the baseball team, reached out to Olivia Bravo ’20, Chellsa Ferdinand ’20, Jourdon Delerme ’20 and Diego Meritus ’19, members of the softball, volleyball, football and football teams, respectively, about starting a club for people of color (PoC) in sports. The resulting organization, Student Athletes of Color, is funded directly by the athletic department. It recently held its first official meet-and-greet and was received enthusiastically by the student body.

The club’s members hope Student Athletes of Color will create an informal space in which they can build a strong community.

“I am the only PoC on my team,” Bravo said. “Coming into the school I would have loved a PoC mentor to guide me through this adjustment and to share their experiences with race on campus.”

Student Athletes of Color’s three main goals focus on its leaders’ own experiences of being recruits and subsequent members of sports teams on campus. Their mission statement is to “provide opportunities for athletes of color to meet others outside of their respective teams.”

The club aims to help athletes at all levels develop support networks within the community. They want to offer all athletes of color a space that helps them “navigate the racial and ethnic experiences that exist in the Middlebury community.”

Bravo said the strong relationships between members of individual teams are not shared between members of different teams.

“As PoC we immediately see each other in the athletic facilities and maybe give each other a smile or a head nod, but there is no relationship beyond that. I think that is our biggest goal, to change that,” Bravo said.

Amherst College has a Student Athletes of Color group, and a friend of Meritus’ is working to form one at Williams College. The group believes Student Athletes of Color would also be of interest to other colleges in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (Nescac) and hopes to eventually form a Nescac-wide organization.

“I think this is a very realistic goal, and is something I can see happening before I graduate in the next few years,” Bravo said.

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Athletes of Color Form Group in Response to Lack of Diversity