Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Monday, July 20, 2015
Every experience is unique and every athlete is different. Through my
experience at Georgetown, I learned this from my coach, Mike Smith. If anyone
understood this concept, I truly believe it was him. Through countless meetings and
talks I had with Coach Mike, I learned that he wanted to help each athlete not only to
be the best they could be in their running career, but also to have the best
experience they could at Georgetown. So with this investigation, I wanted to share
my experience and what I witnessed on the Georgetown track and field team.
Whether it was through individualized training logs or personal meetings in
his office, Coach Mike knew each athlete worked differently and took the time to
understand us. Personally, I witnessed Coach Mike go above and beyond his job title
as “Head Women's Cross Country Coach/Assistant T&F Coach” many times. He
wasn’t just a track coach, but somebody that took the time to listen to me no matter
what the issue was about (running, personal, etc). I witnessed Coach Mike help
many athletes through injuries and through ups and downs and helped them
overcome the challenges and push forward. I also witnessed Coach Mike helping
many athletes through personal matters. I truly believe Coach Mike cared about us
as people first and athletes second.
I think the real question here is: Was Coach Mike fair? In general, running is
not a fair sport. It is performance driven and you can’t take it personally. I learned
this through disappointing races, but Coach Mike never gave up on me. He stayed in
his office multiple times until late evening to talk to me when he could’ve left hours
earlier. He continued to push me in workouts to my potential and always motivated
me to be the best I could. From what I witnessed, Coach Mike had the open door
policy for anyone who wanted to come to his office and talk about her experience
just like he allowed me to do any time I wanted. He encouraged us many times at
practice to come to his office and talk to him about running or about life. He wanted
to build that relationship with all of us, but it was also a two way street. I never
witnessed Coach Mike treating an athlete unfairly. I think what matters the most to
Coach Mike is having a positive attitude and contributing to the team in a positive
way. He wants to protect the positive team culture we had because he knows this
will lead the team to having the best experience at Georgetown and I believe he is
right. The greatest thing about the Georgetown team is the culture. It’s so much
better running for something bigger than yourself and running for your teammates.
Personally, I couldn’t have imagined a more caring coach, and I respect
Coach Mike tremendously. I knew being on the Georgetown team that I was part of
something very special and every day at Georgetown I knew it was a privilege. I am
very thankful for my coaches and I do not believe they acted in a racially bias
manner. I truly believe Coach Mike wants to build the most successful team in the
country with the most positive team culture.
I would like to begin this blog entry by offering praise and kudos to Ms. Chelsea Cox. This blog is her brainchild, and she is nothing less than a stellar representative for Georgetown track and the University itself. Her unquestionable character, integrity, humility, compassion, and work-ethic are poignantly admirable and have set her up for great success on and off the track. She has been a role model for many female and male runners these past few years, and we all certainly owe her many thanks for the positive impact she has had on this program.
The allegations levied against my teammates, my coaches, and me are heinous, defamatory, and absolutely false. The vitriol being spewed against Coach Mike Smith should not be taken with any sincerity; he’s a man who cares about every single person he interacts with. He is not my coach, as he guides our speedy and wonderful girls’ team, but he has had a lasting impact on my running and manhood in my three years of knowing him. He has taught me that running is an onerous process; there is nothing easy about what we do, but that is why we do it. It is a righteous pursuit for the bold and borderline masochistic, and he has shown me that running can teach us about life and how we choose to live it. Mike was a teacher in a rough inner-city school before he became one of the most respected running minds in the country, and his work at that school has shaped his character in many positive ways that rub off on his athletes. He shows us every single day how empathy and an open mind can allow us all to become the best athletes and people we can be. I do not believe he is a very religious man, but his coaching and life methodologies run directly parallel to the Jesuit tenets this institution was founded upon. Michael Smith will always have my support.
While I am not a member of the female track/xc teams at Georgetown, I certainly know enough about each and every girl and their requisite team culture to stand beside and defend them. Being on the male team I am lucky enough to call many of these girls my friends; several of them I consider close confidantes who have helped me through challenging times in my own running career. We share practice times, so I am often around the ladies in the midst of arduous workouts and long runs. They are a passionate and extraordinarily supportive bunch. For how talented and hard-working they are I am amazed at how none of them carry around a large ego; humility and sacrifice are expected. They pick each other up, they dust each other off, and they take care of business. Hard-work and a positive attitude are prerequisites to success on this team, and some people just don’t have “it”. If you are not coming to practice with a positive attitude and resolve to work until you cannot work any harder, you do not deserve the PRIVILEGE of being on this wonderful squad. I will always support my female teammates who display such positive attributes.
Finally, I would like to discuss my experience with Coach Patrick Henner and my time thus far as a member of the men’s team at Georgetown. Patrick Henner is a man who lives his life for his athletes and for others. He is not married, he does not have kids, and his hobbies include reading, rock climbing, and molding his athletes into men who are ready to serve and have a positive influence on the world around us. The absolutely ludicrous allegations of racial bias against Henner are so farfetched and hurtful I can only pray for the accuser to realize his wrongs. Racism is real in today’s world, and it may even exist on Georgetown’s campus; however, it is never (nor will it ever be) welcomed in McDonough Gymnasium, the coaching offices, or the locker room. Henner is a passionate and supportive man, but he does not coddle his athletes. He expects us to be our very best every day, and he expects us to put everything we have into our dimensional college experience: school and running. Being a member of this team is a privilege, and it is one my teammates and I certainly do not take for granted. Elite level distance running is a 365 day per year commitment; the notion of an “off season” is cute and humorous, and applies only to our ball sport playing brethren. This means well over 20 hours per week of training (not just pounding out 90 mile weeks, but spending time in the weight room and pool/bike to strengthen the entire body) accompanied with a borderline ascetic lifestyle to achieve maximum results. That means bed at 10 PM every single night and every single weekend when most of our non-running peers are out and about fulfilling their collegiate fantasies of bacchanalia and such. We do this to respect the time and effort Henner puts into our livelihoods as runners and men. He works his rear end off day in and day out in equitable fashion thinking about how he can get each of us to run faster or jump farther. He loves each and every one of us the same, regardless of skin color, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, etc. Our team culture is strengthened through our commitment to each other as runners and men, and that positive culture is perpetuated by Coaches Henner and Bonsey. They support hard-work and toughness; they do not support undeserving entitlement stemming from a lack of maturity and work-ethic. The coaches treat every athlete the same way, and their rhetoric is respectful and geared towards making us better men in every possible facet of life.
My experience on the team has been nothing short of fantastic and wonderfully formative; I have become physically stronger and much more mature thanks to the influence of my amazing teammates and coaches. I have felt supported in the locker room, on the road, on the trail, on the track, and in the classroom by those men who surround me day in and day out. I have never felt pressured to do or say anything that would run counter to my unique character; I am part of this amazing team, but I am also free to by my own self in all hours of the day. I urge any of you who have come across the slanderous allegations against this program to view them as such: slander. The stories you read on THIS blog represent the real Georgetown track/xc program. What you are reading here is the real truth, and we will be heard. I will never stand idly by while my name as a member of this top-notch program is dragged through the mud in heinous and undeserving fashion. Thank you for reading. AMDG.
Dear Georgetown Track and Field,
In light of recent events, I wanted to take a moment to state my intentions with regard to the current situation and the upcoming school year. As a returning 5th year, I feel it is my responsibility to speak out, and it is my hope that what I have written below will be read and considered by the entire Georgetown program, coaches and athletes, both past and present.
I would like to begin by addressing something vital not only to the future of our team, but to the country as a whole: white privilege.
Though this term has come to take on a variety of meanings, depending on the context, the simplest definition of “white privilege”, for me, is this: the advantages that I, as a white person, automatically possess in any given situation when compared to someone of a minority race. That doesn’t mean that being white means your life isn’t hard. It simply means that as a white person, whatever situation - personal, economic, political - you find yourself in, you are automatically better off than a person of color would be in an identical situation.
For example, I have the privilege, if asked to leave a sports team, to not have to wonder if my race was a factor in that decision. I have the privilege, when stating my opinion, not to be stereotyped and brushed off as an “angry Black girl.” I have the privilege of being able to comfortably sit here and write a blog post, utterly removed from (and, in many ways, ignorant of) the discrimination that my fellow minority teammates have been subjected to their whole lives.
I have the privilege to choose to imagine these situations, rather than the misfortune of actually having to experience them in real life, every day.
Accepting the reality of white privilege is, for whatever reason, very hard for many people. It was very hard for me - and often still is. There’s a natural psychological response, usually along the lines of, “Well, I didn’t ask to be white. I’m not doing anything wrong.” It’s a defensive reaction that largely misses the point.
The fact is, no one “asked” to be a minority, either - and yet they face stigma and discrimination that I will never be exposed to. While Baltimore and Ferguson are obvious examples, micro-aggressions of racism occur constantly on an individual level, in a way that we, as non-minorities, have to work very hard to open our eyes to.
Looking at yourself in the mirror and realizing that you have been feeding, however unconsciously, into a system of racial discrimination is a very painful and uncomfortable experience. However - and I want to be very clear - this kind of self-confrontation in NO way compares to the fear, frustration, and blatant injustice that non-white individuals face in this country every day. That is their reality; this is our responsibility.
So, where does this fit into the current discussion?
I firmly believe that any discussion of racial discrimination needs to be rooted in concrete, verifiable fact. Accusations and subsequent defences must not arise from gut reactions and feelings, but rather from calm and careful deliberation. Although it is impossible for me, as a current member of this team, not to be emotionally invested in the future of the Georgetown running program, I will do my best to remain objective and recognize legitimate evidence in regards to the current allegations of racism. Furthermore, I pledge to continue the discussion amongst my teammates concerning white privilege and how to confront it, so that we can truly come together as a team -- celebrating our bonds while recognizing our differences and the challenges that come with them.
In turn, I would ask those who have supported the allegations of racism to examine the situation objectively, as best they can. If there is compelling evidence to support your claims, please bring it to light in a clear and verifiable way, so that we can all benefit from a fuller knowledge of the situation. If concrete evidence cannot be produced, I would ask you to also engage in self-examination, as I have pledged to do, to understand why these claims have been made.
I believe that the truth, whatever it may bring, is the path forward for our program, and the only way that we can come together as a group of united and compassionate team members. It is my hope that our differences will not ultimately divide us, but make us stronger than ever before.
Finally, to everyone involved, I would like to say that I remain, always, your ally and your teammate, no matter what happens. I look forward to seeing many of you in a few weeks and continuing this dialogue in person.
Thank you for reading, and feel free to reach out.