Marywood Athletics launches Athletics Council for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion


The council is comprised of five department employees and one student-athlete.

Briana Ryan, Editor-in-Chief

The Marywood Athletics and Recreation Department is making moves to promote diversity and inclusion within the department. Spearheading this movement is the newly created Athletics Council for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

The members of the council include Men’s Soccer Head Coach John Velasco, Field Hockey Head Coach and Student-Athlete Affairs Coordinator Julie Trott, Women’s Basketball Head Coach Jennifer Carleton, Cross Country and Track and Field Head Coach Rob Ahrens, Assistant Director of Sports Information Jay Monahan and Cross Country and Track and Field Student-Athlete Hayley Gaines. Furthermore, Velasco will serve as the primary diversity and inclusion designee for the department.

After the death of George Floyd, the Marywood community held a virtual zoom conversation regarding racism. According to Trott, this conversation inspired the council members to take on a more proactive role regarding diversity and inclusion within the department.

“We were really struck by how much more we could be doing for all of our student-athletes and our student-athletes that are in this more diversified category,” said Trott. “The feeling that we’re not doing enough we need to do more is really what got this rolling.”

To kickstart the initiative, the council members met with the Office of Equity and Inclusion to create a strategic plan. Additionally, the council members met with the Office of Admissions to create a diversity recruitment strategy.

Council members also encouraged student-athletes to get involved with the initiative. Beyond creating a Student-Athlete Council for Diversity and Inclusion, the council also sent a survey to over 100 student-athletes to gather more information on the status of diversity and inclusion in athletics.

Three of the council members are also using the knowledge they gained, during a fall graduate course, to help prepare them to move this initiative forward. Velasco explained that participating in the course, taught by Dr. Yerodin Lucas and Dr. Lia Richards Palmiter, helped them understand more about equity and inclusion issues within athletics.

“Being a minority myself it was very reflective of some of the parts of my childhood growing up,” said Velasco. “It was also really valuable to just see the type of information being provided to the students who may not have had those perspectives.”

Valesco explained that athletics is traditionally a place for people to come together, making this initiative even more important.

“Athletics brings people of different characteristics, cultures and backgrounds together in one certain way,” said Velasco. “With athletics, you get to see how much one thing can bring people together.”

One way the council is hoping to bring people together is through events. The first event that the council hosted was a virtual fitness challenge in honor of Floyd. During this challenge, student-athletes were encouraged to run, cycle or walk 8.46 miles or 8:46 increments in support of equity and inclusion.

Monahan explained that the council would like to host more events in the future.

“Every year the athletics department has done a speaker series ranging in topics from nutrition to social media,” said Monahan. “Next year we are hoping to get a speaker to talk about diversity and inclusion and how it relates to athletics.”

Monahan explained that the council is eager to host more activities.

“This year has been so hard for us to do what we’d like to do, but next year and moving forward,” said Monahan. “We’re really looking forward to making athletics a more inclusive place.”

Trott explained that the council is receiving positive feedback from the Marywood community.

“We have had a lot of support from the coaches and the administration,” said Trott. “That is a huge thing having support from your administration when you’re starting something.”

Trott explained that she believes this council will help to create a more welcoming environment for student-athletes.

“We want the athletics department to be dedicated to diversity and inclusion initiatives,” said Trott. “We also just want to maintain a safe environment where student-athletes feel comfortable and safe coming to their coaches or having tough conversations with teammates.”

Velasco said he hopes that this council will also encourage a broader change.

“By working on a better version of ourselves, we’ll be creating a better version of the Marywood environment overall,” said Velasco.

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Twitter: @BrianaRyanTWW