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Track and field coach Steve Dolan stresses the importance of diversity within sports and supporting team members.

Credit: Son Nguyen

With the world of sports at a standstill and the nation fatigued by racism, Penn Athletics is devoted to taking action.

Nearly every Penn sports team held a virtual team discussion to discuss the recent protests and the issues of racism that they have brought to light. 

Track and field coach Steve Dolan, who is originally from Minneapolis, where George Floyd was murdered, is just one example of a Penn coach who is stressing the importance of supporting one another as a group and as a community. 

“Penn Athletics, our team, I think we strive to figure out what we can do and how we can each play a role in making Penn, our community, and the world better,” said Dolan.

Track and field has already held numerous individual meetings between players and coaches, as well as a larger team meeting, in order to share feelings, become educated, and grow together. Dolan has always thought of his team as a family, so this support and growth is common practice to them. 

He lauds their diverse groups that include men, women, local students, international students, African-Americans, and more. Sports are certainly a way to unite people and bring them together, and pre-existing student-coach relationships highlight the unifying strength of athletic programs to overcome adversity and work together for change.

In a recent plan of action, Penn Athletics addressed their community and firstly admitted past complacency in the issue of taking an active stand against racism. Already exercising action, Penn Athletics recently met with 30 Black student-athletes and formed a “task force” as a result of the meetings.

The task force will be composed of student-athletes, coaches, and other staff that “will be charged with listening to our Black community and its allies, creating a plan, and implementing change in 2020-21 and beyond.” 

Its long list of actions and goals includes addressing racism at all levels, from individual microaggressions between players to social policy in Philadelphia, the Ivy League, and the NCAA. Overall, the task force promises devoted attention to the issues of diversity and Black student-athletes in their struggle against racism. 

“College students have the opportunity to be leaders for the future, and we challenge and encourage our teams to be those types of leaders,” said Dolan. “I think we’re going to look back at this as a very important time, and hopefully the world is going to be a better place moving forward.”