On the first day of February, Black History Month, Brian Flores sued the NFL and three teams alleging racism in hiring practices. And on February 10th, the NFL published a story entitled “Brian Flores' lawsuit reflects widespread discontent among Black coaches over NFL hiring practices.”
The fact that the NFL’s website is identifying issues in their own organization regarding diversity sends a clear message that we all need to work together to have an honest conversation on diversity and what each of us is doing to ensure an equitable playing field at every level in youth sports.
"We need change," Flores told ESPN last week. "The hiring practices in the National Football League -- the numbers speak for themselves. ... I've been in this league 18 years, and the National Football League is an example to the world, it really is. People follow the lead of the National Football League. They just do. That's how powerful this league is. There's an opportunity here, there really is.”
"We are at a fork in the road. Things are either going to stay the way they've been, or we're going to move in a direction that not only will help and effect change among the Black and minority coaches in the National Football League, but [also elsewhere]”, Flores continued.
Our partners at the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches (NCMFC) point to many studies that show the value of diversity in sports. “Despite the vast number of minority players at all levels, minority football coaches are excluded from or limited in opportunities at most levels disproportionately” shares NCMFC Executive Director, Raj Kudchadkar. “The reason for their exclusion is inextricably intertwined with societal roadblocks that underrepresented individuals frequently face. These roadblocks create an unfortunate imbalance where minorities do not enjoy meaningful participation in available coaching opportunities to the same degree as their counterparts.”
Positive Coaching Alliance believes this is a teachable moment, and encourages every youth sports organization to reflect on how they are working to ensure youth sports is diverse and equitable.
Having diverse and inclusive leaders and decision-makers at all levels, from administrators, to coaches, to team captains, is a major step in improving the overall culture of your youth sports organization. We highly encourage a full review of the 10 “Diversity and Inclusion Best Practices” created by our partners at US Lacrosse to help remove bias and ensure that diversity, equity and inclusion are embedded into your decision-making processes. Here are a few steps we wanted to highlight in terms of creating hiring practices that center around inclusivity and equitable opportunities to improve diversity:
Implement a volunteer or staff diversity protocol that outlines the process for securing diverse leadership in your organization.
Be intentional with recruiting and retaining a diverse pool of leaders that represent the community and can identify and relate to diverse groups of people. This starts with understanding the demographics of your organization and the people you serve, educating staff, and developing an inclusive culture.
Mentor and create a pipeline.
Create ongoing support of experienced individuals at all levels to connect with, develop and train new and diverse members.
Examine your assumptions.
Our views of the world are shaped by our experiences and the information available to us, and we make assumptions accordingly. It is very common for coaches to incorrectly assume that each player on the team shares his/her own background. We have to challenge our assumptions and biases in order to increase awareness and understanding of diverse perspectives from those who have different experiences.
Allocate funds specifically for outreach initiatives to alleviate barriers to participation.
“Allocate money in advance to go towards scholarships and assistance for participants with financial needs. With increased equipment costs, continued escalating costs of clinics and traveling club programs, access and opportunity challenges exist within the sport. You will need to develop new efforts to increase access to the sport.”
Continually evaluate your Diversity and Inclusion Plan.
We acknowledge that DEI strategies for increasing a diverse talent pipeline in sourcing, recruiting, advancing and retentaining under-represented identities is not an easy process and will take time and consistent effort. Solution-based action should be woven into the fabric of the daily operations of any and all organizations.
NCMFC Executive Director, Raj Kudchadkar, stresses that “Each child is enriched when they are led by those with a multitude of differing backgrounds, styles, and cultures.” Our kids miss development opportunities when the environments they compete in are insufficient, including a lack of diversity. Providing spaces for all qualified candidates to lead is not only the right thing to do, it also benefits us all.
Written in collaboration with the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches.