An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Chris Hartley, director of athletics

For the last several years, I have sent weekly emails to the approximately 100 coaches at Lakeside, to inspire them, to ask them to reflect on how they could become better coaches, and to help them learn how to create safe, inclusive environments. Many of those weekly emails focus on better understanding what it means to work at a school that values diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

To give families a glimpse of what that behind-the-scenes work looks like, I thought it might be useful to share parts of my first installment for the 2020-2021 school year. 

Dear Coaches:

I ask that you set aside time each week to read, listen, watch, and then spend time thinking about how you go about your job as a teacher at Lakeside. Yes, you are a teacher. And in addition to teaching the skills needed to excel in the sport you lead, you are charged with teaching your athletes how to be courageous, respectful, inclusive, kind, generous, and resilient.  

School just opened in a way I never could have imagined. The fields and athletics center are empty. The sense of loss I feel is strong. I am frustrated. I am sad. I miss you. I miss our athletes. 

It is our time to use this odd break to become better coaches … better people. To be truly impactful coaches, we must be aware of how each of our athletes feels about the world they live in. We must better understand which athletes feel most comfortable, which feel like they need to hide a part of themselves, which feel powerful, and which feel silenced or invisible.  

Our job is to inspire. Our job is to take each athlete in our program and raise them higher than they thought possible. That only happens when they trust you. Trust only develops through relationships. And, honest, positive relationships are only developed when vulnerability, respect, understanding, and a willingness to learn about another’s experience are always present. 

I was moved by the words of Pete Carroll (head coach for the Seattle Seahawks) as he addressed the media recently. He did not talk about what kind of team we would see on the field; he spoke about social justice, and more importantly, the social injustice directed toward people of color. It was a 16-minute call to action.  

I suggest that you find someone who has also watched it and have a conversation about what you heard and what you want to learn more about. I am more than happy to be that “someone.” 

I found this graphic on LinkedIn:  

IT’S NO ACCIDENT THAT: 

You learned about Helen Keller instead of W.E.B. DuBois. 

You learned about the Watts and L.A. riots, but not Tulsa or Wilmington. 

You learned that George Washington’s dentures were made from wood, rather than the teeth from slaves. 

You learned about black ghettos, but not about Black Wall Street. 

You learned about the New Deal, but not “red lining.” 

You learned about Tommie Smith’s fist in the air at the 1968 Olympics, but not that he was sent home the next day and stripped of his medals. 

You learned about “black crime,” but white criminals were never lumped together and discussed in terms of their race.  

You learned about “states’ rights” as the cause of the Civil War, but not that slavery was mentioned 80 times in the articles of secession. 

Privilege is having history rewritten so that you don’t have to acknowledge uncomfortable facts.  

Racism is perpetuated by people who refuse to learn or acknowledge this reality. 

One of the most profound learning opportunities I have had was when I started to learn about the fuller history of this country, not the filtered version that I was taught in high school. If some of the names or events that you see in this graphic are not familiar to you, I challenge you to do some research. As a white man who grew up in a small town in upstate New York with very little diversity, the false history I was taught was never challenged.  

The atrocities named in this list are exactly what Carroll is speaking to when he says that Black and Brown people know the history. Atrocities like these have been directed at all marginalized groups in the United States. If we, as the leaders of our teams, are not aware of these injustices, then we cannot fully serve every athlete on our teams. If we cannot have dialogues with our athletes that create safe spaces for sharing that leads to actionable steps, then we are falling short of our responsibilities. Again, Pete Carroll calls on all coaches to change what they do and how they do it so that these injustices stop … Forever.  

In this time without sports (or very limited sports), I challenge all of us to become better leaders, better listeners, better role models, better advocates, and better coaches for each and every one of our athletes. 

I look forward to this year with you! 

Go Lions! 

Chris Hartley is director of athletics at Lakeside School. Reach him at athleticsdept@lakesideschool.org.