The Student News Site of Ithaca College

Ithaca Week

Ithaca Week

Ithaca Week

Athletes of color discuss the support they receive from their teams


Key Points

  • Ithaca College Field Hockey Team created a committee to educate teammates on what it means to be an “anti-racist”
  • Some teams are more intentional about checking in on their athletes of color

Recent killings of Black people by law enforcement have taken a toll on the mental health of people of color (POC). Ithaca College athletes of color are no exception to this. Ariyahna Bernard, a senior on the Ithaca women’s field hockey team as well as the track and field team, said having a support system is critical.

“It does help when you have the support of your team,” said Bernard. She is the only woman of color on the field hockey team.

Courtesy of The Washington Post

“For field hockey they have been doing an amazing job on staying up to date on current events and making sure that I feel accepted and that they [teammates] understand my struggles and strife that I go through,” said Bernard, who has been on the team since her first year at IC.

She explained how the field hockey team has put together committees, including one named “How to be an Anti-Racist.”

“I had a conversation with Ari one-on-one and knew we needed to bring our team together and start with an honest and open conversation,”  said head coach of the field hockey team, Kaitlyn Wahila.

Wahila said the “How to be an Anti-Racist” committee is engaging in incredibly purposeful work.

Ariyahna Bernard practicing Shot Put outside her house (Photo by Allura Leggard/ Ithaca Week)

“The student-athletes involved in this committee are taking the lead in educating themselves and in turn, our team, on what it means to be an anti-racist,” said Wahila. “This is not activism that will stop when our remote fall season is over, these are conversations that will become a part of our program moving forward.”

Along with the field hockey team, the football team at Ithaca college is also supporting their athletes of color amid the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I definitely feel support off the field from my teammates and my coaches,” said Warren Watson, a member of the IC football team. “Everyone on this team supports one another, nobody discriminates against one another, no one on staff discriminates against one another. We’ve had a lot of dialogue and just conversation and educated the masses.”

Erienne Roberts, associate director of IC Athletics, said she has been hoping for this type of inclusivity and acceptance in the athletics department. Roberts said that each team has a different level of support and some teams are more intentional about checking in on their athletes of color during these times.

Ariyahna Bernard together with Track and Field teammates (Courtesy of Ariyahna Bernard)

This holds true for Bernard and the women’s track and field team.

In June, the women’s track and field team had a meeting to discuss the lack of support the athletes of color felt from their teammates and coaching staff. The meeting was about an hour long, said Bernard, and the topic on race and racism was discussed along with the stories and feelings of the POC on the track team.

Tyler Burdoff, assistant coach of the women’s track and field team, said that he was not able to attend the meeting.

“I tried to do my best to let our people of color know that I was here for them. I reached out to many of them to make sure they were okay and to provide an outlet, whether that was just to listen or more,” Burdoff said. “I have been fortunate to be able to create some strong relationships with many of our people of color at Ithaca and part of that responsibility and role for me was to make sure they knew they had an ally in me.”

BLM sign in Ithaca Women’s Track and Field Video on IGTV

That same month, athletes on the track team created a video posted to Instagram, in which they designed signs that showed support for their Black and brown teammates.

“I have support and if something happens, they [teammates and coaches] would text me and at least do something,” Bernard said. “I don’t think we’re at 100% support but there is more support than there was when we had that meeting.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to Ithaca Week

Your donation will support the student journalists of Ithaca College. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to Ithaca Week

Comments (0)

All Ithaca Week Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *