Gymnastics, Olympics, Sports

Building A Stronger Team with Diversity 

This was one of my favorite moments of the year. During the ESPN special “A Conversation with The President: Sports, Race & Achievement” last month, President Obama gave a shout out to the Final Five during the segment on inclusion and how it can make the country stronger:

President Obama: “…We just went through an Olympics where we got more medals than ever and we were amazed. And you know what? More than half of the gold medals, and the medals generally we won, were from our outstanding women athletes. And the reason that happened was because we invested in Title IX many years ago. So we’re way ahead of [many] other countries in terms of giving young women the same athletic opportunities as young men. So that’s a good analogy for the country as a whole, and for our economy as a whole. When you get everyone on the team, when you’re drawing from everybody’s talents, then you’re going to field a stronger team. Everyone is going to be a lot better.”

Stan Verrett, host: “The gymnastics team is a great example of that.”

President Obama: “Absolutely. You’ve got a young Latina woman, you’ve got Simone…and they’re as cute as can be. They came by the White House. Itty bitty little things. [crowd laughs] And they’re doing stuff…I still don’t know how they do that stuff. Amazing athletes. Tiny, and funny too. They were just chattering away…”

I can remember U.S. team diversity being noted a few times, particularly since 1992, especially among gym fans. It was nice to hear the diversity of the team noted in a general sports discussion — and by the most prominent American in the world.

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This team was probably the most diverse ever consisting of 5 young women from Black, White, Latino and Jewish racial/ethnic groups. (While the general belief of Jewish as an ethnic minority is fading in the U.S., Jewish people historically have been considered a minority group and still are considered by many to be a minority group.) And that doesn’t even count the other ethnicities that are represented on the National Team like Native American and Asian-American.

The diversity of the team is also indicative of the sport becoming more accessible as a whole. Gymnastics has a reputation for being a “rich family’s sport” in the U.S. The more kids that can see themselves reflected in the National Team, the better off the sport will be in the future in terms of attracting talent and fan support.

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