Dec 19, 2023
Defining Diversity in the Workplace

By: Christina Bernal

Diversity is defined as “show[ing] a great deal of variety.” The diversity, or lack thereof in a staff, does not have to be a touchy subject in the workplace. Defining your department’s idea of diversity is an important place to start. Nevertheless, the commitment to seek out that range of background, race, experience, religion, the list goes on and on; that range is crucial to the development of the strength and conditioning industry. There are people from many different walks of life that fit the necessary criteria of being a good human and quality coach. As a Latina that has witnessed and contributed to many successful teams, it is the diversity of thought and experience that most contributes to that success. Some questions to ask yourself may include: what does this staff NOT have yet that would challenge us? Is it performance data technology experience? Is it team or staff culture building experience? Is it research experience?

Athletic departments are keen to highlight the success stories of those who have broken down barriers and smashed glass ceilings. Some may see this as a tactic to hire more minorities or to simply receive recognition for their diversity efforts. I see more of the positive effect of showing others what is possible, as this is not lost on our peers in athletics. And even more importantly, it is not lost on the athletes we work with on a daily basis. To see themselves represented in positions of strength with passion for their career, is vital to the next generation of enthusiastic and knowledgeable strength and conditioning coaches.

As an internship director, I am passionate about coaching up the next generation and helping them to develop their hard skills in preparation for a full-time position. We do our best to prepare interns for real-world scenarios, and yet everything is constantly evolving. Exercise science and strength and conditioning have come a long way within undergraduate studies over the last 30 years. Recent graduates are entering the profession with more knowledge than ever before, but still need the practical experience to apply it. Hiring young coaches can provide a different outlook on building a winning culture as well as providing new research topics and studies fresh out of the classroom. The beautiful double-edged sword of the strength and conditioning profession is that it is and will always continue to evolve at a rapid pace. Old routines can become stagnant. Athletes may not see the same level of progress when completing the same exercises over and over again, year after year. For some staffs, engaging with fresh viewpoints can be a good start to challenging the staff to develop new, interesting, and most importantly, effective ways to train.

Over my career, I have worked with several sports because someone took a chance on me. Even when I did not have the most experience in certain settings, someone saw the value of bringing in a new perspective. It is common for Division I departments to hire Division I experience. This often makes it difficult for Division II and III coaches to make the leap to Division I. The same can be said for crossing the line between FCS and FBS programs, or NAIA and NCAA programs. The irony is that sometimes that different perspective is exactly what is needed to shift the performance from good to great. Recognizing a growth opportunity for the employee and the employer to think outside the box. Ideas like maximizing resources on a budget and capitalizing on space in a growing department are ones that any strength and conditioning coach in any division can work on. Similarly, private sector coaches, that have the necessary qualifications, may be able to add a competitive edge to your staff. Ultimately, it is essential to look at what a person has actually done with their experience, rather than make judgments based off of stereotypes or preconceived notions.

Every application submitted is someone looking for a chance to succeed in the world of coaching. Take the chance to elevate your staff by bringing in a variety of perspectives and challenging the norm and comfortability. Not only will diversity of thought improve the creativity and success of coaches, but it will also improve the athlete experience. Diversity is not something to shy away from. While it is certainly beneficial to surround yourself with people who support the vision and mission of the department, it is also crucial to find people who will challenge us to be creative and step outside of our comfort zone. Being uncomfortable is often a stepping stone to great success.

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