The Bridgewater College Department of Athletics is the recipient of the October 2020 NCAA Division III Diversity Spotlight Initiative. On Oct. 8, the Bridgewater College Department of Athletics, in partnership with the Department of Student Life, hosted what potentially is the largest NCAA OneTeam training session to date involving all BC first-year student-athletes.
With approximately 250 attendees in both virtual and in-person settings, Eagle first-year student-athletes were able to identify strategies and best practices to ensure all individuals may participate in an athletics climate of respect and inclusion, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. They were presented with case studies and participated in small-group discussion to allow for vulnerability and honest sharing.
“I applaud your athletics department for partnering with the Department of Student Life in hosting an LGBTQ OneTeam training session involving all Bridgewater first-year student-athletes,” said Louise McCleary, Managing Director of Division III. “The opportunity for your first-year student-athletes to identify strategies and best practices to ensure all individuals may participate in an athletics climate of respect and inclusion, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, will positively impact your student-athletes, coaches, staff, administrators and the entire campus community.”
The event featured guest presenters NCAA OneTeam facilitators Bethany Dannelly, Associate Director of Athletics at Washington and Lee University, and Jessica Weiss, Head Field Hockey Coach at Randolph-Macon College. In between presentations, 25 student-athletes and athletic staff facilitators at BC served as facilitators for small breakout discussion groups. Students said they gained a greater understanding about the LGBTQIA+ community, learned about empathy and the importance that it has on their team, and feel equipped to handle LGBTQIA+ situations on their team and on campus.
Senior Erin Fitzpatrick, a track and field student-athlete and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) Co-President, was one of the small-group facilitators. SAAC, which is advised by Assistant Director of Athletic Media Relations Lynn Walsh, helped coordinate the event.
“I enjoyed being a facilitator for the OneTeam event,” Fitzpatrick said. “Learning about the LGBTQIA+ community through the lens of athletics was helpful for myself and the participants to contextualize how we can be allies on and off the field. I was excited to see how eager so many of our athletes are to be inviting and inclusive teammates to everyone.”
Sam Schlernitzauer, Coordinator of Student Engagement and Leadership with the Department of Student Life, said the event’s focus on respect and inclusion fit perfectly with the department’s focus on creating a more just, diverse and inclusive community campus-wide. Schlernitzauer also led one of the breakout group discussions.
“Our department’s goal with our First-Year Student Athlete Leadership Seminar is to help them learn about leadership topics, meet athletes outside of their sport and understand that they are the future leaders of their team,” Schlernitzauer said. “Getting to see the first-year students interact and walk away with such impactful and insightful moments was so exciting for me.”
The NCAA Division III Diversity Spotlight Initiative recognizes and promotes outstanding diversity-related projects, programming and initiatives that are occurring on Division III campuses and in conference offices. Each month, the award recognizes an institution or conference in regards to a diversity-related event, program or initiative. Bridgewater will receive $500 toward its next diversity initiative.