Stakeholder Series - Here, you will find stories from a diverse range of Husky Sport stakeholders. We use the word 'stakeholder' because we understand that every member of every community has an interest in Husky Sport's success, whether they know it or not.  You will learn about the work that we do, hear from our alumni, get introduced to some of our partners, and much more. Check back often and explore! 

Reuben Pierre-Louis – ScHOLA2RS House

April 21, 2017

Photo of Reuben

Earlier this week we sat down with Reuben Pierre-Louis, a senior at Neag’s School of Education and member of the Schola2rs House Learning Community. Reuben will continue his education at UConn after graduation, working to earn a Master's degree in Special Education. We had a conversation around diversity, the importance of representation, and the necessity of spaces like Schola2rs House.

“Diversity, and often a lack of diversity, has on a huge role on my professional experiences. In the places where I work, teach, and even live, I am usually one of the only Black males and sometimes the only African American. In my program at UConn, I am one of just a few black men, if not the only one. Sometimes people of color get offended when they have the weight to speak for their whole race, but I do not mind. If I do not speak, who will? Everyone would agree that generalizing people is “bad” but people still do it every day, its human nature. In “white spaces” I feel like an ambassador to my race, and for that, I have to carry myself in a certain way to contradict the negative perception that has been cultivated in the media and perpetuated through generalizations and stereotypes. I will continue to speak for my people because there needs to be a counter narrative.”   

“Diversity is not just limited to race, culture is often a measure of diversity that is ignored. I have pride for my Haitian culture. For some reason in America, we are aware of the different cultures attributed to white people - Italians, Germans, Russians, etc. - but with Black people we don’t see anything but color. I think it is important for people of color to embrace our own cultures and reject the narrative that erases this diversity, but at the same time we have to come together. When we (Black people) come together, we may have different cultures and backgrounds but we all have one thing in common, we are aware of the reality that United States is not really united with people with darker skin. With the prison to school pipeline, false media perceptions, a history of racial inequality, we continue to be persecuted. There needs to be something to combat this beast. I think Schola2rs House is trying to do that. In Schola2rs House, I learned how people that have similar experiences have to stick together.”

“I wish I had a Schola2rs House when I first started college. I remember when I got here I just wanted to fit in - everybody wants to fit in. Being outwardly different made that difficult. I didn’t feel like I had a space here as a black intellectual. I wasn’t a Black athlete so I didn't really feel like there was a community to support me. Schola2rs house provided that space of social and emotional support. That is really one of the most important aspects for me, that social support network that can help us navigate UConn more successfully. Schola2rs House is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. I think it’s important that we reflect on the opposition to this learning community. It is okay for asian students, or hispanic students, or woman engineers to come together but once Black folks want to come together and do something positive there is this “woah, woah, slow down there” response. I think we need to ask ourselves if we are truly dedicated to diversity and inclusion, or are we just looking to reproduce an image of diversity based on empty statistics.”

Anne Denerville – Leadership in Diversity – 2017-2018 Co-President

March 4, 2017

Img of Anne Denerville

This week we sat down with Anne Denerville, LID’s secretary and co-president elect.  Anne, a Junior in Neag’s IBM program, is majoring in Elementary Education. She hopes to work with 3rd or 4th graders when she starts her career. We explored how LID has shaped her experience at UConn, the importance of diversity on campus, and what practices perpetuate the lack of representation in the front of the classroom.

“I transferred to the Storrs campus as a sophomore from the Stamford branch and was looking for an organization that I could call home. Coming from the branch, naively, I thought it would be diverse up here too. I was shocked by the lack of diversity of the students in my program and the lack of representation of teachers of color in the education field. I realized I didn't see myself as a teacher in large part because I never saw anyone who looks like me teaching. After getting over the initial shock, I felt like we needed to do something about it. LID gave me a community to get involved and be proactive. The space that we have with LID gave me confidence coming into the program. It can be intimidating being the only black girl in the cohort, you definitely look around and think ‘where is everyone else at?’ I have the confidence to speak to my professors and speak out in class because of LID. They let me know what to expect and helped me navigate the program as a student of color.”

“I think we need more professors of color at UConn. I think there is definitely a disconnect between students of color and white teachers, they just don’t get it. It’s not their fault, it’s not to say there is anything wrong with them. There are shared lived experiences within communities of color, having professors who look like us could help alleviate some of stress that comes along with being a student of color at an institution like UConn. I don’t know where it starts, but I know that it begins with us. I wish UConn was more diverse. I think we can start that trend in the program. If we have more teachers of color practicing multicultural education we will see a little bit of change and growth.”

“I would definitely feel more comfortable in the program if there was more diversity. I have built that confidence to not feel like I am out of place, but I know everyone isn’t there yet. You don’t see students of color in a lot of classes, I have to prepare myself to be the only black girl. In one of my English courses I was silent for the first couple weeks. I didn't raise my hand or anything because it wasn't a space that I felt comfortable talking in. It didn’t feel like it was a space meant for me. It wasn't until I learned about my professor, specifically about her decision to adopt children from my family's homeland, that I was able to connect with her and feel comfortable in class. You need to be able to believe that the professor has your back. It really helps when you have that comfortability to speak up in academic spaces. I ended up doing better in the class because I did speak.”

“Taking the multicultural class last semester, we learned how desegregation basically wiped out all the teachers of color because they weren't deemed qualified to teach in an integrated school. That history plays a big role in the lack of teachers of color in this country. From there, you have to look at the educational experience of students of color. Black and Latinx students are suspended and punished at a much higher rate. We don’t see ourselves in the books, teachers are constantly reading the same non-multicultural books where their history and experience is ignored. Can you blame those students for not being interested? I can tell you from my experience, when I see myself in the books I enjoy, even love, doing school work. I think that students push away from education and the there isn't any desire to become educators themselves because it doesn't seem like it’s meant for them. I hope that with LID and with the efforts to mobilize more teachers of color we will be able to change this reality. Maybe these efforts will mean more students have a better experience with school, seeing themselves in the books and in the front of the classroom. My hope is that I can inspire at least one student to want to be an educator too.”

Caitlin Barrett – Up2Us Sports Director of Training

February 19, 2017

Caitlin Barret from Up2Us Sports

Caitlin Barrett, Director of Training at Up2Us Sports, came to Storrs to speak on a panel for our Intro to Sport Based Youth Development course. Caitlin has been with Up2Us Sports since 2010, and has watched the organization grow and evolve to address the needs of youth serving sport programs across the nation. We took the opportunity to hear about her work with Up2Us Sports, their approach trauma sensitive coach development, and her experience with AmeriCorps.

“We got our non profit status in 2010, so we are about 7 years old at this point. It started as an opportunity to bring together folks that were doing work that was related to both sport and youth development. Our founder/CEO Paul Caccamo and our CPO Megan Bartlett went on a national listening tour to figure out what people and programs wanted, what they needed. On that tour they heard (1) we need more coaches, (2) they need to be better trained, because only about 10% of youth sport coaches get any sort of training in this country, and (3) there needs to be more opportunities for networking and best practice sharing. Our existence at Up2Us Sports is based on our being helpful to people who are actually serving kids. We have remained clear and committed to the three main themes that we heard, those gaps guide our work to this day. We place coaches through our national service programs, we train coaches, both in our national service program and at external organizations. and we provide a variety of opportunities on the regional and national levels for organizations who are doing this work to interact with each other.”

“We work entirely in underserved communities where young people and families usually have to undergo more than their fair share of trauma and toxic stress. Up2Us Sports has been pushing the envelope when it comes to trauma sensitive coach training, stemming from the understanding that young people are bringing all of their experiences, just as we all do, to programs on a daily basis. Our brains change when we experience things that are really scary and horrible. Day-to-day poverty, exposure to violence, micro-aggressions around racism and homophobia, all of those things have the potential to change the way our brains work. When a young person brings that to a program, their behavior is going to be impacted. At the same time, sport has every single thing going for it that would make it a healing environment. It has this caring adult, which is hugely important; it has a peer support network from the team, which is also core to healing; and it has this bodywork. Sport has this element of body movement which we know is so powerful for healing. For that same reason things like theater and yoga have gotten pushed to the forefront when it comes to holistic healing.”

“When I tell coaches ‘sport can be healing’ I often get ‘nope, not a thing’ in response. I understand that initial reaction: sport is loud, people are yelling at you, it is high stakes. But there are so many ways to reframe those potential challenges. We can look at sport as a practiced high stakes environment. We are creating a controlled environment where the feedback loop is actually very short, if you make a bad pass it’s not the be all, end all, right. But if you make a wrong decision in your life it could be the difference between staying on the right path and, like the stories some of our coaches share, going to jail or being dead. We are helping coaches see themselves as the first line in a mental health care system, in a healing system. Not every kid needs therapy and clinical care; a lot of kids need a program, they need a really strong program with a well trained coach and great teammates.”

“The AmeriCorps City Year program was both the hardest thing I have ever done and the greatest thing I’ve ever done. I feel like I saw the world for the first time, or at least a new version of the world. With AmeriCorps, I got to do a lot of different things as I worked with and for people who were not like me. That experience allowed me to identify things that I really loved and then develop the skills I needed over time with great mentoring and management. But I think the most important aspect was just going to work everyday in a place that wasn't like where I grew up and with people that taught me so many things every single day.”

“At Up2Us Sports, we are operating in a world where sport has the power to be a change agent. I think a lot of people are starting to ask how sport brings people together in a time and a world where sometimes it seems like people are pulling apart. So many of us got into this work through a social justice frame. You can't spend time in communities that have been systematically denied so many opportunities without developing a social justice lens. I think that sport provides so many different outlets and benefits. Even if it is just community. People like sports. People gather for basketball games, they gather to watch soccer in the park, they gather to watch sport on TV. We try to make sure that those opportunities are accessible for young people outside of what they might see on TV. We are thinking about truly under represented populations. Kids who bring physical and intellectual disabilities to the table, girls, period, full stop, young people who are growing up without monetary resources. There are a lot of barriers, we are committed  to breaking down these barriers in partnership with organizations in these communities.”

Isaiah Jacobs – Husky Sport Program Leader

Photo of Isaiah

Originally posted December 2, 2016

This week, Isaiah J. Jacobs, also known as Zay, sat down with us to discuss Husky Sport. Isaiah, a Hartford native and Graduate Assistant working towards a master’s degree in the Sport Management program, has been connected to Husky Sport for more than 10 years. With his wealth of perspective, Isaiah filled us in on the potential impact of Husky Sport, the importance of representation in schools, and why mentorship can be so powerful.

“In 8th grade I started going to the Hartford Catholic Worker, the Green House, where Husky Sport was volunteering. That is where I met people like Dr. McGarry, Justin, and other students with the program. I think often times people feel like the work Husky Sport is doing doesn't have a huge impact on anyone, but I am an example of that impact. The connections I made through Husky Sport have helped me transition from high school to college, then from college to AmeriCorps, and again from AmeriCorps back to grad school. I’m not saying that without them I wouldn't have made it this far, but they were definitely a helping factor to get where I am at. Beyond the support through those transitions, my involvement with Husky Sport allowed me to come back to my community. Having a platform to come home and give back to the community is what i am most proud of. I don't necessarily see myself doing the work that Husky Sport does, career wise, but the space and encouragement to be engaged civically will stick with me."

"Anytime I speak to someone working in the schools, they always say, ‘The boys need the most help. We can handle the girls, they are typically fine, but our boys are really struggling, especially at the middle school age.’ It’s important to provide guidance and be the mentor that I had when I was younger. I have the potential to have a real impact on these young men and their trajectory. That was primarily the reason why I wanted to work with Husky Strength. I am uniquely positioned to have an impact on this specific group of boys. There aren't many Black people working in the school, for one, having people that look like them working in the school is important. I grew up in the same community they are growing up in so I automatically have that connection. Having these things in common creates a foundation where building trust can become more easy. They can open up and talk to me and whether they want to talk about their personal life or just general conversations, we already have that building block to work from. This foundation is most important when they ask questions. Being able to say that I went to college and that I'm not a collegiate athlete, it shows them that throwing a ball isn’t the the only way to make it out. We are able to show them that you can accomplish a lot without ever touching a basketball. They can see someone who looks like them doing something different than what they know, different than what society tells them is possible.”

If you have a moment, check out Isaiah's blog

Mercedes MacAlpine – Husky Sport Program Leader

Photo of Mercedes

Originally posted December 23rd, 2016.

Earlier this week we sat down with Mercedes MacAlpine. Mercedes is a Public Ally serving as a Program Leader for Husky Sport in addition to her role on the SNAP4CT team with Husky Programs. We talked about the opportunity to utilize sport as a vehicle for other ideas, the importance and limitations of relationships, and her experiences doing social justice work.

“Leadership is lacking is because we don't identify what leadership looks like in a broad enough sense. I think the common understanding of leadership is an individual who is charismatic and loud and has all the right words to say. That isn't the case. There are all sorts of people who lead -- Public Allies, ‘everyone leads,’ right -- but what does that look like? I think sport can be a useful vehicle in that sense. For example, on an american football team, the assumption is that the quarterback is the one leading the team, not leaving space for the other integral roles on the field to get their proper respect. People add value and motivate one another in different ways. In a cheerleading sense, the way a traditional stunt is set up, you have two bases, a backspot, and a flyer. Each one is important and there are different body types and strength levels that are important. If there is no flyer, who is going up? If there is no back spot, the stunt is unsafe. Everyone is necessary and everyone has a unique and specific role. If we acknowledge and approach leadership and athletics from that framework, the two have a deeper resonance. It creates the opportunity for sport to serve as a real vehicle of ideas and concepts beyond simple competition. “

“On the most fundamental level, relationships help you develop your humanity. You move beyond a self oriented being into an understanding of a shared existence. I think that affirmation of humanity is important to doing honest social justice work that can be accountable and effective but is also important in just moving through the world. While I believe in the power of building relationships across the boundaries that separate our society, it’s just a start. We need to take the time to understand what honest and sincere relationships look like and how to build them. We need to understand the process of self reflection and criticism. We need to develop an understanding of injustice. I think we are seeing the results of a world where people misattribute injustice willfully in the interest of maintaining their level of power or comfort. We need to make it clear to people what we are fighting against and why. People need to understand how they can be a part of it. So again, expanding leadership. People have a voice as long as they are breathing, the question is to what end we are activating that voice.”

“Amherst uprising was sparked by a student led sit in that transformed into a student occupation of the library and the creation and delivery of demands to the president, the trustees, and the college as an institution. This sparked an internal conversation about social justice on Amherst’s campus which was meant to generate lasting community action for social justice on the part of students, so something that couldn't be co-opted by faculty or administration. The thing that’s frustrating is that people don't understand that it was organic. Yes it was an explicit social justice action, but beyond that, it was a massive expression of human affirmation. I remember sitting in the library sobbing, hearing the depth of people's pain and thinking about things that I and the students before me had gone through, and being so hopeful. We are young people and we are the future. If this can happen here, there is no reason that can't happen everywhere. There's no reason why this small moment can't get bigger. There were six or seven hundred people in that library. If each one of those people goes out into the world with what they experienced, even if they don't become activists, on some level each one of those people changed and have the tools change other people as well. When I think back on that moment and all the people that literally stood up and supported one another because they could, because they wanted to, I am hopeful. I know that can happen again.”

Learn more about Amherst Uprising:

Steve Boyle – National Association of Physical Literacy CEO

February 13, 2017

Image of Steve Boyle NAPL CEO

We sat down with Steve Boyle, the CEO of The National Association of Physical Literacy (NAPL) and Principal/Founder of 2-4-1 Sports. He has a depth of experience in youth development, education, and athletics that helps guide his work with both NAPL and 2-4-1. We spoke about the origins of NAPL, the importance of sport sampling, and BrainErgizers™.  

“Really, this all stemmed from a moment of outrage. When my daughter was 9 years old, my wife and I took her to try out for a soccer team. The coach came to us saying that she was their ‘number one prospect.’ When we told the coach that our daughter had interest in playing lacrosse part of the year, the coach informed us that they were no longer interested in having her on the team. As a 9 year old, she was told she couldn't be on that soccer team if she was interested in another sport. Instead of just shouting from the mountaintops, we decided to do something about it.”

“We wanted to start a movement around the ‘Life’s 2 short 4 just 1 sport’ philosophy. Before we knew it, we were in DC talking to folks about our approach and philosophy around sport sampling. As we engaged in the national conversation around physical literacy, we realized that sport sampling was not enough. If we’re gonna build confidence and desire to be active for life, we have to take a more deliberate approach. We need to be more intentional with training, with creating fun and engaging programing, and with providing the knowledge that kids need in order to continue on and be active for life. Kids need to know how to nourish themselves both physically and mentally. That’s why we have infused both nourishment and mindfulness, that we call T.O.P. Self™, into our approach T.O.P. stands for Thinking on Purpose).. The evolution from 2-4-1 sports and our sports sampling framework to a more holistic approach around physical literacy lead us to create The National Association of Physical Literacy. We are more interested in provision than promotion. We have found that lots of people advocate but no one is out their programing, offering training, offering certification. We understand there needs to be advocacy and promotion so people understand what it is, but we also want folks to understand why and how.”

“There are many kids who only get exposed to one sport and quit when they are young because of a negative experience. Many of those kids never play a sport, or do any form of movement after that because their only exposure to sport was negative. When we introduce physical literacy we are trying to regain control of the word sport. We hope to make sport positive for kids, to create connections to movement, play, and fun. No one should be telling kids ‘I want you to go outside and work on your game.’ ‘I want you to work on your jump shot, work on your dribbling skills, work on your technique.’ We should be telling kids to go outside and play. ‘Have fun today,’ that’s what parents should be saying to kids when they go to practice, nothing else. We have to regain control of how we approach sport and movement with kids. We are looking to create the dialogue and the language around play and fun.”

“We don’t like the term ‘brain breaks.’ We came up with term BrainErgizer™ because we are not giving the brain a break, we are trying to energize the brain. Research tells us that the only thing that builds new brain cells and not new learning is activity, is exercise. We found that too many schools facing budget cuts looked to cut PE first, then recess. This is all part of the race to nowhere with common core and no child left behind. We want to get physical education back into the school. BrainErgizers are not a PE replacement but a tool to supplement and augment where we can. We are deliberate about making sure that every activity is done with both sides of the body. We deliberately cross the midline, which brain research indicates, triggers brain development. When students use these right before tests, exams, or an intro to a new concept they are going to be met with more success. We developed partnerships at UConn after finding that Lindsay DiStefano, the kinesiology department, and the folks at Husky Sport had been doing simultaneous research around this topic.”

If you want to learn more about Steve’s work with BrainErgizers™, look out for a New York Times article being released in the coming weeks.

Justin Evanovich – Husky Sport Managing Director

Managing Director, Justin Evanovich

We sat down with Dr. Justin Evanovich, Husky Sport’s Managing Director, to talk about the motivation behind our recent digital network efforts. In addition to his responsibilities with Husky Sport, Dr. J serves as an assistant clinical professor within Neag's department of educational leadership.

“We are trying to find a way to be a part of the continual learning process. We are not looking to create another echo chamber of likeminded folks but to create a platform where we continue to learn, that work never ends. You have to continue to stay relevant, stay active in your pursuit of awareness. Awareness of self, awareness of identities different than your own and the social realities that affect us all differently. We hope our digital networks, Facebook in particular, can provide opportunities for that continuous learning. If you took the class, or were on staff, or have a connection to Husky Sport, but you don’t have a structured or consistent source for social justice, diversity, multiculturalism, or equity related learning, maybe you come back and check out Husky Sport from time to time and you find some new information or perspectives. We hope that these sources of continuous learning around justice and equity can be applied to their lives, to their friendships, to their jobs and day to day practices.”

“In class, we talk about the percentage of credit we deserve for our accomplishments. People usually start high, because of the belief in the American meritocracy. People think ‘i earned this.’ There is this narrative of personal accountability, of sacrifice and hard work. I ask folks to take into account their whole path, the combination of their family, school, community and the resources that come along with these. All of the elements that support you to the point of independence, the factors that protect you before you know what you’re doing, the factors that provide the foundation for your informed decisions, the resources that lead you down the least resistant path to success. Every single thing we do is learned, all the choices we make, the food we eat, the sports we play, the language we speak, the influence of these supports never stop. If we decide to take credit for our social standing then we are simultaneously assigning blame to those who haven't achieved this same level of success, even those who have not had the same system of supports and safety nets.” 

“Why is this platform important? If you believe in meritocracy then maybe it’s not important to you, but if you are aware that we are part of larger systems and structures, learning is the first step of being responsible members of our society. I look at it from a place of personal accountability, not guilt, that I did not do it all on my own. The process of learning is different for everyone. We come into an experience and see the world through what we have been a part of. Our communities, our schools, our places of worship, our friend circles all inform our perspective, and for many of us, these are segregated. We live in a society where we have low exposure to people who possess different identities, cultures, preferences of food, style of speech, musical preference, so much of what makes your friends your friends. Husky Sport provides avenues to break down these societal silos, we hope providing opportunities for continuous learning creates another resource to challenge the realities of segregation.”