One thing that super annoys me when it comes to black athletes in the Olympics there always seems to be some backstory about them overcoming the tragic circumstance of poverty or whatever to get there. Drug addict parents, adoption, sent to live with the white family. This annoys me because it feels like a backhanded jab to discredit their right to be there. While it may play out in the media as an inspirational story that follows the American narrative of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps. However, to me, it displays argument for access to resources, access to resources levels the playing field.
Privilege: The Costs to be an Elite Athlete
First to be an elite world athlete is a privilege. The barriers to entry are high especially the more exclusive the sport. So you kid wants to join the neighborhood soccer team, $150 plus gear. The time commitment is minimal a few practices during the week followed by a Saturday game. Go up a level, the local travel soccer team that give you kid more access to better players and coaches, as well as an opportunity to travel to different places. Well, your kid has to try out for that team, but the price goes up, let’s say it’s $300, plus the gear and cost to travel. It takes more time, there are more practices and games. Soccer is a pretty basic sport. But let jump to a more exclusive sport like hockey. $350 membership signup fee, plus the cost of membership to the hockey association $40. In addition to that the cost of the hockey gear and skates. What about Gymnastic you are looking at a monthly Gym membership that cost between $150-300. Plus the cost of trainers. Entry fees for competitions are $30-100. Leotards and other gear, the cost of travel. The time commitments, Cost quickly add up. Fencing, there is the gym membership fee, plus fees for lessons. The gear is very expensive; the mask alone is like 300 dollars.
Access: The Availability of Elite Sport to People of Color
Anyway, I went through the cost to make this point, participating in sports is expensive. Especially on elite teams in exclusive sports. To be a person of color on one of those teams is a rare occurrence. Many people of color just do not have the finances to be able to pay for it without help. Also, many people of color do not have access to these types of sports. When was the last time you saw a fencing gym or an ice skating rink in the hood? There is barely a regular gym in the hood outside of the YMCA. Having the financial capital to participate is a major barrier, but then also the time commitment. Often in families of color, the parent is working class and has little time to travel with their child to all of the sporting events. This is even more difficult for families headed by single parents.
Excellence: When the Playing Field is Leveled
So in the Olympics, we see the outliers, the athletes of color who had such undeniable talent that they were able to obtain the resources to compete at an elite level. This is where Talent, Work Ethic and resources meet. When people of color are given adequate resources to develop their talents, excellence ensures. Pure magic. This flies in the face of the notion that black people are lazy and do not work hard. This isn’t only true for just black people. When anyone is given the resources and opportunity to engage and develop their talents, it can only produce excellence. People will rise to the challenge and exceed expectation. Why because they are engaging their God-given talent, they have the resources to develop the talent, they have the confidence to boldly use those talents. As they get better and are validated their confidence grows. I not surprised by these athletes successes, I expect it because I know what they are capable of, but people of color have to always prove their value to the world. Over and over again we show the resilience of a people, who can overcome adversity and uneven playing fields to excel. So it is not that OMG they have made it here and excelled despite their circumstances. It is that they have excelled and made it because of hard work, and dedication period. Because access to resources should be a human right, not be based on privilege and socio-economic status. If everyone had access to adequate resources that they could use to develop their individual talents, more people would be able to achieve true personal excellence and success.