RISE program showed players they had shared experiences

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Cydney Tate, a Southfield High School for the Arts and Technology tennis player, speaks June 1, 2017, at the RISE Leadership Program spring season culmination event at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit.

July 19, 2017

By Bryan Matecun

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – Student-athletes at Southfield High School for the Arts and Technology opened up to each other and bonded over common experiences during RISE’s 10-week leadership program.

“I was surprised by how engaged they were once they got comfortable,” said Gary Winston, assistant athletic director. “Initially they were apprehensive, with the same people raising their hands all the time. After challenging others to contribute to the discussions, the kids became more expressive.”

Jamie Glinz, varsity softball head coach, said the program taught the student-athletes how to deal with encounters of racism and avoid conflict.

“We’re a predominately black school, and I coach young women,” he said. “The different forms of racism and sexism are relevant to their everyday lives.”

Cydney Tate, a rising junior, went through the program during the spring 2017 season. She said the racism that was discussed throughout the program was relevant to her experiences as an African-American tennis player.

“Sometimes players and even parents will make racist comments or say things that are completely out of line,” Tate said. “Many people don’t think I belong in tennis because of my race. It can really hurt your feelings.”

Tate said the program addressed these kinds of encounters and gave her a better sense of how to address them.

“It helped my teammates and I realize how to handle situations where we may be discriminated against,” she said. “It also taught us not to discriminate against other people.”

The program addressed topics such as race and identity through different modules and activities.

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Jamie Glinz

“I liked the activities that required the students to work together as a team,” Glinz said. “Getting on the same page with someone who you’re working together with is important.”

Among those activities was the “trading places” module, which Winston said stood out most. This activity consisted of three rounds and required participants to rank eight individuals in order of who they wanted to be most using limited information. The participants received more information about each individual at the beginning of each round. The goal was to demonstrate how we make profound decisions about people based off limited information.

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Gary Winston

“I remember there was a lot of dialogue with that module, with the students deciding who they wanted to be in each situation,” Winston said. “Just because you see the outside of someone doesn’t mean you know a person.”

Glinz said he learned a lot about his players’ lives outside of softball thanks to the program.

“I was surprised they already encountered those different forms of racism and sexism,” he said. “A lot of them were saying, ‘Oh, I’ve dealt with this before’ when we discussed examples of racism.”

Some of the best discussions, Glinz said, grew out of understanding those shared experiences.

“When one student had gone through something, we discovered that other people had usually gone through it as well once they had the chance to talk about it,” he said. “They got to know and understand each other better.”

The players bonded off the field, leading to better teamwork on the field.

“I think any kind of activities outside of practices and games that teammates do together will help them on the court or field,” Winston said. “The weeks of working with RISE let them learn something new about their teammates by having conversations they normally wouldn’t have.”

Added Tate: “I realized we were a lot closer after the program because we were able to share opinions and experiences that we had gone through. We went through it together and got to understand everyone’s point of view.”

For the spring 2017 season, this led up to the program’s culmination event at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit.

The event included activities, discussion, museum tours and lunch to celebrate the students’ completion of the program. Student-athletes from Southfield A&T were joined by student-athletes from three other Michigan high schools in the RISE leadership program.

“Their progress really showed when they went to the culmination event,” Winston said of his players. “There were people from different schools, cultures and backgrounds, and that allowed the students to use what they learned before with teammates in interacting with students from other schools.”

Glinz was proud of how much the student-athletes learned and hopes they continue to show progress beyond the program.

“I think it’s great for the kids because racism is unfortunately going to continue to exist in the world,” Glinz said. “If they can learn how to deal with it now, it will help them now and in the future.” Winston said sports provide a great venue for talking about social issues.

“If you talk about controversial topics in an office setting or casual conversation, sometimes people say things that are offensive or misunderstood,” he said. “We didn’t run into these issues with RISE. It gave everyone involved a chance to get educated.”

Tate agreed and stressed that some of the best life lessons can come from sports.

“Not only did it teach us how to deal with issues in sports, but also in real life, too,” she said. “The things you learn in sports you can apply to life.”

Bryan Matecun is a summer 2017 intern for communications and marketing in RISE’s Midwest office in Detroit.