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The 80/20 Endurance Foundation, cofounded by author, coach, and PodiumRunner contributor Matt Fitzgerald, announced this week the launch of its Coaches of Color Initiative — a program aiming to enhance diversity in endurance sports through awarding apprenticeship grants to persons of color who aspire to become endurance coaches.
A recent national survey conducted by the Road Runners Club of America found that less than 15 percent of endurance coaches identified as persons of color. This initiative is an attempt to foster substantial support and opportunities for people of color to succeed within the space of endurance coaching, with the goal of developing more athletes of color — given that a coach that understands the experiences and unique barriers faced by an athlete of color is better equipped to nurture that individual’s long-term development.
“We strongly believe that diversity enriches the athletic experience for everyone, and we are deeply committed to making the endurance community more representative of the broader population,” said Coaches of Color Initiative co-director Bertrand Newson in a press release.
The first grant will be awarded through a selection process hosted on the 80/20 Endurance Foundation website. There, candidates can complete a brief application and submit a personal statement in either written or video format. The application window is from Oct. 21 to Nov. 18, 2021. A winner will be named on Dec. 1.
To qualify, a prospective applicant must identify as a person of color/racial minority and have an established interest in pursuing a career as an endurance coach. Grant recipients are selected by the 80/20 Endurance Foundation Officers and Advisory Board based on an assessment of an application form and a written and/or video personal statement. The advisory board includes RaceMob founder Kevin Chang; running coach, podcaster, and online influencer India Cook; and Ball State University Women’s Cross Country and Track Coach Angelina Ramos.
The heart of the initiative is a one-year apprenticeship program during which the grant recipient will receive a monthly stipend of $1,000 and will undergo an “apprenticeship experience” under 80/20 Endurance — a company that provides online training resources to endurance athletes. According to a press release from the company, the program will include training and certification as an 80/20 Endurance coach, one-on-one mentoring sessions with experienced coaches of color, and opportunities to design training content.
In a recent blog post, Fitzgerald outlines why he’s personally invested in making endurance coaching more diverse and inclusive, and why we all should be.
“Students are more likely to excel under teachers they can relate to culturally, soldiers are more likely to reup and rise up the ranks when they can relate to their commanding officer culturally, and yes, athletes tend to improve more when they share a cultural connection with their coach,” writes Fitzgerlad. “Not only that, but athletes are more likely to choose a particular sport in the first place if they see people who look and talk like them participating in and coaching that sport.”
Thus, if we’re really serious about making the sport of distance running and other endurance sports more diverse, we better get serious about making coaching more diverse too.
“We’re talking about real human beings here, not some bandwagon PR move,” Fitzgerald notes. “It won’t be long before a person with a name and a face and a voice is awarded the first apprenticeship grant, and you will get to watch this person grow and flourish within the program. Then a second real person will get the same opportunity, and so on.”
The Coaches of Color Initiative is funded by 80/20 Endurance, which donates 1 percent of its gross monthly revenues to its philanthropic arm the 80/20 Endurance Foundation. Individuals can also make donations to the Coaches of Color Initiative here.