Black Lives Matter: It’s not a political issue, it’s a matter of human rights.

It is time for change. People of color have dealt with oppression for too long. Police brutality, racial profiling, simply being targeted because of the color of their skin. Protests, riots, attempting to promote social justice and nothing is changing. Enough is enough. The NBA, WNBA and MLB boycotted their games Thursday night, August 26th after another instance of police brutality. Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times by a police officer. Athletes took a stand and refused to play games to protest what happened and what has been happening in the world to people of color. In this segment myself and Austin Jones a Rowan University Alumni, talk about the black lives matter movement, what the athletes have been doing to promote social justice and raising the voices of the black community. All lives can’t matter until black lives matter. 

Photography by mariahcorinphotography
Photography by mariahcorinphotography
Photography by mariahcorinphotography

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Back Into The Swing of Things: Interview with Philadelphia Phillies Center Fielder, Roman Quinn.

Hello everybody and welcome back to my blog. It’s been awhile, but i am really excited to get back into the swing of things. This week I conducted an interview with Philadelphia Phillies Center Fielder, Roman Quinn to discuss how different Major League Baseball is due to Covid-19, how the game has changed with new rules to speed it up this season, how baseball is a mental game, and how the team is adjusting to a new head coach, Joe Girardi in the dugout.

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It’s Not a Goodbye, It’s a See You Soon: Farewell Post

I have learned wonderful things throughout this journey. My main goal throughout this blog was to educate the audience on the human side of sports. A lot of the time, people don’t understand how much athletes actually go through outside of the sport because the audience only sees the physical performances. I also wanted viewers to know that sports are a platform for change when it comes to diversity, inclusion and the mental health stigma. There is a lot to be discovered when it comes to those topics and I tried to cover as much as I could during the past four months. Now, the semester is coming to an end and this blog did start out as assignments for class, but I do wish to continue covering this topic. This topic is something I am so passionate about and there is still so much to be educated on when it comes to diversity, inclusion and mental health. 

In the near future, I want to interview different athletes and get their opinions on how mental health or diversity and inclusion has affected them. I would like to go to conferences and get video and audio footage of just how inspirational inclusion, diversity and mental health conferences can be. I want to do a day in the life of a student athlete to show the audience the more personal side of an athlete. I want to do a We Are One Team round table to let the audience understand the campus initiative that Rowan wants to launch. Overall, I want this blog to be an outlet where people can be more than just an athlete and show the human side of themselves. 

Throughout this experience, I did not just learn about diversity, inclusion and mental health in sports, I also learned how to be a creative digital journalist and how to use technology to reach out to an audience through a blog. The Q and A with Dr. Cristina Fink allowed me to understand just how powerful a voice can be to tell a story. The audio allows the audience to hear the emotion in her voice and it allows the piece to be more conversational with also being informative at the same time. The thinglink project was one of my favorite posts because I was really able to have fun with it. I was able to have pictures, videos, audio and writing all in one post. I felt the visuals gave more of a story behind the words and allowed the viewers to have an exact picture of what they were reading.

In my opinion, my five best posts that I have written are Sports For Change: Final Project with Diversity an Inclusion Advocate, Dr. Yannick Kluch, The Trials and Tribulations of Being a Women of Color in Sports: Audio Profile with Renee Washington, There’s no place like home! Esby Gymnasium, home of the Rowan University Profs feels like a home to these student athletes, Q&A with a highly experienced Sports Psychologist: Dr. Cristina Fink, and the Mental Health Stigma in Sports. I have have been super tedious with each post but these ones stuck out to me because the topics were extremely specific and I felt I received and gave the best information from each interview and online source.

I want to thank my audience for being apart of this journey and all of the interviewees that participated as a guest in my blog. The time is now to strive for change with diversity, inclusion and mental health in sports. I am excited to continue this blog and I hope you all are looking forward for what’s to come. This might be a farewell to Digital Journalism 1 and I am grateful for all I have learned in this class, but my blog will remain and continue to educate people about the human side of sports. Athletes are human too!

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Sports for Change: Final Project with Diversity and Inclusion Advocate, Dr. Yannick Kluch.

Dr. Yannick Kluch, 30 year old diversity and inclusion in sport advocate. Assistant professor at Rowan University as well as the Lead Consultant of Social Impact for Rowan’s Center of Sports Communication and Social Impact. (Photo/Yannick Kluch)

Sports are more than just a game. Sports are a platform for change. There are many people who want to make a difference when it comes to how athletes are seen in the public eye. Athletes are human and sometimes they are not seen that way. Follow along to see how a diversity and inclusion advocate, who grew up in Germany and came over to the United States for graduate school, wants to make a difference.  Dr. Yannick Kluch, an assistant professor for sports communication and media at Rowan University, also is the Lead Faculty Consultant on Social Impact for Rowan’s Center for Sports Communication & Social Impact. Dr. Kluch has always been passionate about bringing people together and interested in learning about people with different backgrounds, but it was not until he moved to Bowling Green, Ohio, where he realized how big of an impact he could make. He got his master’s and doctorate degree from Bowling Green State University. His master’s degree was focused on social justice, cultural studies, and issues related to diversity and inclusion. Shortly after arriving in the U.S., Dr. Kluch noticed how big sports were on the Division 1 Bowling Green campus. He immediately fell in love with the sports culture in the small Northwest Ohio town, partly because growing up in Germany high schools and colleges rarely offer competitive sports as part of their extra-curricular activities.  After about two years of embracing how big sports are on American college campuses, he decided to tie his passion for sports and passion for diversity and inclusion to strive for change.

Bowling Green was a very transformative experience for Dr. Kluch. He grew up in Germany and knew he wanted to do his master’s degree abroad, looked at programs all over the country, and eventually decided Bowling Green State University was the best fit for him. Dr. Kluch says that studying at Bowling Green led to “some of the best years of his life” –  it was here where he was able to find his passion and purpose. At the University, Dr. Kluch saw how big sports were and wanted to use the power of sport to strengthen the sense of community and promote diversity and inclusion on campus, which is where the idea for the We Are One Team (WA1T) initiative was born. We Are One Team is a campus-wide initiative that uses the power of sport on campus to promote diversity, inclusion, and social justice. Dr. Kluch said “it started as a passion project on the side when I was getting my doctorate to keep me sane, but it kind of took off and the athletics department was very responsive, the community was excited about it, and it caught a lot of attention from a lot of people across the country.” Perhaps most importantly, the first-of-its-kind initiative caught the attention of the NCAA national office and ended up winning the 2017 NCAA Award for Diversity and Inclusion, which is the biggest award offered by the NCAA for Diversity and Inclusion. That award allowed the work that Dr. Kluch and his friends were working on to be seen on a national platform. Winning the award made Dr. Kluch realize that doing diversity and inclusion work can be a career in sport. Given that he saw a need for more sports organizations to do effective diversity and inclusion work, Dr. Kluch accredits the start of We Are One Team as the launching pad of his career.

It was not surprising, then, that the launching of We Are One Team, and the national success that came with it, led Dr. Kluch to his position after graduation. After he completed his doctorate he was offered a position in the highly competitive NCAA postgraduate internship program, a premier internship program at the NCAA National Office that annually accepts roughly 30 interns out of over 3000 applicants. Dr. Kluch was offered the only inclusion position in the program, so he spent a year working in the Office of Inclusion at the National Office in Indianapolis, where he was able to take the lead on multiple national diversity and inclusion initiatives, most notably the inaugural NCAA Diversity and Inclusion Social Media Campaign that reached over 68 million people on Twitter alone. His work at the NCAA ultimately led him to his current position at Rowan University, where he serves as an assistant professor in the Sports Communication and Media (Sports CaM) program, drives strategic inclusion initiatives in the university’s athletics department, and co-leads Rowan’s Center for Sports Communication & Social Impact as the lead faculty consultant on social impact.

Listen below to hear about how Dr. Yannick Kluch talks about how being a student-athlete is just one part of their identity and that the topics of diversity, inclusion, and mental health in sport need to be addressed more.

The campus wide initiative We Are One Team is set to launch at Rowan University in fall of 2020. Dr. Yannick Kluch and his student leaders have been working hard to prepare for the launch. Student leaders include: Thomas Cardona, Kayla Santiago (myself), Austin Jones, Alexandria Brooks and Rebecca Sulzbach.

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The Trials and Tribulations of Being a Women of Color in Sports. Audio Profile with Renee Washington.

Pictured here is Renee Washington, a reporter and anchor for Fox Sports and ESPN. (Photo/Renee Washington.)

For this weeks post I got to interview Renee Washington, a 27 year old from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. She currently works as an anchor and reporter for Fox Sports and ESPN. She is also a former All-American soccer player at La Salle University. Renee Washington has been in the sports world for a very long time whether it was competing, being a coach or having a career as a sports broadcaster. Being not only a women, but a women of color can be a difficult task in the sports industry. Washington talks about the experiences she has faced being a minority in sport and how she uses it as motivation in her career and her livelihood.

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Turn your passion into a profession. Cristin Kastner Farney, creator of Rowan Blog.

Cristin Kastner Farney, creator of Rowan Blog . (Photo/Cristin Kastner Farnery.)

Are you familiar with Rowan Blog? If you’re not, read on to get a glimpse of what Rowan Blog has to offer. I was able to talk with the creator, Cristin Kastner Farney this past week. She is 41 years old and is a new resident of Glassboro, New Jersey. She originally grew up in North Jersey and came to Glassboro for a job opportunity at Rowan. Cristin has always loved to write. She started out as a content person. She wrote a lot of web copy for marketing or regular websites at Rowan University. Cristin never even read a blog, but once she found out she could lead a team of storytellers it all came together.

The Rowan Blog is by students for students at Rowan University. “I work hard to create a positive and inclusive type of team of student workers. I make sure that I draw from different majors, different ethnicities, different genders and different grades.” Said Cristin. The blog is fairly new and has only been running for the past three years. She wanted to start this blog because she is a storyteller and this blog allows her to follow her passion and do something she loves.

The Rowan Blog covers different majors, things to do within New Jersey, athletics and much more. Since my blog focuses on the human side of sports, I asked Cristin on what sports stories she likes to focus on the most. “We try to focus on the human side of things. We understand we’re not athletics, we won’t cover stats or play by play but we look for the overall student athlete story and we are looking for stories that can showcase what our students are doing so incoming freshmen or transfers have an idea what goes on and can picture themselves doing it too.  We are looking for relatability.” Watching a sports game is entertainment, but Rowan Blog allows people to see athletes as a person and show their authenticity. Sports are more than just a game.

With digital media being so prominent in today’s generation, the visual aspect draws a viewer’s attention. Blogs don’t only include writing, they also include videos, audio and photography. Rowan blog incorporates a little bit of everything, but Cristin says there are some challenges when they want to include video.

“Sometimes it’s tough to get video when we are on a tight deadline. Video takes a while so sometimes we have to sit down and really think about which stories can be told with video and which stories need video to get the concept across.” 

Cristin gave the example of the 20 minute radius part of the blog. This part of the blog is essential for video due to the content of showing the viewers activities to do in the South Jersey area. 

The blog has been successful for the three years it has been running, but it did take a bit of a toll during the coronavirus pandemic. “We are not able to get any photography. What we did the very last day campus was open we went around campus to take pictures of people, got their age name and phone number and then got their story later. Everybody has a story so we’re hoping now they’ll get back to us.” 

Cristin Kastner Farney gives a piece of advice for people interested in entering the digital journalism field. “Obviously writing is important but sometimes there is an emphasis on writing to an inclusion on photography. It is beneficial to me when students know how to take good photos or when they are open to improving their photography skills.” 

It was a pleasure to talk to Cristin and I hope to work with her in the future on what sports stories can be featured in the Rowan Blog. “Everyone has a story to tell and Rowan Blog’s job is to shine light on the human side of a story.” Make sure to keep up with Rowan Blog to keep you updated on what’s going on with Rowan students during the coronavirus pandemic.      

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There’s no place like home! Esby Gymnasium, home of the Rowan University Profs feels like a home to these student athletes.

On Wednesday, March 11, I went to Esby Gymnasium at Rowan University. Esby short for Esbjornson is the home of the women and men’s basketball team. Although both teams are in the off season, the women’s basketball team is coming off a remarkable year. Demetrius Poles first year head coach, a team with no seniors became NJAC Champions for the first time in twenty years. This team also went to the second round of the NCAA Championship Tournament.

On March 11, there wasn’t any practices going on, but Esby Gymnasium is the home of the Profs and where Rowan won the NJAC Championship. I thought it would be interesting to capture where this team had a remarkable season and some athletes that were in the gym that evening. Ayanna Johnson and Jazlyn Duverglas, sophomores on the team give an insight on why Esby feels like home and why sports bring people together. Down below you can explore Esby Gymnasium and some of the athletes that practice and play on this court.

I hope my photos, videos and interviews gave you a sense on how Esby feels like home for these athletes and how much work they put into the game. There’s nothing like playing at home in front of Rowan faithful and practicing in Esby every day.

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Q&A with a highly experienced Sports Psychologist: Dr. Cristina Fink

Dr. Cristina Fink, Sports Psychologist. Photo by Cristina Fink.

Cristina Fink, PhD, is a highly experienced sport psychologist with over 25 years of experience in teaching, counseling and sport administration. Counseling clients include Olympic Medalists and World Champions as well as professional and national soccer teams. She was the Sport Psychologist for several teams in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games. She competed in two Olympic Games (Seoul 1988 and Barcelona 1992) and held the Mexican High Jump Record with a 6’4” (1.94) jump for 22 years. 

Cristina is the author of a number of published papers and books, and a keynote speaker in many national and international conferences. She is the Director of Performance Psychology for C Fink Consulting. She works with INFP (International Network of Football Psychologists) where her peer group includes sport psychologists from top professional European clubs. She is in charge of Performance Psychology for the Football Science Institute FSI.

Read on to hear about Dr. Fink’s experiences as a sports psychologist and how she feels that this generation is continuing the up rise of normalizing mental health.  Get a closer look on why mental health is so important and needs to be prioritized through everyday life. Athletes emotions humanize them, and more and more high caliber players are coming out to talk about what is going on in their mind.

What is your main focus as a sports psychologist?  

I work mainly with coaches and athletes on how to perform at their best.  I work with mindfulness and get people to be aware of what works for them and what doesn’t so that they can be ready to perform when they need to be.  I work mostly with performance orientated situations and being aware of the mental health aspect of it. Athletes now are more willing to talk about mental health. Making sure you’re taking care of the whole person is important and is something I have been doing for the last 30 years.  

Listen to Dr. Fink talk about the key to athletes performing well.

What are some sports that you have worked with throughout your career?

I worked mostly with soccer.  I was an Olympic athlete and competed in two Olympic games in the high jump in track and field. After that I went to three Olympic games with different sports: swimming, modern pentathlon, diving, synchronized swimming, now working with lacrosse basketball and soccer.  It’s a very interesting view to see the differences between the individual sport and team sport. I worked with weight lifting for example. The difference in weight lifting and then a team sport like basketball, volleyball or soccer is fascinating to see the differences that you have from the athlete being able to make decisions to having to wait for the coach to see if he’ll play you or not, to see if you’ll be a starter or not just to understand all of those differences is quite interesting.

Do you think that mental health differs from sport, or does it depend on the individual? 

I think it’s the person.   I don’t think that mental health is about the sport it is about the individual. There are quite a number of examples of basketball and soccer players talking about mental health just as well as you have Micheal Phelps talking about mental health. I don’t think that mental health is about the sport it is about the individual.  It doesn’t matter where you are at you can have mental health issues no matter what sport you are in.

Do you believe that people are more comfortable talking about mental health because athletes such as Kevin Love and Michael Phelps talked about their struggles on such a big platform? 

 That has definitely helped.  I also think that the younger generations are more willing to talk about mindfulness rather than mental toughness.  It’s not about being mentally tough it’s about being mindful about what you need. In that you can see that you can perform at a very high level while suffering depression or having an anxiety or a panic attack.  Being aware of these things doesn’t mean that you can’t perform, it just means that you can get the help that you need to deal with these things.

Do you think athletes need mental health checkups? 

 I think you do need that.  I went to University of Arizona because Bob Myers, the high jump coach for the United States was at that University.  The first month I got there I got injured and I was out for two months and I was miserable and I didn’t like where I was. The fact that the coach was very involved when I was injured played a very big role in me feeling okay.

Click below to hear how important it is to let people know that they are more than just an athlete. 

Tell me a story when you were struggling with mental health or dealt with an athlete that has struggled with mental health and how did you deal with it from your job standpoint?

 There’s been several instances where I have dealt with athletes that are struggling. I worked with an athlete who was depressed and could function very well in the sports arena, but then outside of training and competing had suicidal thoughts. I worked with a clinical psychologist making sure this person had the attention that they needed. I worked with another athlete who suffered from panic attacks and had panic attacks before games and just feeling like they weren’t able to do it.  We talked about coping strategies when it’s happening. So when you recognize it and what gets you there I teach athletes to figure out what are the triggers that get you to that point and valuing is it just something that just happens in sports or is it something that across the board. I figure out what is it that we need to do here and again working with a clinical psychologist and a psychiatrist with this athlete to make sure that this athlete has the attention they need. 

Sometimes fans see athletes not as humans, do you think that is why there is such a big mental health stigma?

 The fact that people are being more and more open about it is helpful.  I really enjoy the fact that you now have the players tribune where athletes are writing about their experiences and they are being very open about how they feel and that they have a space now to do that.

Listen to Dr. Fink as she talks about how professional athletes are normal human beings, that are capable of great things. 

Do you need to be mentally okay to perform physically well? 

One of the things that I have noticed particularly in the high performance when you are talking about Olympics or the World Cup, you find athletes that can compartmentalize really well. I worked with a Mexican soccer player that lost his dad right before the World Cup and came back to be part of the funeral and then went back to the World Cup and was able to perform at a very high level, but then would be pretty vulnerable after games.  So in between making sure that they have the support they need or the space that they need. Athletes can perform at a very high level even when they’re having a mental health issue just like they can perform at a really high level even if they have asthma. They learn to cope with it and then they are able to perform at a certain level because they learn to compartmentalize and learn to pay attention to the moment.

After Kobe Bryant died, we saw a lot of players playing that same day people who were close to him crying on the sideline.  Do you think that was a good move by the organization to make those players play due to being not in the right place mentally?

I’m not really in a position to judge how the organization went about playing or not playing athletes after the death of Kobe Bryant. It took a toll on not only the athletes, but coaches, front office personnel, close friends and family. It was a worldwide hit that struck the entire nation, but I do know that the NBA took precaution to be there for the athletes emotionally during the games the day of Kobe’s death.

Listen to Dr. Fink talk about how the NBA had assistance on the sideline after the death of Kobe Bryant.

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The Mental Health Stigma in Sports

Mental health in sports has been a stigma since the beginning of time.  Athletes are told to be mentally tough and are seen as weak if they show any emotion.  Ten to fifteen percent of athletes experience psychological issues severe enough to warrant counseling. 

Why does mental health matter?  A lot of the time athletes have physical checkups, but not mental health checkups.  There are always conversations about an athlete if they have a sprained ankle or have a season ending injury, but the mental health portion of a human being is not taken as seriously. Kevin Love, an NBA player for the Cleveland Cavaliers struggles with mental health. People may assume that professional athletes have it all; they get paid millions, are on national television and are playing at the most elite level.  On the surface, a lot of people may think what is there to complain about? But there are a lot of underlying layers that people do not realize.

College athletes have a lot on their plate.  They have a full course load, while having to stay on top of their games and practices.  It is a lot to ask from students that are 18 to 22 years old, but somehow they are able to maintain it.  College athletes may not have as much public exposure as NBA athletes, but that does not make it any easier.  No one is immune to mental health, and college athletes have taken a stand to help end the stigma that surrounds sports. These athletes are letting people know that they struggle and explaining that it is okay to not be okay.

Mental health is a new topic talked about, especially in sports.  The beauty about it is that more athletes are stepping up and talking about their struggles, instead of being ashamed of what they are going through.  Talking about your personal struggles can be hard for anyone, but athletes who have a bigger platform feel that talking about their struggles may open up the doors for people struggling with mental health.   

Athletics need to have more psychologists on the sideline to help.  In my opinion, every team, no matter what level, needs to have a sports psychologist on the sideline.  The NCAA verified different steps to make mental health matter and implement it into their sports programs.  

Mental health is a confusing topic and needs to be talked about more.  Athletes are only able to perform at their best physically if their mental health is in check.  Athletes around the world, at the collegiate and professional level have attempted to break the stigma by talking about their struggles throughout their life and athletics.  It’s important to know as an athlete that it’s okay to not be okay and it is key to prioritize your mental health as much as your physical health. Follow me on Twitter as I will post all of my blog feed on my account.

Your mental health should be
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The Human Side of Sports

Hello everyone!  My name is Kayla Santiago and I am 19 years old.  I am a sophomore double majoring in Sports Communication and Media, and Journalism, with a minor in Psychology of Sport and Exercise.

I grew up in a sports household.  The Phillies, Sixers and Eagles were always on the television and I was able to root for them from a young age. Being a die hard fan of Philadelphia is in my blood, but I am more than just a sports fan.  I have the biggest passion for sports and I realized during my junior year of high school that I wanted to make a career out of it. I got lucky that Rowan had the perfect program for me. My freshman year of college, Rowan announced they were having a new Sports Communications and Media major in fall of 2018.  I realized that was the perfect fit for my career goals. I aspire to be a sports commentator with a focus in play by play or color commentating and sideline reporting. I also love the human aspect of sports. A lot of sports fans see sports players as athletes and not humans. I want to help change that stigma and show people that athletes are human too.  

I am currently in Digital Journalism 1  and my assignment was to pick a beat to cover for the semester.  My professor said to choose a topic that I was passionate about and for me that was simple.  I could write a blog about how much I love sports, but I wanted to dig deeper. My blog will be about Rowan Sports, but it won’t just be game stories, it will focus on the humanity in sports.  Over the course of the next few months my blog will show people the human side of sports by focusing on mental health, diversity and inclusion in sport, the balance of being a student and an athlete, and why sports are more than just a game.  I would plan to interview a sports psychologist to see how important mental health is to perform physically well. I would also interview athletes to see what made them start to play the sport and how it affects their lives during the game and outside of the game.  I also plan to follow a student athlete to see how they balance sports, school, family and a social life. The kinds of places I would hope to photograph are the baseball, softball and football fields along with the basketball court. My plan is to get warm up shots of athletes and photographs of them with a symbol that explains their personality outside of sports.  Some of the events that I want to attend in the next month are Rowan Sports games, Rowan athletes volunteering and conferences that reference diversity and inclusion in sport. This topic is important to me because the stigma in sports is that athletes are not seen as human. A lot of people don’t see athletes as humans, but they have feelings and a life outside of sports as well.  I look forward to covering this topic and I hope you all are looking forward to learning about a different side of sports. Follow me on Twitter as I will post my blog posts on my twitter account.

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