Team USA reflects the diversity of the country we represent. At the USOPC, we place great emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). It’s through DE&I that we build and sustain a successful team, on and off the field of play, and with it, a more equitable world overall.
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“ As a leader in sport, we are culture influencers and creators. The influence we have is important. We must ensure people are dreaming big and thinking bigger, encouraging them to reach out to everyone who wants to play. You can't have a sustainable future without being inclusive. ”
Nitra Rucker, Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Talent
Stemming from our work in 2021, 2022 saw a continued improvement in representation and of our diverse hiring slates. As the steward of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic movements, the USOPC recognizes that our success depends on achieving increased diversity and ensuring the inclusion of all Americans.
Our DE&I Scorecards help National Governing bodies (NGBs) and the USOPC identify opportunities to become more diverse and inclusive as it relates to athletes, coaches, staff, board of directors and membership. You can view the scorecards here.
Over the past year, we continued our work with the Council on Racial and Social Justice, which was created to provide pathways for dialogue and to advocate for action that will make meaningful strides in racial and social justice. We created a database to catalog related requests, which helps us respond in a timely manner – integrating the requests with our goals. This database helps fuel our DE&I action plan, with strategic goals encompassing our priority buckets.
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We also expanded our external reach to support athletes on racial and social justice work, connecting as a resource and expanding education, including through StandUp for JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion), a workshop series that takes participants through the journey of self-awareness, self-regulation, intentional action and impact, helping them to be their best selves.
Weightlifting is a sport where women have continued to show record performances on the field of play – and yet there are very few women coaches to guide these athletes, especially at the Olympic and Paralympic level.
Looking to build a pipeline so that these athletes could see themselves in their coaches, USA Weightlifting evolved their Coach Education Community Scholarship Program to encompass both BIPOC and women. Through the program, qualified BIPOC and female coaches are provided scholarships that cover the tuition cost of the certification, as well as one year of a USA Weightlifting coaching membership.
In 2022 alone, the team saw 27 women, including six BIPOC women, approved, helping to ensure the advancement of women in sports.
ENGAGING WITH NATIONAL GOVERNING BODIES
Our NGB partners are crucial for communicating DE&I information and expectations and addressing racial and justice issues. Underscoring the importance we place on our partnerships, we hired a full-time DE&I team member to manage our work with NGBs.
Based on NGB feedback, we expanded our educational offerings to their teams, including group classes on anti-discrimination and on mental health for DE&I practitioners. We had more than 30 meetings with NGBs in 2022, focusing on their 2021-2024 action plans and progress to date. Many NGBs showcased their work to ensure diverse representation among coaches, as well as intentional programs to promote and provide access to sport, among other initiatives.
In 2022, the USOPC announced two winners for our DE&I Choice Award – an award presented to the NGBs with the most impactful DE&I initiatives, as voted on by their NGB peers – across two categories to make the award more equitable regardless of NGB size and budget.
US Rowing: STEM to Stern
STEM to Stern (STS) is focused on making rowing more inclusive and competitive and eliminating barriers to entry in rowing for youth from underserved communities. The program saw a 50% increase of STS programs from 2021, providing an opportunity for students from under-resourced backgrounds to plug into high-quality rowing programs and engage in the life-changing experience of sport.
USA Water Ski & Wake Sports: Get on the Water, Learn to Ski
Get on the Water, Learn to Ski was developed through a partnership with Sports 4 Life, ESPNW, the Women’s Sports Foundation and two regional clubs to increase sport participation by introducing water skiing to African American and Hispanic girls ages 10 to 16. In 2022, 32 young women joined the program and were up on two skis within two weeks.
Transgender Athlete Participation in Sport
In 2022, the USOPC brought together a task force to discuss gender equity. As an organization, the USOPC is dedicated to empowering Team USA athletes to achieve sustained competitive excellence and well-being. In line with that mission, the USOPC is equally committed to ensuring fairness in sport at all levels. We believe that commitment should be a priority for all who believe in the unifying power of sport.
When considering participation in sport, we rely on fairness as our guiding principle. It is not fair if athletes cannot participate or compete in sport because of their gender identity – participation in sport should be available to everyone. Similarly, it is not fair if an athlete must face unreasonable field of play safety risks or a much-reduced chance for success in competitive sport due to sex-linked physiology – ensuring fairness in sport should be a priority for everyone.
We are mindful that the current sport landscape may leave currently competing athletes feeling uncertain regarding potential shifts in their eligibility status. As policies are reviewed and at times modified, athletes may face difficult adjustments or transitions in competitive categories or opportunities. The USOPC will work with athletes and National Governing Bodies to help make these as seamless as possible, to ensure all athletes may train and compete to the best of their ability. You can read the full position here.