The IX: Hockey Friday with Erica L. Ayala, June 5, 2020

What will you do? - Interview with Saroya Tinker - Black Lives Matter links in WoHo

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What will you do?

On Instagram, I posted five steps for people wanting to do something in the wake of yet another killing of a Black man at the hands of law enforcement. The first step is really simple:

  1. Say, “Black Lives Matter”

    That’s it! Say/write Black Lives Matter. If you are sickened by what is happening now, start by affirming Black lives.

    Note: If you are having trouble with this, please find Black allies that look and/or identify like you to explain step one.

  2. Gather your team

    To begin a quest for a championship or even to land your dream job, you need a team. These are people who will either compete alongside you or help you prepare for your solo quest. Pick people with different skills than you, people who will challenge you and uplift you. This is also where you do the necessary learning required.

  3. Sharpen the saw, get to work

    With your team by your side: begin reading, host conversations, challenge your elected officials. Consider making impact in direct service (donations, volunteering), education (sharing resources) and eventually direct action, as described below by the chart from the Midwest Academy.

    I have another IG live video discussing this and other things.

  4. Claim victory!

    I am of the belief that we don’t know what ultimate victory will be, but set a goal for yourself, or your favorite hockey team.

    Continue to push forward until you claim your sort-term, intermediate or long-term victory.

  5. Repeat

    We need lots of wins before we even begin to break down systemic racism. So, take a breath, take a break, and start all over again.

When we fail to do this, hockey losses. Society losses. We all lose! But, don’t take my word for it. Read Yale alumna and Metropolitan Riveters rookie Saroya Tinker talk about why she almost retired and how one supportive coach made all the difference.

This week in women’s hockey

Again, I will only be amplifying work & words by Black athletes and writers and/or essential resources for the hockey community.

Saroya Tinker was mentioned alongside other athletes in Power Plays by Lindsay Gibbs. Lindsay asks, Are You Listening? I’ve been wondering, too. But new question is:

What will you do?

For my part, I’ve started a series called Social Justice in Women’s Hockey. My first episode feature Blake Bolden and Allie Thunstrom having a real conversation about racism in America and how its impacted Blake throughout her career. Part One and Part Two of the series are currently on YouTube.

If you don’t know where to start, Saroya Tinker has basically offered to do the work for you. I highly suggest donating to her AND educating yourself.

I’ve shared this before, but worth reminding everyone that Dr. Courtney Szto has a policy paper on anti-racism in Canadian hockey.

Here is some encouraging news about the impact of Dr. Szto’s policy paper:

Beatta Elliot has an excellent resource guide entitled Five Thoughts For Friday: Anti-Racism and Why We Need To Talk About It.

Black Girl Hockey Club founder Renee Hess gave excellent commentary and resources before having Saroya Tinker join her on IG Live yesterday.

I cannot recommend this resource by Black Girl Hockey Club enough.

Tweet of the week

Five at The IX: Saroya Tinker, Yale/Metropolitan Riveters

I wanted to ask you a little bit about your transition from college to the professional level. What has that been like for you so far?

Yeah. Um, so for those who don’t know, I actually was planning on retiring after my Yale career just because I was I was sick of the game, and I was tired of the stuff I had been put through. But I think that my senior year coach that came in, that started coaching my senior year, he really helped me love the game again. So that’s when I started talking to the NWHL teams. And I think that preparing for professional, I think I’m just looking at getting stronger and faster. I’m definitely looking forward to being on the Riveters. It’s so exciting, and I I didn’t expect to go fourth overall, but I mean hey, I’ll take it!

Athletes in college getting worn out by the game is something that you hear a lot. So how much of it was just kind of the grind and what’s expected of the student athlete? And how much of that was being someone who is black in a space where traditionally speaking, there aren’t a lot of other people that look like you?

Yeah, so for me it wasn’t the stress, the 40 hours a week, the balancing of time and school and hockey and whatnot. I think for me, it really was the white space I was in each day. So I think that’s what became, like it was so tiring. And I think that’s what made me fall out of love with the game.

I think anybody who knows me knows … if anybody wants to work out, let’s go do it! I’m always down, I’m always ready to work hard and improve on whatever I need to. So I think that that’s probably the the main part of the game that was just so tiring and I just wanted it to end. But I think that through all this, I realized that it is my job to to be there as a voice for other women of color who are coming up in the game and in sport in general. So I think that’s why I decided to play and continue my career.

I wonder about this, because Blake [Bolden] said something similar. I wonder if you’ve allowed yourself to think, is it because you’re a hockey player that that seems to be an acute frustration of yours? Do you wonder if you weren’t a hockey player, if that would be different?

Speaking specifically to at Yale. I know that it would be different if I was not in a hockey space. Most of my best friends are on the women’s soccer team. And I’ve made close friends with them just because I know that their team atmosphere is more inclusive and whatnot. So I do think it is specifically hockey that was tiring me out with this.

Wow. Yeah, that’s tough. That’s tough. And he said that there was a coach that made you fall back in love with hockey and, and really reassess. How much of that was just being able to take a breath and reset, or were there things that this coach was able to do to maybe, you know, help mitigate some of the frustration that you were feeling because of being black in a hockey space at Yale?

I think that it was definitely on my coach. He was so willing and open to learning about me, myself, like personality wise. I usually have a bit of a wall up, I’m hard to get through. I’m always smiling, but I know that I’m not the easiest to talk to about personal things often. I don’t always put that out there. But he made an effort to get to know me on that level, whether it was calling me into the office and just having a casual conversation with me, or looking to our athletic department to see what they can do about our diversity and inclusion training. So I think that that’s really what encouraged me and kept me going and make and made me want to continue playing by the end of the season.

Where would you like to see that balance be struck between holding up the expectation of what it takes to win at an elite level, but also remembering that, regardless of if it’s a conversation about race or not, that athletes are human and there are things as human beings that we need?

I would just encourage people to check-in on each other. I think in terms of like from a coaching perspective, I think that it’s so important for coaches to connect with their players on a deeper level than on the field or on the ice or on the court, whatever it might be. I think that once they get that understanding of their other players —because we’ve all come from such different backgrounds, whether that be that they’re white or black. It’s so important to connect with your players on that level.

And then just from [the] mental health aspect of it, I know that I have struggled and I opened up a bit about my struggles in my thesis and whatnot. But I think that it’s so important for coaches to check-in, and to understand that, and provide resources for their players that are experiencing troubles with their mental health or just with the game in general.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon  Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By Carly Grenfell, @Carlygren
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by Erica L. Ayala