As Homecoming weekend came and went, there was a spotlight over campus. Last Friday night six new inductees to the Temple Athletics Hall of Fame were honored at the Liacouras Center.
Among the pantheon of those inducted were basketball’s Mark Macon, football’s Tre’ Johnson and field hockey great Mandee O’Leary.
But across town at the Hilton hotel on City Avenue, current Temple Hall of Famers were conducting a conference throughout the weekend about black female athletes. It focused on development and obstacles that black females must overcome.
The forum was headed by former lacrosse coach and professor Tina Sloane-Green, who is president of the Black Women in Sport Foundation (BWSF), and a member of the school’s Hall of Fame.
Sloan-Green is trying to raise these issues to the forefront of athletic competition.
Another Temple Hall of Famer was Nikki Franke, who has coached the school’s fencing team for 32 years running. She is the first and only black to coach a Division I fencing program, while Sloan-Green is also the first black to coach a lacrosse program.
The BWSF held its 11th conference called “Sports: A Unique Way of Addressing Health Disparities in Girls and Women.”
The basis of the conference was to bring about salient issues affecting female minorities in sports. Recognized figures such as New York Times sports columnist William C. Rhoden and Olympic gold medalist Dominique Dawes were among an esteemed group of speakers to discuss the progress and obstacles for minorities in athletics.
Topics through the seminar ranged from how to improve resumes for coaching positions to overcoming discrimination to obesity in black girls.
While some people think race relations is a subject not worth discussing, many of the participants shared their stories of dealing with the hardships of success as a black female athlete. And many of them had ties with Temple.
“You get used to it, but at times you need parental support,” said women’s tennis coach Traci Green, who is the daughter of Sloan-Green. Traci played tennis through her teens and starred at the University of Florida. “You learn to be a better person and how to pull through those things.”
Traci said being the lone minority on a team can be very difficult. She admitted that her skin color would sometimes draw racial slurs from her opponents.
“With sports that are not traditionally black, you get used it,” Green said. “At times I really needed support from my parents.”
Another speaker was Fatima Abdullah, who has seen her two sons go through the rigors of organized gymnastics. She was inspired and taken aback by all the people who had stories she could empathize with.
“Hearing Dominique Dawes speak of her experience at the Olympics was very insightful,” Abdullah said. “It was different for me with my exposure in gymnastics and listening to different perspectives.”
Sports like tennis, softball and gymnastics are not loaded with black participants, the way basketball and football are. One of the sessions focused squarely on the awkwardness of black athletes being the single minority on a team.
Aisha Franke, the daughter of Nikki, went into detail about the positives being one of the few minorities on the Massachusetts softball team. She said that during tryouts for teams, she would immediately draw attention because of her race.
The fact that a strong number of those at the conference were affiliated with Temple made things a bit more special.
While the past achievements of Franke and Sloane Green are well documented, it’s impressive to see these honorees are still making an impact today as well.
Jason Haslam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.