How Playing Sports in Columbia, MD Taught Me about Diversity

team sports

Team sports teach people to look past race, religion, and sexual orientation in favor of working towards a common goal.

team sports

I have always played team sports, and one of the things I love most about them is that during every game you and your teammates leave EVERYTHING out on the field; everyone’s sweat is clear and their blood is red. You are working together and giving your heart and soul to a common goal and no matter the color of your skin, sexual orientation, religious background or economic status, you are out there to WIN!

In the midst of racial tensions in our country, I find myself reflecting upon two ways that my background has led me to embrace everyone as they are and avoid racial and social biases. First, I grew up in a very diverse community that was planned to bring all groups of people together, Columbia, MD. Second, I was the ultimate competitor and teammate and respected all my fellow athletes trying to achieve the pinnacle of success—WINNING.

Let me start in the earlier years. I was lucky that my parents chose to raise me in this planned community called Columbia, MD. Columbia was created and developed by James Rouse in 1967. It was designed to provide a town with deep human values and eliminate racial, religious and class segregation. For those of you stats people, it consistently ranks in CNN Money’s Best Places to Live in America.

READ MORE: The Power of Teammates- Both On and Off the Field

Now that I have lived in many other areas of the country, I have noticed both small and large examples of how Columbia emphasized a cohesive society. There was a conscious effort to have diversity on each street within each of the ten “villages”. We had a community mailbox where you walk to a section of your street to pick up your mail, meeting your neighbors along the way. I went to church on Sundays in an “interfaith center”, where my friends who were many other religions worshipped under the same roof in different sections. We came to respect and educate ourselves in other walks of life that weren’t what we knew at home.

Being a member of the Columbia Association allowed you to go to ANY of the 23 outdoor swimming pools, 6 indoor pools, ice rink, equestrian center, three athletic clubs, numerous basketball, volleyball, squash and tennis courts amidst TONS of other fun activities. EVERYONE in Columbia would socialize with EVERYONE. Again, with that came a respect for different backgrounds, races, religions, social preferences.

This leads me to the benefits of sports and embracing all walks of life. When you step on the track, court, field, or dive into the pool, you are there for a common goal. You sweat together, bleed together, cry together and CHEER together—all you see is determination and drive to be the best athlete and teammate you can be. I would sit in the locker room and look my teammates in the eye and feel a SUPERHUMAN strength that our collective talents would bring back those “WINS”!

When I was in middle school, I worked out with anyone who would challenge me—boys, girls, Jewish, black, Asian—I loved to see how far we could reach. I would go to the weight room with a couple football players, surrounded by guys and learn the art of bench pressing, squatting, doing flies. This continued through high school and then to college. At Duke, I remember of course working out with my lacrosse teammates, but twice a week, I needed extra conditioning as one of my main roles was just running as fast as I could on the field. Twice a week, I would go to downtown Durham to a very diverse gym and take this STEP AEROBICS CLASS (I’m telling you—it was an intense one) and train with the Durham community.

A couple summers at Duke, I would train with the women’s basketball team, working on speed and agility. All of these moments led again to a mutual admiration for my fellow athletes at Duke.

One fond memory I had at Duke was going with a few of my friends on the basketball team to a local Baptist church, where I was informed that I, along with another one of my friends, would be the only white people there. I embraced the religious passion and the music which was full of expression and energy. The pastor asked if anyone was new to the church that day and I just laid low and didn’t raise my hand, but after he smiled at me and knew obviously that this was my first time attending service there I stood up and waved to everyone. It was great to feel the out-pouring of faith coming from the Baptist Church that day and gave me insight into the routines of my friends and fellow athletes at Duke.

I hope that we as the INCREDIBLE, TOLERANT COUNTRY of the United States of America can come together and beat the issues of racism, social injustices and hate that are appearing all too frequently. There is no other option than to look each other in the eye with respect, compassion and a drive to make this country GREAT for ourselves and our children.


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Published by karenmsutton

HSS Orthopaedic surgeon in sports medicine | Mother of 4 amazing children | Team physician for USA Women's Lacrosse | ACL injury expert

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