Two Capital Region athletes have joined together to express their voices regarding the Black Lives Matter movement and are taking their training and message to the next level by creating the website www.athletesforequalrights.com.
Rising Niskayuna senior Emma Anderson, 16, of Niskayuna and Penn State rising junior Olivia Jack, 20, of Glenville never competed against each other, participating in different sports, but they found a common cause through the creation of the website.
“The purpose of the site is to educate people and with the major events, all the protests happening, I thought of it the morning I went to the 2.23-mile walk around Albany [May 30],” Anderson said during a phone interview. “Hearing those speeches, hearing other people talk was probably the biggest inspiration. I wanted to play a role in whatever change comes.”
As a Niskayuna girls’ soccer goalie, working out is a daily occurrence for Anderson. She decided to create workouts with a larger meaning behind them.
“I wanted to gain the attention of collegiate athletic programs,” Anderson, who identifies as white, said. “The majority of athletes that we’ve been communicating with are high-level athletes and to appeal to them with workouts that are actually something productive and not just something to fill time was pretty important.”
As she began working on the website, it caught the attention of her mother’s co-worker, who shared some of the early stages with her daughter and top athlete, Section II 100-breaststroke record holder, Jack.
“I loved looking at it and seeing that it was a way that athletes could be involved in,” Jack said during a phone interview. “Not just the climate today, but what’s been going on for a while, and I think George Floyd’s death sparked my interest.”
Within a week, Jack had reached out to her Penn State teammates and, with the assistance of the Nittany Lions’ team videographer, a week of workouts were created and posted on the website.
“I wanted to see how many people would get involved in the first week in launching it,” Jack said. “It was nice to see my whole team have a show of support.”
Each workout is based on research from the duo and incorporated as part of the workout.
A 24-minute core workout is based on 24% of all people killed who are black, but only make up 12% of the population. A 27-minute training session in your sport correlates with that in 2019 there were only 27 days where police did not kill someone.
The message is listed atop the video and is also included within the workout, often completed by several different athletes.
These workouts are short, but intense.
“We tried to add a challenge to the workouts because the statistics themselves are challenging to take in,” Jack said. “The statistics associated with the exercises might be hard to take in, the exercises give the additional physical challenge with the mental challenges understanding.”
The website includes essays from eight different athletes, including Jack. In the essay, Jack writes that her mother is white and her father is black, and she identifies herself as black.
“I think this whole website and that story allowed me to use the voice that I’ve been trying to develop at school,” Jack said. “While I was writing, I was learning about myself and learning about what I really thought about the issues going on right now.
“I think I was also realizing how much it has mentally affected me. I don’t think I ever stopped to realize until I sat down and wrote that.”
Both athletes collaborate on the research that goes into each day’s message and workout and have had some submitted by other athletes from Penn State.
The pair continues to accept submitted workout videos.
“Because I’m enjoying doing it, I plan on continuing doing it with the daily workouts,” Jack said. “It also helps me stay on top of educating myself.
“There are still ways that I can learn more about my culture.”