Are We “One Team”?

“One Team” is the statement often given by the athletic department to try and unite the sports teams at Luther College. Every athlete is given a t-shirt with this statement on it. This phrase is an attempt to unify the athletic department and we are supposed to wear the shirts when we lift. Just this year we also had a “One Team” giving day. This had the intention of raising money for all teams as it was under the guise of being for “One Team”. The “One Team” concept is used constantly by the athletic department, coaches, and athletes to try to get athletes to support one another.
To me, the idea of being a singular cohesive team means that there is equality among everyone, inclusion of every participant, and kindness for every team member. It also means that the athletic department views the teams in the exact same way. In fact, the athletic department does claim that this is what “One Team” means, since these three words are stated boldly on the backs of the shirts that every single athlete was given this year. That said, if the athletic department and everyone who is involved with athletics at Luther College wants to continue to use this phrase, then we need to make some serious improvements in how we run our athletics department.
I am a sophomore on the Track and Field team here at Luther. I have not been here for that long and am also only involved in one sport. This means I am nowhere near qualified to speak on behalf of everyone who is a part of Luther athletics. However, I have been an athlete for my entire life and know what it means to be on a cohesive team. The feeling of winning a game or achieving a long-awaited personal record could only be topped by the feeling of knowing that you are fully supported by your teammates and are completely comfortable in your athletic environment.
I can speak to what it feels to be on a team that actually feels like “One Team”. I also know however, that the athletic department tries its best to create a positive and successful environment for its athletes. With any large community such as Luther athletics, issues are bound to arise, and that does not mean that the community as a whole is bad or inherently wrong. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with Luther athletics there are still issues that need to be addressed.
I am here as a member of the track and field team and to tell my experience. It is through this experience that I have come to the conclusion that Luther athletics is not “One Team”for everyone involved. During this current pandemic, there have been many changes to how we operate as a community. Athletics is not an exception; Luther has tried to make the best of the situation we are in.
However, with these changes, issues that I noticed last year have only been exacerbated by the changes made due to the pandemic: specifically having to do with dividing up athletic spaces. The first situation that made me come to the realization that not every sport appears to be included in the one team mantra is when it came to who has access to the SRC (student recreation center). When it began to get cold outside this year and the track team was unable to run outside we realized it was time to start using the SRC. When my coaches went to the athletic department to try and get some time in the SRC they were told that we could not use the space because we had too many people.
This excuse is not valid in the slightest when half of the football team (about 50 members), the men’s soccer team (36 rostered members), and the entire women’s basketball team (18 rostered members) are each allowed to lift in there, as well as other teams that practice during the winter. The track team is only about 20 people which is similar or far less than other teams in number. In reality, this was because the athletic department needed the space for other teams to practice, and because it was not one of the athletic department’s coaches’ own sports teams that needed the space. We are shut out, but we are supposed to accept it; because we are “One Team”. After all, we all have to contribute and make sacrifices. Only the teams that have coaches who are members of the department do not need to: only ours because we are not deemed worthy of the same resources.
This behavior is not just perpetuated by the athletic department but other sports teams and coaches. There have now been a few occasions this year where the track team has been asked to move out of the way for other teams like football and baseball, even when it is our time on the indoor and outdoor track. When this kind of behavior occurs it not only hinders our practice time, which we desperately need because our season lasts from January through May, but it also makes us feel like we do not matter as much as the other teams. Behavior like this also occurred last year in the SRC. Track and field would be heavily criticized if we ever walked into the SRC before another team’s practice was over. Coaches would come over and get angry, and athletes were visibly annoyed. However, when baseball, football, and softball come into the SRC while we are still practicing and they start yelling, setting up, and invading our space we are expected to remain silent.
It is particularly bad with softball. Although I would rather not call out a specific team or sport I feel it is necessary as the head coach of the softball team is also the athletic director for Luther. The favoritism and preferential treatment have become so pervasive and obvious that there is a mutual understanding on my team that we are not to ever interrupt a softball practice in the SRC for any reason. However, softball players come into the SRC while the track team has it reserved, almost every time. It is also understood that we can not say anything if softball players do this.
This inability to speak up for our right to athletic resources is because of the unequal treatment when it comes to different sports and especially when it comes to the athletic director’s team. Our team as well as others are afraid to speak up because we know that if we do say anything to go against the athletic department board or the softball coach herself, our resources will be even more restricted than they already are. Being denied the right to these facilities as athletes and members of this so-called “One Team” makes us feel unappreciated as a sport.
My teammates and I work our hardest six days a week for sometimes up to three hours a day to try and perform well. Yet, we consistently are treated as if none of that work matters. That the only time we matter is when we are making a good name for the Luther athletics program. If the athletic department wants to continue to use our names when we are successful, as well as, say we are all a part of “One Team” this preferential treatment and these subtle threats at limiting our access to places like the SRC have to stop. Just because we are a smaller team and do not have our coaches on the athletic department board does not mean we should be treated any differently. In fact, why should our size matter at all if we are all on the same team?
In its current state Luther athletics is not “One Team” for everyone. It is not just track and field that feels this way either. Speaking with other members of different teams it is clear that this feeling is mutual among sports that are not football, basketball, softball, or baseball. There will need to be some changes if everyone can feel like we are “One Team”. These changes that I am proposing mainly just involve greater equality with access to resources, as well as, greater mutual respect among different teams. If we truly are to be “One Team” then each sport must have an equal total amount of hours in shared spaces like legends, the SRC, and the outdoor track. No team can have more hours in these locations than the other: along with the rule that no other team is allowed in or on these spaces when not signed up for those hours. This standard has to be held if the athletic department is going to continue to claim that we are all a part of “One Team”.
There are other changes that Luther athletics needs to implement to create a space where every team is treated equally, is included when decisions are made, and is given the kindness that each person and team deserves; like it says on the backs of our shirts. Those changes need to be discussed in the future, and with consultation from every team at Luther. Every team should be able to have a say if the athletic department is making changes; which is another change that needs to be made to create a more equitable and inclusive space. Luther has a chance at creating a positive environment for its athletics to thrive in, but this environment has to start with treating each team as equals and then go from there. If these changes are made then we actually have the ability to be “One Team” that actually achieves the standards that are proudly stated on every athlete’s back.

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