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Bethune Cookman’s diverse staff guides the team through difficult times

the6man Jul 17

After one and one phone call, Bethune Cookman’s bench broke out. Photo courtesy of Bethune Cookman Stadium.

In early June, Bethune-Cookman’s deputy head coach Chandler McCabe received a call from a tearful player as social justice protests spread across the country.

“Some people call her racial slander,” McCabe said. “It’s hard to call and can’t be with her. I think, “Tell me this person’s residence, I will take care of it. “But I helped her calm down.”

Two weeks later, the same player cried again. McCabe defended himself.

“I thought, ‘what happened this time?’ She just said, ‘Coach McCabe, I love you. Thank you very much.’” McCabe said. “I put it together for her, then hung up and cried.”

“It is of great significance to participate in activities at this HBCU with employees.”

Over the past two months, every historic black college and university across the country has had similar discussions, as athletes and coaches have struggled to exchange information about racial instability within the distance prescribed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, for the Wildcats, this dialogue is unique in at least one respect: McCabe, who had played for head coach Vanessa Blair Lewis for six years, is white. The two ladies and other coaching staff are leading their team through unprecedented times.

The regular season is late When news of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery about racial motives broke out, it was only 160 miles from Bethune-Cookman. After the NCAA offseason ended, the players were injured by the incident and are still processing the game, and everyone was repatriated.

Blair-Lewis said: “Our Zoom meeting has become a platform for them to communicate.” “We have no answer, but they need a place and a space for conversation.”

Some athletes began to recall the incidents of racism and discrimination they had experienced as a child. Their coaches guide them through the computer screen as much as possible.

Blair-Lewis said: “We are listening to their voices with tears in their eyes.” “Then a few weeks later, everyone witnessed the murder of George Floyd. These are our appeals To help them grasp these feelings. Should they protest?

However, initially in mid-March, Wildcat’s online meeting was about dealing with the lost season and responding to fear and uncertainty as the pandemic spreads.

Blair Lewis said: “We don’t know what will happen next.” “Our Zoom call is like,’Are you all right?’ We as coaches tried to give these girls something. We just played the game the day before, now The whole world is closed.”

After Blair-Lewis returned home, it was particularly difficult to provide advice to athletes on racial injustice.

She said: “There is no timeout of 20 seconds.” “They are looking at me,’You are black like me, you should have an answer.’ And I don’t. It’s uncomfortable. But I think they have found it now Where to put these feelings. We are here to listen and support them.”

However, despite the unity of employees, everyone has a unique perspective.

Blair-Lewis said: “Coach McCabe and (assistant) coach (Dmitry Frank) of the same age are crying and have different experiences.”

McCabe’s term as an ally began with the recommendation of former college coach Kristeena Alexander, who knew that Blair-Lewis was looking for an assistant coach.

Blair Lewis said: “She said, ‘I have this girl – just interview her.’ “She didn’t tell me any personality traits or anything… She just reached out because we were friends. She said, ‘you won’t regret it. ’”

Blair-Lewis already had a male candidate, but she agreed to meet McCabe.

Blair-Lewis said: “I don’t even Google her, I just trust Kristeena.” “With Chandler, I don’t know white or black. I’m just looking at her certificate.”

“So we made her jump, and my staff thought, wow, there was something there. So, I decided to take her to campus.”

The male applicant was interviewed before McCabe arrived there, and Blair-Lewis began hiring him.

She said: “We already bought her (airline ticket), but if I had a way, she would never go to college.” “I keep in mind, fixed.”

Blair-Lewis said McCabe “blew everyone away” in an interview.

She said: “All of us think there is something special here.” And decided to hire McCabe.

Then Blair-Lewis dealt directly with the issue of race.

“I have to make sure that she is satisfied with this, so I asked, “Coach McCabe, you know you are going to HBCU, right?” Blair-Lewis recalled. “She said, ‘Can I, can I?’”

Chandler McCabe and Vanessa Blair-Lewis met overtime. Photo courtesy of Bethune Cookman Stadium.
Assistant head coach Chandler McCabe and head coach Vanessa Blair-Lewis consulted during the suspension. Photo courtesy of Bethune Cookman Stadium.

HBCU has no regulations prohibiting non-black people from working, participating or having fun in the local area. But these examples are still the exception rather than the rule.

Blair-Lewis said: “This is a very logical question, because when you think of HBCU, you think of black.”

When receiving a call from the new boss, McCabe returned to Arcadia, Arkansas when she was a graduate assistant.

“She asked,’Do you want us?’, I said’Yes, are you kidding me?'” McCabe said. “That was one of the best days of my life.”

Blair-Lewis stopped for a moment and then introduced McCabe to the athletes. He thought: “I want to know how the team will view this.” In the end, she thinks that for the younger generation, Accepting diversity is more important than any other group before.

Blair-Lewis said: “I realized that when we called many of these children to provide scholarships to them in Bethune, some of them didn’t even know, even black people, the meaning of HBCU.” “They came here for basketball, because They felt our love, and they were like,’Oh, HBCU, what does this mean?'”

Sure enough, McCabe entered people’s vision smoothly.

Blair Lewis said: “When they saw Coach McCabe, they saw a basketball coach or a high school teacher, or someone they met in high school.” “I never thought that she served in HBCU White coach. The players we coach now, they have never seen coach McCabe different. They are being coached in AAU schools and they have seen diversity.”

“If you engage in a sport, it is usually around diversity. They are used to diversity.”

McCabe said she has always been satisfied with the Wildcat plan.

She said: “I never felt like an outsider at this university.” “This is an incredible institution, it has such a long history, and it is also a diverse campus.”

“The girl accepted me from the first day, which is incredible. It fully illustrates these institutions, as well as their importance and incredible.”

McCabe’s first season It is a typical representative of any new coach who learns the ropes.

McCabe said: “The first year to learn everything, and how the DI program works, especially what Vanessa wants from me, is much more difficult.” “I experienced a lot of trial and error, but from Vanessa directly to me There must be a lot of love, correction and guidance.”

Blair-Lewis and her employees passed on this concept to athletes.

McCabe said: “Our plan is absolutely based on love, starting with the head coach.” “When we recruit them, we will recruit them for life. They will serve us for four years… after that, it is the most important.”

McCabe said that Blair-Lewis ensured that the athletes were ready for the next step after graduating from college and had already placed several of them until they figured it out. She called the boss “an incredible woman” and said that she also did her duty to ensure that players can get professional guidance before leaving.

McCabe said: “Don’t get us wrong-we are very competitive between these two lines, and we will continue to keep in touch with you.” “We will guide you, work hard and win the game. But beyond these boundaries, Vanessa and other staff are there every day. For us, it’s not just basketball.”

This method helped Bethune-Cookman players find peace in a turbulent era, just like in school.

Blair-Lewis said: “The freedom and luxury of joining the HBCU is that they can actually become themselves.” “Sometimes, when you are in a Power 5 school, you have to be careful and make sure you don’t offend others, if it does, You will be tagged. But not on HBCU.”

After a major victory in December last year, head coach Vanessa Blair-Lewis embraced deputy head coach Chandler McCabe. Photo courtesy of Bethune Cookman Stadium.
After the big victory last December, Vanessa Blair-Lewis embraced Chandler McCabe. Photo courtesy of Bethune Cookman Stadium.

McCabe said the love behind the program made pure screen communication (currently going on indefinitely) difficult.

McCabe said: “It’s really hard not to love them in person.”

But Blair-Lewis said her all-female employees are promoting team recovery.

She said: “This time is really special, these girls have four amazing women worth looking forward to.” “It’s crazy because we work in institutions founded by women-this is the only HBCU founded by women -And now here, we put women at the forefront of this movement after many years.”

“In order for our girls to have a group of women of different backgrounds from different ages and characteristics, you can find their power there.”

It seems that Blair Lewis, McCabe and other Bethune Cookman employees have always kept pace with young people.

Blair-Lewis said: “Our youth has changed and they are at the forefront of the (social injustice movement).” “This makes us proud to see young people (white and black) cheering for injustice.”



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This post is written by Sue Favor

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