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Best practices handbook can help schools on path toward inclusion

New handbook helps decipher best practices in diverse environments.

Rashaan Carlton

Inclusion is one of the core values of the Association. 

With that in mind, the NCAA office of inclusion in conjunction with Diverse Issues in Higher Education magazine published a handbook that debuted at the 2014 NCAA Convention. The publication contains recommendations for best practices that can enhance the environment of intercollegiate athletics and involve student-athletes, coaches and administrators who come from diverse backgrounds.

Both the Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee and the Committee on Women’s Athletics endorsed the guide.

“It is an important document because as athletics administrators and coaches you are always looking for resources to use and find best practices of what has worked well,” said Rahsaan Carlton, chair of the minority opportunities committee and Penn State Harrisburg athletics director.

While the membership consists of colleges and universities with diverse missions, all can strive to be inclusive.

 “You want to know what other people have done to address issues, particularly with diversity and inclusion,” Carlton added. “There are a lot of documents out there that aren’t as good as this one. It covers a lot of the bases.”


Find the handbook here.

International student-athletes

The international student-athlete section features the work of LeRoy Walker, who was a track and field coach at North Carolina Central and became the school’s president. In the 1960s, Walker recruited international student-athletes to compete on his track and field teams.

The recruitment of international student-athletes is more common today, but obstacles can always arise. Some of the best practices in regard to international student-athletes include having coaches and staff members familiarize themselves with academic and immigration requirements; helping the student-athletes connect with other international students on campus; and preparing to deal with fans’ reactions to the student-athlete’s presence.



Regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning student-athletes, the handbook emphasizes that athletics departments should develop and clearly state inclusion policies.

Some of the best practices to help with LGBTQ issues include treating all student-athletes and staff fairly and respectfully, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression; identifying community and on-campus advocacy support resources that are dedicated to the specific needs and interests of LGBTQ students and staff; and encouraging LGBTQ staff and student-athletes to pursue leadership opportunities on and off the playing field.


Race and ethnicity

The section of the handbook about race and ethnicity introduces contemporary best practices that can help intercollegiate athletics move forward, though progress has been made over the decades.

Some of the suggestions include hosting diversity forums on campus; fostering collaboration between the department of athletics and the school’s multicultural office on programming, education and events; and encouraging ethnic minority participation on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.


Student-athletes with disabilities

Illinois was the first university to address the needs of disabled athletes by introducing wheelchair basketball for men in 1949. That has led to the development of programs there that include women’s wheelchair basketball and men’s and women’s wheelchair track and field.

Some of the best practices recommended to aid disabled student-athletes include ensuring athletics facilities and equipment are accessible; making sure accessible housing accommodations are available; and setting goals that student-athletes with disabilities are included in the expectation of high achievement standards for all student-athletes.


Women student-athletes

Title IX became law in 1972 and has helped pave the way for gender inclusion initiatives in college athletics. The NCAA began sponsoring women’s championships in the 1981-82 academic year.

Some of the best practices athletics departments can follow to promote gender equity include dedicating significant financial resources to recruiting and developing female talent on and off the playing field; creating leadership opportunities for female student-athletes; and including gender equity and inclusion among professional development and training opportunities.