Given the recent controversy surrounding the SFU football program and the treatment they have received from the school, more and more are voicing their concerns from various individuals.
The letter itself is a long one, so I’m going to post it in two parts with the first one today and the second part of the letter Sunday April 30th.
Various high profile retired pro athletes have taken to social media and they are clearly not alone and are being joined by the Assembly of Moms of Athletes in Support of SFU Football who sent this open letter out.
Enjoy the read:
If you or your organization would like to sign in support of this statement, please sign your name here.
Friday, April 28, 2023
To: Joy Johnson: President of Simon Fraser University Wade Parkhouse: Provost and Vice-President Academic Rummana Khan Hemani: Vice-Provost & Associate Vice-President of Student & International Theresa Hanson: Director of Athletics Simon Fraser University Novell Thomas: Athletic and Recreation’s Director of Operations Dear Simon Fraser University Administrators,
The assembly of moms of athletes, MomSquad, is writing to you today in support of SFU Football and to acknowledge the benefits that maintaining a football program can have for athletes.
There is an expanding understanding of the positive impact sport has on mental health, a lengthy list of character traits athletes develop and rely on to guide them in other aspects of life, a deep sense of community and connection that often includes opportunity for mentorship, continued growth toward inclusivity and diversity on the football field, and a shifting narrative in relationship to gender and football.
As women, we seek to identify areas that we find value in the sport of football and why as mothers we have supported and encouraged our children to participate.
Contrary to the persisting belief that football is a sport that churns out brutish, unintelligent, insensitive men, we firmly believe and have witnessed the kind, emotionally stable, intelligent, and considerate human beings who have emerged from their time as football players.
Mental Health Benefits of Sport Research and discussion about the mental health benefits of sport is not new.
In 2014 the NCAA released a report documenting the work of an NCAA Mental Health Task Force.
The 120 page document includes personal stories, expert research, articles about general and specific aspects of mental well-being for athletes and discussion about managing the mental well-being of athletes.
The point is it only takes a Google search to find a multitude of research that speaks to the positive impact sport can have on an individual’s mental health. In the letters to SFU, athletes specifically identified the dramatic effect the announcement to end the football program had and continues to have on their mental well-being.
Additionally, some athletes also spoke to the confidence that football has given them to pursue an education they thought otherwise impossible.
Others shared the relief they received from stress and anxiety because they participated in football.
These statements are not unique to our football players, mothers across the globe can attest to the blossoming of a child directly connected to their participation in sport.
In contrast, the loss of sport can be extremely detrimental to the mental well-being of an athlete.
As moms of student-athletes who have experienced an unexpected and abrupt discontinuation of their athletic pursuits, we are concerned for the lack of support and consideration that was given to our players.
Our goal in writing this letter, in part, is to hold you, the SFU administration accountable to your promises to students at the school.
In your words, the university strives to “build a campus where health equity, mental health, and well-being are valued, prioritized, and advanced through all policies, practices, spaces, and programming at SFU”.
In reflecting on the process by which the program was dismantled, we are asking you, the administrators who are responsible to uphold and more importantly, model, these practices to consider how your actions have in fact been in direct conflict to your promises.
Character Traits Developed through Football
While we see the benefits to mental health as a result of sport, others argue that the physicality of football might create an atmosphere of confrontation, bullying, and violence.
For those of us who are moms of football players, we’ve been judged for allowing our children to participate in such an “aggressive” sport.
We would argue that there are numerous sports out there that are equally physical and aggressive e.g.: rugby, soccer, hockey etc.
What we’ve done as parents is weigh the multitude of personal benefits to the athlete with the risk of injury. What we continue to hold strong belief in, because we have personally witnessed this, is the character traits our players have developed because they belong to a football team. Players learn to respect their coaches, their teammates, and themselves.
They learn the value of hard work, develop a strong work ethic, set goals, and maintain their composure in the face of adversity.
Football players understand strength under control, accountability for their actions, and the value of losing.
We are angry and frustrated for the situation you have placed our athletes in, however we are thankful to see that the character traits football players develop are being demonstrated right before our eyes.
Generosity, support, encouragement, and empathy are being modeled in abundance.
We see that despite the lack of support they have received from you, the administrators and leaders of their academic and athletic journey, they are seeing, feeling, and hearing it from those who once also graced the football fields of SFU.
Should you, as administrators and leaders doubt what we are telling you, you need not look much further than your own alumnus Angus Reid who is well-known for both his football career and his commitment to developing leaders.
Furthermore, football brings together family in a way that is different from any other sport.
Many of us are moms to multi-sport athletes or have other children in different sports and we can attest to the deep connections that develop within the football community.
It has been absolutely astounding to us just how vast this football family is and we continue to be humbled by the length to which football players will go to take care of each other. Mentorship, Connection, and Community
The phrase “it takes a village” is one that any mom is familiar with.
Those of us who have children in sport understand just how important this actually is.
We have provided meals for entire teams, we’ve brought snacks for half-time, we’ve dressed the wounds of our own children and the wounds of someone else’s, we’ve taken someone else’s injured child to the hospital or we’ve provided support to moms who have to sit in a crowded emergency room. We KNOW that the village is real!
More than that, we appreciate the opportunities for mentorship and connection with coaches and other adults that sport provides. Football is unique in that there are so many of these opportunities.
The sheer number of people involved exponentially increases the possibility for these types of connections.
The SFU football community was specifically identified in many of the letters our players sent to you.
They shared their appreciation for coaches and for teammates as well as the desire to be mentors for future players.
Part Two Sunday April 30th.
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