Representation matters: Local coaches discuss the importance of diversity among coaching staffs


JOPLIN, MO. — Over the years we’ve seen sports become more diverse and inclusive. But, when it comes to diversity among head coaches, there is still work to be done.

Earlier this year, Atiba Bradley made history after being hired as Missouri Southern’s head football coach.

Bradley is the first black head coach  in the university’s history.

“It means a lot and the biggest thing with being a minority in the role that I’m in is I’m able to kind of be a role model and an example for young athletes to look at,” said Bradley.

As bradley was making his way through the coaching ranks, the lack of diversity never deterred him. In fact, it wasn’t until he applied for the Missouri Southern job that he started to realize how rare getting a head coaching job was for minority candidates.

“Then I started to kind of look at there’s really not a lot of minority representation as head coaches or AD’s or even coordinators,” said Bradley. “So, then it was kind of like, wow, this really is a unique experience and opportunity to even be interviewed for the job, let alone get it. No matter what school or level you’re coaching, the representation is primarily minorities and minorities are the majority. So then it really makes you start to think why aren’t the coaches reflected in the same proportion?”

But Missouri Southern cornerbacks coach Trey Porter has been trying to change that. He’s the director of the Missouri Minority Coaches Association, an organization geared towards developing and advancing the careers of minority coaches.

“We kind of piloted a group to get more minorities into coaching from little league football to middle school, middle school to high school, just trying to teach the professionalism that comes with it.”

Giving young athletes someone to look up to who looked like them is what led Porter to begin coaching in the first place and now he’s able to help other minority coaches do that as well through the organization.

But, football isn’t the only sport that has a glaring lack of minority head coaches. Jim Rowland is the head coach for the NEO A&M women’s basketball team. 

He said representation among coaches is vital to setting positive examples for young athletes.

“Representation is big for us to be in those positions to then be able to mold those young athletes to let them see that there is life on the other side,” said Rowland. “You can be this, too. You can get here, too.”

Rowland is optimistic that head coaching opportunities will become more common for minority candidates.

“It’s just been fun to watch minorities grow into those jobs and I know it will continue.”

Bradley shares the same optimism and is hopeful that his historic hire will open the door for many more to come.

“I’m excited about the challenge. I’m excited about the opportunity and hopefully it will lead to more opportunities for more minorities.”

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