Cal Athletics Fund Kicks Off Summer Caravan
BERKELEY – People from across the country joined the Cal Athletics Fund Caravan: Coaching Through Crisis on Thursday evening, as four of Cal's head coaches discussed leadership through social injustice and the COVID-19 pandemic. The first-ever virtual version of the event featured coaches Jack Clark (rugby), Mark Fox (men's basketball), Charmin Smith (women's basketball), and Justin Wilcox (football), and it was the first in a series of four events taking the place of the usual in-person road trip which was previously set to occur at locations all across the West Coast.
"The Cal Athletics Fund Caravan provides an opportunity to gather our community together for important conversations," said Brian Mann, Cal's Senior Associate Athletics Director and Chief Development Officer. "Given the current climate, we decided to pivot to a virtual format to provide opportunities for the Cal community to engage with our student-athletes, coaches and administrators, and we have been overwhelmed by the positive response."
Director of Athletics Jim Knowlton led off the session and reiterated the event's focus. "The name 'Coaching Through Crisis' seemed like a perfect way to share how our coaches have had to react during the pandemic," Knowlton said. "How the current events have unfolded with the murder of George Floyd and the impact that has had on our coaches, staff, and nation, we thought it would be appropriate to include that today as well."
From there, Clark, who served as the moderator for the evening, opened the floor to the other three panelists to discuss what their leadership has been like among their respective programs during this time.
"We really had two goals once the Pac-12 men's basketball tournament in Las Vegas was cut short," Fox said. "We wanted to make sure that every player and staff member were safe both physically and mentally. And in the last week, we've revisited those two goals."
"In response to the shelter-at-home orders, we focused on getting people home and making sure they were safe," Smith said. "We have been meeting twice per week via Zoom, checking in on each other, giving out assignments, and I have brought in other people to talk to our players. However, things have changed since the murder of George Floyd; our zoom sessions have become a place for people to talk and share. Our first session after his death was very emotional and very powerful."
"Right now, what our team needs is to create an environment where our players and staff can talk and express themselves," Wilcox added. "We have arranged meetings two to three times per week to provide a platform for our players to talk and engage with each other. They have a lot of emotions right now and we need to do a lot of listening. We're looking for actionable things we can do to move forward."
The session ended on a note of hope as the coaches responded to how sports can help us overcome both the pandemic and the nation's unrest.
"People are speaking up right now in a way they have never before," Smith said. "That is encouraging to me. Even more so, I am extremely grateful to be the head coach at Cal, looking at what my players have done in the last week - releasing a group statement on social media, and creating a five-page action plan on how we can better impact society. We can be a part of the solution and through sport it is possible."
"Unity can bring people together in a powerful way," Wilcox said. "Not only teams, but cities, nations, and schools. The beauty of sports is everyone coming together to unite. Sports are needed right now, and we aim to provide a better roadmap for society."
Join the next Cal Athletics Fund Caravan event on Thursday, June 18 at 4:30 p.m. PT to hear Olympians and Pro Bears discuss how they are navigating the current climate and how their Berkeley experiences shaped their perspectives.