September 28, 2021
Although there are both challenges and rewards from playing sports as an ELL student, St. John believes there are several ways to make West athletics more accessible to ELL students.
“They could make the registration easier and have the forms in paper copy. I think that would help the students have all the forms in one place,” St. John said.
Teachers can help by finding out what their students like and encouraging them to get involved in sports.
“I think it’s really important to take a proactive approach [to make sports more accessible]. You can’t just treat [ELL students] like a general education student and expect that if it’s of interest to them, they’ll actively pursue going out for it,” Harding said. “I think it’s important … to make those connections for the kids and really check in with them.”
War also thinks that if coaches would make a greater effort to reach out to ELL students, more students would feel more accepted.
“[Coaches] should come to classes and talk to people more, like actively reach out to people and tell them that this is a safe place and they can come,” War said. [Coaches] should come to classes and talk to people more, like actively reach out to people and tell them that this is a safe place and they can come.” — Hebah War '23
[Coaches] should come to classes and talk to people more, like actively reach out to people and tell them that this is a safe place and they can come.”
— Hebah War '23
Flores believes that students can reach out and recruit as well.
“Students should do a better job of [saying] ‘Hey, you can come join [sports]. Everyone’s welcome, [and] we’ll help you out,’” Flores said.
Once ELL students join, Harding believes that teammates, like Flores, have a crucial role in engaging their teammates who are struggling to get involved.
“The players in the program have to look out for their new friends … making sure that they can get to practices or games that aren’t on-site,” Harding said.
Harding encourages coaches to keep diversity in mind and make adjustments accordingly.
“The first thing is to look at the diversity of your roster compared to the diversity of the building. If you don’t see alignment there, then reflect on what is serving as a barricade, a barrier for participation for those ELL kids,” Harding said. “The next step is trying to address them.”
Making ELL students feel included lets them feel comfortable in what may be a challenging environment. Harding believes that if West makes the process of joining a sport more accessible and welcoming, they might be one step closer to putting on a green and gold jersey.
“I have such limited experience with being in situations where the majority of people around me don’t look like me, don’t talk like me,” Harding said. “So for [an ELL] teenager to have to experience that every day, anything we can do that can help them feel more a part of the community is really important .”