When playing sports in Palo Alto, junior Dylan Duncan said he’s always felt like the odd man out.“Whether it be at practice, games or tournaments, I got used to being the only black person there,” he said. When I played Little League baseball, at tournaments I would always get stared at and received weird looks from the other kids.”
Stereotypes in sports aren’t hard to come by. For every popular sport, there seems to be a cookie cutter image of the player that goes along with it, but Duncan along with junior Dante Garetto are athletes who feel they don’t fit the mold of the typical player of their sport. But through their development of the Paly Sports Inclusion Club, they both say they have hope to encourage other students who may feel this way to band together.
Garetto, the only self-identifying gay player on the boys varsity water polo team, decided to create the sports inclusion club in hopes of building a support system for aspiring student athletes of minority backgrounds.
“I feel like a lot of kids feel out of touch with sports, because there’s a whole culture in America that is centered around needing to be masculine. The status quo is all about being tough and hyper-masculine in the locker room and all this other stuff to be a part of the team, but I feel like kids from all different backgrounds, from all different types of sexualities or races can get together and play a sport.”
Junior Dante Garetto
Garetto decided to recruit fellow athlete Dylan Duncan to help him start the club.
“I saw an article written about him about being the only black kid on the (lacrosse) team,” Garetto said. “And I felt like maybe we could both come together. Even in water polo, I’ve played with kids where if the other team has a black player everyone is like, ‘Oh my god they have a black kid. He must be raw,’ and then he is. It’s pretty funny to see that.”
When Garetto first introduced the idea to Duncan, he was immediately intrigued.
“I joined (lacrosse) and didn’t know many people that were like me,” Duncan said. “I know from experience it’s kind of tough to play a sport where you don’t know many people that look like you and you sort of feel like an outcast. This is a club where you come in and
you meet people that play different sports. If you want to get into something that you think you may not feel included in, you have people to talk to and to get information from.”
Duncan uses the example of how the club could encourage members to go to try-outs together using a buddy system, so everyone always feels supported. Meetings will commence in February, centered around mainly social activities to create a community of athletes where anyone is welcome. Both Duncan and Garetto have been trying to publicize their club through social media (@sportsinclusion on Instagram) and in person. The sports inclusion club’s teacher advisor, Mary Sano, agreed to sponsor the club because she fully agreed with its message and goals.
“Dante came and proposed it pretty clearly and it’s unique. He explained what it was about and I thought, ‘Of course we need something like that,’ because (although) I’ve never taken data of who plays what sports, the idea is that it’s open to all kids, so there is not a typical profile of (types) of athletes.”
Garetto said, “We’re simply a group to try and connect students to student athletes that are at least in some way similar to them to just give them a chance to try out sports. There’s no pressure to be really involved as you’re out there trying something new. I think that’s what’s most important.”