Growing up as a woman in this country gave me the liberty to experience higher education, employment, and high-level athletic competition. I am thankful for the opportunity to maximize my potential at a physical, mental, and emotional level. I enjoy the freedom of sharing my unique and personal qualities as a coach. I am honored to mentor and work with young women with whom I can share my compassion and goals and the joy of athletic competition. I do not take lightly that I am sculpting and building these young ladies to become strong, independent, and confident human beings for what lies in their future. I feel I get the best of both worlds. I am able to share both my sensitivity and my intellectual side.
This is not the case for all genders.
It is a good reminder to step back and to look at all sides when fighting for rights and equality. Empowerment is a strong word. It can give you freedom for social justice, but it also can set you back if not sought in a healthy way.
The morning after the verdict in the University of Minnesota Duluth vs. Shannon Miller case I woke up with a pit in my stomach and a feeling of numbness for women. I walked onto campus hearing comments such as, “It’s the year of the woman.” For everything I have fought for and instilled in my female athletes, we are now showing them they can just as easily play victim roles and expect entitlement rather than challenging them to persevere.
We have come a long way in seeking equality and have been given many fabulous opportunities to show our strength. It is important to always stand strong and be proud of your identity - but also to be open and willing to see all views and, most importantly, to question your own actions in the same way you question others.
Discrimination can be viewed in many ways; reverse discrimination is just as negative and hurtful, and making claims where none exist is toxic.
I will continue to fight for my program and our athletic department here at UMD. This university has always backed our athletic and academic programs and our staff in promoting growth, equality, and inclusiveness. The Duluth and surrounding community has as well.
As the saying goes, “Champions are not built out of winning but rather the struggles it took to get there.” I hope this community can continue to grow together and be proud of all that we have done and where we are heading. I continue to be proud to be a Bulldog.
Joanna Warmington is head coach of women’s track and field and cross country at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Her views here are her own and not necessarily those of her employer.