This Restorative Justice Life

110. A Restorative Framing of Sports w/ Carolyn Sideco

February 02, 2023 David Ryan Castro-Harris
110. A Restorative Framing of Sports w/ Carolyn Sideco
This Restorative Justice Life
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This Restorative Justice Life
110. A Restorative Framing of Sports w/ Carolyn Sideco
Feb 02, 2023
David Ryan Castro-Harris

Carolyn Sideco journies with athletic administrators in deepening, and ultimately, aligning their personal values with their professional skill emergence and practice. Partnering with CoachingKapwa builds wellness capacity, efficacy, and longevity of humans working in the service of youth who play sports.

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Show Notes Transcript

Carolyn Sideco journies with athletic administrators in deepening, and ultimately, aligning their personal values with their professional skill emergence and practice. Partnering with CoachingKapwa builds wellness capacity, efficacy, and longevity of humans working in the service of youth who play sports.

Support Carolyn:

Check out our LIVE Events

Support the Show.

Send us feedback at

Join our Amplify RJ Community platform to connect with others doing this work!

Check out our latest learning opportunities HERE

Rep Amplify RJ Merch

Connect with us on:
Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Threads, YouTube, and TikTok!

SUPPORT by sharing this podcast, leaving a rating or review, or make a tax-deductible DONATION to help us sustain and grow this movement

David (he/him): Carolyn, 

welcome to this restorative justice life. Who are you? 

Carolyn (she/her): I am Maria Carolyn Williams. Taking from you, David, all the names for the ancestors that I'm still trying to figure out. 

David (he/him): who are you? 

Carolyn (she/her): I am a mono zygote with an identical twin sibling, and I'm maneuvering this world knowing that exists for me.

David (he/him): Who are you? 

Carolyn (she/her): I'm a mother, a new grandmother. I'm a daughter. I am a family member in a micro family. 

David (he/him): Who are you? 

Carolyn (she/her): I am coaching Kapwa,

David (he/him): who are you?

Carolyn (she/her): I am always asking questions and always listening for answers.

David (he/him): Who are you?

Carolyn (she/her): I'm a sports relationship coach. I am a spiritual life coach. I'm trained in nature framework and healing modalities. 

David (he/him): And finally, for now, who are you? 

Carolyn (she/her): Today, I am easy.

David (he/him): Well, thank you Carolyn, so much for being here with us on this restorative justice life in this new year. We're trying new things with these conversations and so this conversation is actually a direct follow up from our conversation from last week with Shaun talking about his book black Athletes Revolt, Carolyn's been someone in the Amplify RJ Community for a minute, who, you know, like, as I've been thinking through a lot of the people who I'd want to have on this show you've been in the back of my mind, but this seems like a perfect time, one to follow up our conversation about you know.

The possibility of restorative justice practices within sports, and we're gonna get to that. But also as a person who's just been a member of this community, who's been impacted by the work of Amplify RJ and like integrating it into your own practice. And so we want to hear a little bit about that as well.

But as we deal with the podcast we always start with checking in and to the full extent of the question I want to ask you this question on, you know, Monday, January 30 in the week after shootings in Monterey Park shootings in Half Moon Bay that have deeply affected the Asian American community.

How are you? 

Carolyn (she/her): I am tender, I'm tender with. With that space, I find myself in these weeks a bit removed emotionally because it's, it's there on social media a lot. I'm on social media a lot, and I think it takes up space there in my head and in my heart. I am playing, double Dutch a little bit with, with how I engage in, in the news anyway. I am conscious of how I consume media and where, where I find my solace or where I find my fodder for.

My fuel to to either encourage me, motivate me, or address that fierce grief and anger that I have. And so modulating that is already such a big effort. Mm-hmm. . And it's a big effort that I look to in community for that because I, I can't, I can't hold it anymore. With that said, I, I am feeling very vulnerable that in some communities that are trying to also express themselves I, I'm feeling sad about some, some attitudes in, in the Asian American and Asian communities that, that I don't align with.

So that makes me sad today. And so I, I'm trying to find a way to be in solidarity and, and yet to, to be in alignment with, with my own sense of, of justice. 

David (he/him): Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I shared with you a little bit ago that I really didn't like the documentary 38 in the Garden that detailed, you know, the 10 year anniversary of Jeremy Lins you know, rise to province in the NBA because they

shared his story and then like on the back end of it, made it about like this moment of anti-Asian hate. And I was like, why can't we just celebrate the story? And so while I think it's important that we acknowledge like, you know, how you're feeling coming into this conversation I also wanna have a conversation with you about how we navigate this as somebody who is a very connected community member.

But we also have a lot to talk about about sports. And so like on this specific podcast that people are listening to right now, we're gonna transition the conversation to sports, come back next week for a conversation that we're gonna have with Carolyn and a couple other people who have been impacted and been holding space and doing work for organizing in the Asian American community as we continue to restoratively respond in the best ways we, that we can to all that's happening.

we're having this conversation again on the heels of the shooting in in Halfing Bay in Monterey Park, but also on the heels of the release of the video of Tyre Nichols being beaten by police. And, you know, in our conversation with Shaun last week, talking about like athlete activism.

You have like, and I, again, in the conversation with Shaun, I like, I most fluently speak in the language of sports, language of basketball. And so when I look at statements put out by the NBA Players Association, or the Memphis Grizzlies or the W N B A Players Association these statements of like condolences to the family calls for quote unquote accountability and, you know, peace and safety for everyone fall flat for me, right?

Even though like we have people it's great that people are demonstrating care, but what are we actually expecting? N NBA players, NBA teams, owners of NBA teams, these multi-billion dollar corporations to do in, in the face of all of this, right? We think about, I, I'm thinking really specifically about.

on Friday when the video was released, one of the headlines I read was, you know, police they're gonna have an increased police presence at the Minnesota Timberwolves, Memphis Grizzlies games because they're concerned about protests. Right. It's like, how is that the response from the NBA to supporting a community after, you know, really harmful things happen, really collective trauma has happened.

You know, this is a tough entry to this conversation about like social justice and sports, but I know you've got critiques of the American industrial sports complex. Let's open it up. . 

Carolyn (she/her): Yes, I do. I do have critiques of, of the American industrialized sports complex because it, it has created layer upon layer of disconnect.

To humans. Right? And so not only us coaching Kapwa, right? And, and Kapwa and, and all other collectivists societies worldview of an interconnectedness of human beings, not just to each other, but to the world. That, that gets, that gets opaque. The more and more we layer capitalism this con concept of productivity.

This concept of what the purpose of why teams and leagues and sports exists. This mm-hmm. This container that is our sports society in America that has now evolved. It wasn't always like this, but has now evolved. Into this patriarchal container of, of all that we supposedly value as Americans.

And for a lot of us, that's not our value. So how do we extract or how do we remove those layers and come down to and distill really the essence of why we love sports? That's, that's the, the space that, that I like to, to kind of delve into. And it's, it's, it's a tender space for a lot of people who, as young people, especially as a sports relationship consultant, I have conversations with people all the time about how freedom and liberation and flow we have this, this concept in.

Sports about flow when you, you feel so connected to what you're doing and you feel joy and you feel liberation. And we, we felt that through sports when we were younger and then as we got older, right? Whether that's through experiences of maybe being cut from a team, maybe experiences of, of disappointment of, of anger.

What, you know, it's, it's a maturation. Whatever our maturation process is, we're always reconciling that with these established experiences and feelings of liberation that were at our core, that, that, that we already inherit. From before times and, and that we're going to eventually pass on if we still stay connected to it.

Right. What, what the American Industrialized Sports Complex does is it, it fragments us from that. It, it keeps us away from that. And we think that, oh, well we're gonna be adults and, you know, we're, we're just going to, we have to release ourselves to that. Well, we just, that's how sports is, you know, that's, yeah.

Well that's just how we're going to do it. Like that assumption is, that's what I want to critique that assumption. Now. Why can't we, why can't we, Hmm, why can't we continue to play? Why can't we continue to to take our own agency? Right. And continue with that. It, it's, 

David (he/him): can, can I, yeah, go ahead. Well, I mean, like, speaking of those assumptions, like something one y'all, Carolyn is the most prepared guest who's ever come to this podcast.

She sent me an outline of things that she wanted to talk about having listened to the previous episode. And one of the things that I really, really appreciated is like, speaking of assumptions, right? Y I made a statement on the last podcast that I assume that like most people who are listening to this restorative, just like aren't sports fans.

And in my mind I was thinking about like people who are like bought in, like dyed in the wool fans of. Pick your team of the American industrial sports complex one. That's probably a faulty assumption. Two, like, I think that was coming outta my mouth because like, that's not what people come to this podcast for, but like, as you were sharing, like I would venture to say most people have some kind of like positive experiences with sports growing up.

And so like, before we like dive like too deep into like where you were trying to go, like, I wanted to get a little bit of context for like how your background with sports intersected with values of liberation. So like where did sports, your love of sports start? And then how did this liberatory lens like intersect?

Carolyn (she/her): Great question. As an immigrant, I identify as an immigrant. My twin, my identical twin, and I, and our mother joined my father who was already here in the United States. In San Francisco when my sister and I were almost two years old, and as an immigrant coming to the West Coast, San Francisco, it was in fourth grade, I believe, where I was invited to play on a volleyball team at our school.

We went to a parochial school in our neighborhood and I realized that I could hit a volleyball over the net and it pleased people and it made me feel good. It made me feel powerful. How old were you? Nine. I ran home and I, because my, my friend said, oh, you gotta pay $5 to be on the team, and so I ran home four blocks.

I said, mom, I need $5. And she wouldn't give it to me. And I cried and I threw a tantrum. And then she's like, what, what, what is going on? And she gave me $5. I ran back. And that's how my sports experience started. It was started with wanting to make friends, having a connection. And also in that same frame, realizing that I had this power, this physical power that I, that was within me, right?

So I joined sports. So I, I loved sports, I loved watching sports on tv. Because I started already making the connection. Now granted this connection was with white guys, cuz that's who was playing sports on tv, white men, adult men. And I was like, Ooh, are they feeling the same things I'm feeling? When I played sports, you know, I was having fun.

I, I was with friends, I was making friends. I liked that I could that I could hit a ball or I could learn these different things. I could learn how to be with people. And I assumed that that's what they were also experiencing. And that was American, right? Oh, that's why we're here. That's why dad brought us here so we could be like that.

So the, the American industrialized sports complex obviously wasn't, wasn't revealed to me until I was older, right? And so when I became a coach a coach when I was a young adult, I still had those, those approaches, right? That idealistic sort of, this is how it feels, and I wanna transmit that to young people.

Right. I wanna transmit the, the feeling of joy. The feeling of hard work. That hard work is joy, right? Like, think about that in, in our productivity lens, right? And then, and then as I became an, an athletic director, and then I had to do my work in a silo by myself in an office pushing paper, doing compliance, making sure that people weren't breaking the rules.

I was policing , I was policing sports. And I hated it. I hated it because I wanted every student to feel that same joy to participate in sports. I was at an all girls school where girls were, were dropping out of sports. At a high rate, and we know this, this happens nationally, and it was, it was happening, happening at my campus.

And I felt that's when I started to feel that advocacy for fighting against the structures that were set up by, by regulations, by this gatekeeping sort of thing that has to happen in, in order to face commodification of sports. So whether that's in sports leagues, whether that's in a high school, even in a high school setting, whether that's in, it's framed as education, but we know that our education systems are also built with those, with those same institutional constructs.

So I found myself mired in that as an adult. So Now as, as coaching kawa, I know that we can, if we, if we draw on those positive experiences and even negative experiences. So I believe that every person has a relationship to sports. And for a lot of people it is negative. It's why they're not sports fans.

It's cause they've identified early on that that's not how they want to engage with that part of culture. Right? And so to me, that is still their relationship to sports. So I believe that everyone has a relationship to sports and we're, we're going to talk about that because, or we're going to at least be in conversation about that because that has implications for for how they transmit that to their offspring, how they express that in their community.

It has implications for how we gather in community. because I know a whole lot of people who don't like sports at all, but who will come here to my house and you know, come to our Super Bowl party. They don't know anything about sports or whatever, but they wanna be in community and sports offers that.

David (he/him): Yeah. I, I'm curious, like you've talked about a lot of positive attributes of, of sports like for identity building, like overcoming obstacles, teamwork, those kind of things. But like fun, we shouldn't discount that, right. For community, for all the reasons, but like you've expressed and like that was a motivating factor to you.

I look back at my sports experience and maybe this, this might fall on like on gender roles. Mm-hmm. , but like my experience had some of those. But so much of my sports identity in like my journey with sports was about like domination. Mm-hmm. And us versus them. That's not something that you brought up just now in like your formation of your sports identity.

And that is so much a part of mine, right. From like, from, you know, eight years old through high school and you know, less seriously when I was playing intramural sports in college and in like in rec leagues in the, in the future. Like that's when it was like, oh, this is just like so much more like fun exercise, camaraderie, but like it is also an inc.

It also sports can be an incubator for tribalism dominated. Toxic masculinity. 

Carolyn (she/her): It's supposed to be all of those things, it was built to be. 

David (he/him): Right. Like, and I'm curious like, you know, what your experience of that was as a young person and like how your loves like overwhelm those things to like, make you continue to want to do those , like create these systems of structures that like, do incubate, like both, both dualities. 

Carolyn (she/her): And I think like that's, that's the space, that's the expansive space that sports can be like.

We're, we're, and there are a number of people in that space with me, but that's the Yeah. Putting up the middle, middle finger right. To the sports industrial complex is by saying that we can exist in our own way and that we're not going to we're not gonna buy into dominant culture narratives. Right. I have, I have a son who loves to play and.

He himself says he's not a competitive person. He wants everyone to do well. He wants to, he wants everyone to be happy. He wants everyone to have fun. Not at the cost of another person or, or a space, right? So, so even like Monopoly, right? Mm-hmm. , he's, he's like, no, I don't wanna like, make people bankrupt.

I wanna , I don't wanna, I like, he's identifying the fact that he, you know, he doesn't wanna be a, a slum lord, right? Like he, he's identifying these, these ways that he wants to express himself that are gonna be counter to the rules that we have. , right? So what do they call that now in our society?

Like, he's gonna hack the system, right? He's, he's going to critique that. He's gonna say, no, that doesn't feel right for me. Right? And, and I think the more that people do that with sports, the more that people know that they can do that in sports, in, in a context where rules are very definite and we need rules and structures and stuff.

But if we can collectively, if we can collectively say as a group that, okay, we're gonna play this basketball game in this different way, right? We're going to run we're gonna run a marathon. Not with branded identities, but with, we're gonna create our own identity as a team, right? If we can just kind of.

Realize that we can, we can break out of these confines and be expansive with our sports identities with each other that is flipping off the Americanized industrial sports complex. Right? And, and I think that that is something that a lot of people, and I'm going to put myself out there and I, I see it in Asian and Asian American populations where we're, we're not so quick to do that.

Where, where we, we don't want to disturb that. We don't wanna disrupt. We want to recreate those same systems because we think like the American way is better, or we think like this is the way that we have to do sports. That we have to create a hierarchy, that we have to create a dominance, that we have to we have to do those, we have to have those characteristics in our sports.

And we see that. We see that through colonization. We see that through expansion. We see that through so many lenses that aren't that aren't serving our communities. Well, that's what I'm gonna say about that. And I think it gets, it gets worse gradually worse. The more that it's commodified, the more that we're facing 

David (he/him): Yeah, the more money's involved.

Carolyn (she/her): Exactly. Money, money is, is fine. But I mean, yeah, 

David (he/him): I think even like when money's not involved, I think about this idea, well, you brought up Monopoly, which like, I'm thinking about like my very different approach to Monopoly as a, as a young person where like, I'm the banker and I'm feeling off the side for myself, , like make sure that like I can, and what I'm identifying and, and reflecting as you're sharing is like, you know, this ingrained sense of competition.

Carolyn (she/her): Mm-hmm. . 

David (he/him): Right. And when you talk about like, How do we think about basketball in a way that's like, not like, like, no, like my goal is to shut you down. Mm-hmm. , right? Like, I'm someone who was like a defense first. I identified with Ben Wallace and Joe Kim Noah, not just because of like the way that my hair was at different stages of my high school basketball career, even earlier, right?

Like Gary Payton, right? Like, I'm gonna, like, I'm gonna die up. Right? Like, you're not gonna score on me more than like, I'm gonna score on you. That's just like who I was as as a basketball player. But like, where did that come from? And is that inherently bad? Right? Because like, we're teaching people to navigate the world as it is in, in a lot of ways.

And those are the rules of the games that we're playing. And games I'm gonna say should have winners. Right? And I guess like what is the purpose of having winners in games? Is something that's worth interrogating. How would you respond to that? Like how would, like, what is the purpose of having winners in games if we're thinking about competition?

Well, is there a positive purpose for having Right. 

Carolyn (she/her): If, if I'm, if I'm gonna, if I'm gonna win? Yeah. Mm-hmm. , like, I, I get to, I, that's a pathway to, to showing pride. That's a pathway to to, to show people that I've worked towards. So, and that I've accomplished something. So it's, it's part of ambition and it's part of, like, it, it at the very essence of it, right?

It's, we hear stories and narratives about like the American dream and achieving the American dream and all this kind of stuff, right? And I get it right. I think, I really think that the main, one of the main reasons why I'm here, why my family is here not just because of the 1965 Immigration and National Naturalization Act from which mm-hmm.

we, we are a part of, but also that my dad loves that American national anthem. You know, like there, there is something emotionally luring, luring about it, right? Like when it's, it's so grand. It's so, like my dad's love loves marching band stuff. Like, that's, that's the mystique, that's the aura. That calls to us.

And as, as human beings, if, if we, if we are appreciative of, of love, of care, of beauty, those are things that we shouldn't hide from ourselves, right? And, and part of am ambition and part of competition and part of that self-expression is a part of that. What I'm going to cr critique is, is how, how is that used to commodify even our own thinking, right?

If what, even when people say c you know, competition is not against other people, competition is within yourself, right? In terms of that self-improvement take, right? So, oh, I'm gonna compete with myself, but who competes with themselves the most? That is the most hurtful to themselves, but the model minority.


David (he/him): I was gonna say me I like , right? 

Carolyn (she/her): Like David, yes. Claim it. But David, like, if, so, so my thing is like, if I'm gonna compete against myself right? Then I, I'm going to, but then I'm going to afford someone else love and care and empathy. But if I, if I can't afford that of myself, then I'm not in Ka even with myself, right?

And then, and then what am I going to transmit, right? If, if, if I'm going to, if I'm gonna say to myself like, I'm in competition with myself and this is how I'm going to like, Dominate. Whether that's dominate the grind right of, of daily living, right? I'm gonna be the best mother I can be. I'm gonna be the best sports relationship coach I could be.

I'm going to, I'm gonna outdo myself even, right? Cause I'm in competition with myself. What does that mean for how I transmit to my lineage or to my community? How does, what does that mean for mutuality and community care? When I'm, I'm, I'm going to say, gosh, you know what I, I'm just going to accept myself as I am.

I'm going to accept myself in this complicated way. I don't need to even, I don't even need to like take that other self-development course because I'm already in three, right? . Because even that self-development. Competition shifts. Shifts our purpose. Shifts our purpose, right? And if I want to transmit to, to my lineage, to my community that I am a whole person that is trying to restore to myself and to be in right relation with myself, then I gotta, I gotta take a time out.

I gotta take a time out from, from even the competition with myself, because that still has a lot of energies of colonization. If that lure, again, of productivity, that lure again, that I'm not enough, that lure and that call. Of you know, I'm, I'm not, that I'm not good enough or that I need to be a certain way in this society in order to be of service or in order to, to deem by our society that I am a contributing member of society.

That's, that is counter to what liberatory sports feels like. Liberatory sports says I can, I can be maybe horrible at basketball or I could be learning a sport and I can still feel like a whole person. Right? I could be really, I didn't learn how to swim David until I was, I think 33 and I had to learn how to swim because I was a college student in kinesiology.

So I had to learn how to swim. and it was very challenging and, and there I was like learning a skill and I was, I, I thought I was so fast in that water. I was like diving by the end of the semester I was feeling so empowered and I was feeling so whole and emerging. Mm-hmm. , and I'll tell you right now, my instructor for that class was like, oh, your skills aren't very good.

Right. I was barely swimming. But that had nothing to do with it. It had nothing to do with, with the fact that I was still able to draw on, on liberatory feelings. And that's what I want for other people. That's what I want. I don't want other people to, to end their sports experiences or transmit their grief of their sports experience onto others, because that's, that's something that we have to bring into community, right?

I have to be able to say in our community, you know what, I'm not a very good, I'm not a very good basketball player, so I might not be advantageous to have on a team with you. Mm-hmm. , but I know the game. Or I can help in this way, or I can, I can contribute still to sports culture and sports community in a way that's beneficial for the community and in a way that doesn't make me contort myself.

So that's what I. That's what I'm doing this sports relationship work for is because so many people have, have already foreclosed that there's a term in sports and identity foreclosure that where we, where we, we don't afford that of ourselves anymore because we don't think we're good enough or we don't think we can, we, there's only a very narrow way that we can contribute to sports, right?

Like, ooh, if I like, and we know this from the commodification of sports, I don't have, I don't have enough money to go to golden State Warriors game. You know, I will have enough money if they start doing badly because then ticket prices become more affordable. . And so why is it that now I want them to do badly so I can go to a game?

Right? Or I look for avenues of, of, of people who can, who can kind of, you know, work that angle for me, right? So there's always this dance with commodification and capitalism that I think that we don't have to always release ourselves to, that there's, there's still an aspect of sports that we've defined for ourselves that, that we can bring into our adulthood, that we can bring into our communities.

And I think that's, that's also at risk now because the commodification of sports is reaching younger and younger populations of people. Oh, sure. 

David (he/him): Yeah. Yeah. Oh, and I think like, Oh, so many things to go on. Like you said that last thing, and I was like, n i l and let's talk about that. Mm-hmm. , . But let's just remind me to bring it back to like my moment of like model minority.

It's me. So like, like we like, cause like we, we celebrate so on this n i L piece, like we celebrate, like, okay, cool. Now amateur athletes can, commod like, can monetize on their own name, image, and likeness and still be like, members of like education based sport programs, like educational, institution based sport program.

They, people can be called eligible for like college sports, even if they're making money off of their name. Images like this. Mm-hmm. In our free market society, not quite free market society, but in our market driven society like that, as seen as a win by many people on the quote unquote left. Who think about this as like a worker's rights issue.

Mm-hmm. And then like, but at what cost is the question that you're asking? Mm-hmm. , right? Like, what is this, what is this saying about like our society as a whole, where like, you know, we want I wanna think about Sunni Lee, right? The gymnast who won the gold medal at the Olympics and is now a student at Auburn.

She is now able to get sponsorship and still can maintain her like college eligibility, like that scene as positive, right? She can make a living off of her talents, her abilities, and still get her college education in the institution that is making money off of her, right? But at, at, to what end?

Like to what expense? Right? Like, we're like, I am, I'm all for her getting her bag, but like, What is the opposite side of that message? The, the thing that I was, so that, that's part one of the question. This, the reason that I was struggling to formulate that question is I was reading this list of the n I l athletes who are making the most money.

And they are Bronny James. A Manning and a Sanders. Right. And because football's not really in my purview. I don't remember their names exactly right. But there are people who are like sons of mm-hmm. Professional. They have a, so like there's some Yes. Yeah. Like the, like that's, that's worthy of critique.

And I think like Sunni Lee, like is a more pure version of like, how this is like ideological, but like, what's the downside of N I L and like Suni being able to like, monetize you know, what she does on mass. 

Carolyn (she/her): My general thoughts about N I L is, is mm-hmm. , I'm still. I'm still learning every day. I'm still also the initial conversations I look to people.

There are some n I L experts that I, that I look to title nine experts that I, that I look to, that I read. There's a podcast that I love, which is called The End of Sport, that podcast. I draw a lot of my thoughts and, and reflections about this bigger context, right? In regards to n I l, specifically in California, in the high school realm, people are always asking, oh, is n i l coming to high school because high school is supposed to be this protected educational based athletics where we still hold those.

Yeah. Those, those characteristics of teamwork and all that kind of good stuff where we haven't sold our soul yet, right. To the, to the deep commodification pool. But even in high school, in California specifically because of the film industry I'll give you an example where n i L is not as impactful because we have a lot of youth, a lot of young people that already have work permits because, and as talent, my son actually has had a work permit ever since he was three years old.

He's affiliated with a, a talent agency. He does commercial work and he actually has done commercial work lately for Nike. And, 

David (he/him): and Jordan, I've seen it. I follow your Instagram 

Carolyn (she/her): and follow his, his social, his social media promoter is not very good because that person is me, his mother. So yeah, we, we, we talk about that in our family all the time, right?

And he's, he's not an athlete, but he already has n i l potential, right? As as, as we say. And when we talk about this in terms of people as workers, that is, that is the sweet spot, right? That is the spot that we're not, I, I think the value of, of n I l in a sports context, Brings, brings our awareness as a larger as a larger society, right?

Because we, we value sports so much. And so I think that n I l brings it to our awareness and helps us to have those conversations right about the, the, the shadow side of commercialization, about the benefits about you hear this phrase a lot in sports is leveling the playing field, right?

Mm-hmm. when , when it, sure. When it comes to inequities and when it comes to this social justice or equity conversation. You hear that term a lot in sports, and I'm all for that. I'm all for that. If we're having these conversations in regards to civic. Engagement. If we're having these conversations in terms of community formation, if we're having these conversations in terms of educational reformation, then let's bring it into sports.

That's, that's what I want. I want us to have these critical conversations. I want us to bring our whole selves and that that includes our experiences with teams or with ourselves. And, and that does mean for a lot of people having to go back and wrestle with our experiences of sports, because until we do that, we're going to transmit to our, to our lineage, to our communities.

whatever idealistic thing that we've decided when we were younger, right? Or like we're, we're either going to say we hate sports, or we're not gonna, we're not gonna vote for any sort of civic measure that helps build parks and playgrounds or something like that, right? You're gonna see that because someone got yelled at by a white guy coach a long time ago, and now is gonna take it out on the white guy coach who's coaching their kids, right?

Mm-hmm. . Or you're gonna get people who are like towing the party line and, and talking about sports in this idealistic way that's not practical. For a lot of people and their lived experience. Right. And it's going to create this elitism. It's going to create even more of who has resources and who doesn't.

And we know that this growing inequity is happening in youth. It's, it's happening in youth sports, and it's going un critiqued in a lot of spaces. It's going assumed we, I talked to so many parents, especially family members who think that they have to, they have to sign up their kids for these sports programs that cost a lot of money that mm-hmm.

Require a lot of sacrifice on their part that require a surrender to, to this extractive behavior. and they think like it, that's what the expectation is of them, because like they don't wanna keep their kids from a sport experience, or they want to try to replicate that joy and liberation that they felt as a young person in this current context.

That's a lot tougher. That's a lot tougher with pay-to-play programs that are infringing on 2, 3, 4 year old people. 

David (he/him): Yeah. Yeah. So I, I'm reflective of my own experience mm-hmm. , right? I never played a a u I only played either church league, rec league or or, or school-based, school-based sports. But I think about the industry of youth sports with.

Travel teams, whether it's AAU or something else trainers, not like coaches for practice, but like, you know, 12 year olds, 11 year olds, nine year olds, six year olds have trainers for like, Hey, like, how do we skill you up to do the same? And like, when I'm hearing you lay all that out, I'm like, dreading thinking about how I'm gonna help my kid navigate all of this.

Right. , 

Carolyn (she/her): that's the space, David, that I, I'd like to call that the, the sweet spot as a sports relationship coach. That's, that's the question like I have for, for you, for parents, for like, what is this? And who's helping you, who's helping you navigate that? Because the context is a lot different now for your kids than it was for you.

Right? And so when, when we, yeah. when we either overlay our experience right on our kids and we want for them the things that we benefited from, right? We want that same thing. Mm-hmm. . But if, if, if we're either too idealistic or we're, we're too frightened by that, like, oh my gosh, this context is not how I grew up and so I'm not going to afford that of my kid.

That we, we disarm and we, we, we, we don't allow our own offspring, our own the young people to discover it for themselves, right? And to define it for themselves, right? So if, if we don't apply restorative justice practices to our own sports identities, that's what's gonna get transmitted. , right? We, we need to do some reconciliation, right?

In order to first of all recognize the context that we're in, mm-hmm. and whe whether it's comparing it to our own context, I'm, I'm about to be 55 years old. My sports experience and my, what I hold dear, as sports experiences have evolved and if they didn't evolve, if I still stay stuck in my nine year old self, that means something very different for my 12 year old kid.

Mm-hmm. , because I am trying to parent still. Right? I am in relation with, with these young people, and not just, not just my, my kid, but as an educator, as an athletic director, as a person, running programs, as a person who was a coach, a sports coach, that impact is multiplied by, by all those people. that, that you, you are with every day, right.

That are looking to you for something. So if, if we don't I, I, I do believe, and I guess one of, one of my slogans is that coaches who practice wellness coach youth, well mm-hmm. , right? Sure. And so the same thing if, if we don't, if we don't do our own work, if we, if we don't use restorative justice practices to come back to even ourselves in our relationship with sports mm-hmm.

we're gonna transmit all that harm not just to our own lineage, but, but to to people that we coach, right? We're gonna transmit that to our communities. We're gonna be that person in the stands that yells profanities. . We're gonna be that person at our kids' sports games, who's, who's gonna, like, start fights and stuff, and we see this.

Mm-hmm. , like we, we see it exhibited in these real needy ways that people haven't reconciled. I, I could go to any game, any youth game, I could go to any park where there's organized sports. and I wanna tell people like, Hey, have you heard about Amplify rj? Have you heard about ? Have you heard about restorative practices?

Have you heard about like, can we practice that? And we can, we can. People think that we can't do that in sports spaces, but we can't, 

David (he/him): well, can, can, can we Within the structures in which they currently exist? Yeah. It has to be stopping because like all , well, like all through all through this conversation I've been hearing like, yeah, you, we need to create like different models for leagues, right?

We need to create different models for like what teams are, because like even when you said like, you know, coaches who practice wellness coach well, but what are they, what is the objective they're coaching their, their athletes to, to achieve? Is it like. Win all of our games, dominate on defense, like break the spirit of the other teams.

So we like win all of our games. Or is it like exercise, mental balance cooperation, teamwork, outcome of the game. Damn. And sometimes like those things are like those, those things aren't mutually exclusive. Right? But like, if you're working within a system of people whose objectives are like domination when at all costs within the rules of the game and like slightly over whatever advantage you have to get whether that is like psychological warfare or like, you know, being like overly physical, Right.

What are like Yeah, because like you can have like the most mentally well like balanced coach like coaching towards like objectives that like are harmful and like they can execute those really well. And so like what is a model of sports organization youth? . I imagine it might be difficult to say professional , but youth or professional that like you've seen adopt these objectives of community wholeness.

Right. Relationship over, like competition. 

Carolyn (she/her): Mm-hmm. . I think a again, that's, that's on a spectrum of, of mm-hmm. of behavior. I think, I think there are some professional or capitalistic like context teams that have some elements of moving towards a more whole way. Like actually maybe even some that consider that humans are engaged in it and not, and not just commodities.

Right. So there are, that does exist. There are also Models globally, so I'm gonna expand it to, to globally. Global Sport Matters is, is a good organization that I look to. I look to organizations that are, that come out of collectivists societies and I see what they have to offer. Still, you know, kind of being critical and, and still knowing that this spectrum of commodification exists.

Here's a narrative that we, we see a lot like, and this comes up with soccer, with world Cup stuff a lot when it comes to professionalism. We always hear, at least in on my social media feeds, and in our American media, we hear a lot of how the Japanese. Soccer teams clean up after themselves in the locker room.

And how now Japanese fans, jaap the fans of Jaap, the Japanese team, they, now they're cleaning up the stadiums, you know, so, so it's not, and we're hearing this and what does I think about, what does that mean for, like, is that supposed to be helpful? Is that supposed to be, like, does that, what do, what do Japanese people think of that framing of their team?

That's what I'm interested in. I don't wanna put a judgment on it because I think that that judgment will be obviously laced with my own perception, my own assumptions or my own advocacies towards something. But how, yeah, how can that be? Thought of or engaged with in a way that then informs our own, our own work going forward, or our own being going forward.

Like for me, I know that that's an example of how a collectivist society how their behavior is kind of appropriated in the American media. Right. And at the same time, I'm like, yeah, that's so cool. Like, that's what I do when I go when I go to like, that is, that is behavior that I practice, right? Or that I wanna practice.

When I had teams, when I was coaching teams, I would always say, we need to leave this place better than how we found it. We need to be respectful of, yeah. So it, it does reach to those reached to those sorts of altruistic sort of behaviors. And yet who, who is it, who is it that, that we are putting in a narrow framework?

You know? So, yeah. 

David (he/him): And like when I ask about like organizations mm-hmm. , like immediately I, part of me like, wanted to take that back cuz like I thought about like, it's not necessarily just like. Paid for organizations that like practice sports in this way. Like I think about like all the things that happen at the park mm-hmm.

right. That are unorganized, that are just community people. Or like, who show up on a Sunday and get together to play, play a thing together. Exercise comradery. And I think sometimes from my perspective, like testosterone and ego and pride get in the way of all of those things. And, you know, oftentimes we have ways of dealing with and navigating those things.

I wa I'm wondering how those are often like adults who are like trying to like, reconnect with the good parts of sports. How do we like, is, is there a way to build like, the good parts of sports, like from the ground up for, from young people, for, for young people now? , I think it takes like organizing. Yes.

Right, right. And then like, who gets paid to do that organizing is where like the commodification like inherently comes in. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . And like what you choose to organize around, I'm thinking about a rec league around here that I'm aware of that like, you know, talks about like, and like we have professional videographers that will like, put together the highlights of each game and like we keep your stats and like all a sudden it's like, okay, cool.

Like I guess , but like I just want to get a run in and like, I guess I'm just gonna go to LA Fitness and wait for three hours Right. in between Games. Right. And so like, there are there. all different ways, like spectrums and like no formation of this is gonna be perfect in any way, shape, or form. Right. I think something that we haven't, like explicitly talked about is, right.

The, well, you, you have a little bit, but like the gender gap in participation and you know, masculine energy and egos like being an inhibitor for a lot of people who don't identify as male from wanting to participate. But yeah, there are like so many different formations for, for all of this to take place.

I'm curious as we're like starting to like wh to a close, if there is something that you like, want like all the listeners of this podcast to, to take away or take action on. 

Carolyn (she/her): Yes, there are actions I think we can all take. and they could, again, on a spectrum, like we don't, we don't have to mm-hmm. be protesting in the streets or we don't, you know, and we can do that.

Right. So I'm not gonna say we shouldn't do that. Yeah. Yeah. But, mm-hmm. . But first of all, I think it does start with restorative justice practices to ourselves and reconciling to ourselves what sports means to us individually, what it means to what we see in, in society. And, and somehow reconciling that right.

Somehow we can't, we can't be reconciling that at the expense of our lineage, right. Lineage collectively. Right. I think our society deserves and requires us to do this work of restorative justice. With our sports identities, because if we don't, we're just going to replicate, we're just gonna replicate that.

This is extractive this extractive commodification of sports that we know is harming so many of our young people because we see it in mm-hmm. In our participation numbers, we see it in our, accessibility data. We see it with the fact that, that there is a proliferation of well-meaning non-profit organizations that are trying to solve this in so many different configurations.

Right. I think we can put in some effort and some work to. Align ourselves with any of these organizations or movements that, that is doing that work. Right. And, and that's, that's our reciprocity. That's, that's how we can engage with creating a better landscape, a better world of youth sports that will then it's gonna be generations from now probably, but will then impact the adult world of commodification of sports.

It'll, it has, , and it needs to happen from all angles. It can't just be grassroots, but it has to be grassroots, but it can't just be grassroots. So it has to come from the, that other side of the spectrum, the other end of the spectrum. That also means that we, we support professional athletes that are like Colin Kaepernick, like other people that are really bringing to the forefront this part of themselves as a whole person, not just as an athlete.

That affects that. Right? So therein lies the needs for res restoration. The needs for asking permissions, the needs for reconciling and, and asking again, and making mistakes and being empathetic. That is the space that we have to do that because as we're coming together, we, we, we do need. All of us, we do need college level.

We need professional level, we need youth level, we need parents, families, we need spectators. We need everyone involved who has a sports identity to participate in this re-imagination, to, to reconstruct and reconstruction and redistribution really of, of who gets to enjoy it. Who gets to experience liberation and joy.

It's, it's sports is too big of a possibility of self-expression and of love to keep it in a container that's only commodified. Right. And if we don't push out from the non-modified areas, . If we don't have parents who learn how to organize and demand that, that they're not gonna support leagues that extract money and time from them and they're in an unpaid way.

Or if we're not gonna look at different ways that we can exchange different kinds of energies besides financial and money energies, when we start to to say that we're going to, we're going to exchange different kinds of resource when it comes to volunteering to coach, right? When it, when it we're, when we say, as a society, let's, let's train each other on how to be a positive sports parent.

How to be a positive coach. Let's, let's train you on some skills that, that you can then share. , right? Let's give you time off from your corporate work job so you can coach a little league team. Let's pay you for that. Mm-hmm. , right? That's the way that corporations can contribute, right? So let's, yeah, let's, let's not make families travel and pay tons of money to hotels and leagues.

In order to, in order to allow access for this, for this feeling of freedom that benefits everyone. Those are, those are the, those are the structural things that we all can put effort to, or that we could all, at least my ask is that we allow ourselves to engage in that thought. And if we allow ourselves to engage in that thought, if we don't hold our American sports context as this thing out, that is totally assumed and that we cannot critique if we allow ourselves to critique it a little bit.

And really like what are the needs of the humans that are involved in here collectively and even individually if we allow ourselves just that. And then that starts conversations. And then those conversations lead us to the spaces that are doing the work of organizing, of reimagining and reclaiming sports spaces that reduce harm or that know how to come back to each other from harms that are done.

Right. Yeah. And that needs to replicate itself. That energy needs to replicate itself, and then we could bring that energy into larger, broader spaces, right? So that's, that's how that's gonna, that's gonna happen in, in, and I know it sounds kind of, kind of cosmic out there, but if we don't, that's what sports does.

It gives us this ability to think of freedom in that way, right? When we see motivation in terms of what, what individual people can do with their bodies, we see teams that overcome adversity. We see that in sports, that's available to us. Now. How can we do that as community of, of humans in our society for the good of all, right?

David (he/him): Yeah. So much of what we talk about with restorative justices like working from values and turning those values into action, right? I've defined restorative justice as you know, a reflection of indigenous values of interconnection, where we focus on repair of harm when it happens. Repairing relationships from harm happens, but building and strengthening relationships to prevent future harm.

In your own words, how do you define restorative justice? 

Carolyn (she/her): I define restorative justice as a continual invitation to be with one another, to reconnect to evolve with each other, that we don't foreclose on each other. Restorative justice. And re restorative justice practices give us away. And I think sports is also that way that I always think is, is is fun and it's an easy access point to practice restorative justice.

That that is practice. Right. If, if I, I, if I miss, and we know this even of professional athletes, they miss more shots than they make. They, they, mm-hmm. , they are not always scoring goals. They are not always dominating. They're, but they're always practicing. And so just like how we are in our human form with each other, if I, if I cause harm or if harm is causing me, I'm gonna get back at it.

I'm going to, to address it. , I'm going to, there's a pathway for me to, to repair that. And for me to go on and for me to continue building and growing in community, I don't have to isolate myself. I don't have to I don't have to feel shame around it. And again, that, that mirrors and that's aligned to what I want for sports experience, that we keep coming back to it.

David (he/him): Yeah,

absolutely. You get to sit in the circle with four people living or dead. Who are they and what's the question that you ask? The circle? I'm gonna put some extra constraints on you. They have to be sports related in some way. , 

Carolyn (she/her): they have to be sports related. Okay. It like in

David (he/him): some way. So that's broad, but like there's, those are some 

Carolyn (she/her): constraints.

Know what this is, this is funny because since I believe that, That everyone has a relationship to sports. I am still gonna bring in my grandmother. I'm gonna bring in my, my grandmother, Mercedes ttr. And I'm gonna say because she and I used to watch sports together when I was young. I used to watch the Atlanta Braves on TV because they were on national tv and I learned baseball and I, I developed my love for baseball through watching them on tv.

And my grandmother would watch with me and she wouldn't know what's going on, but she would be very enthusiastic. So now that I know a bit more of Tagalog language, I wanna talk with her about, How she looked at sports. So that would be one. I would invite Jim Craig, the goalie for the 1980 US Hockey Team. Miracle on Ice. Mm-hmm. , I totally fangirled him. He was like my total crush. At that time as a, as a middle schooler, Jim Craig. Mm-hmm. , I would invite, my, one of my mentors, Debbie Matthews, who is my high school athletic director, who is now our ancestor as a, as a mentor to me.

She still influences me every day. I would invite you know, who I would invite, I would invite, Dr. Joseph Cooper. y'all could look him up. And I would also invite Dave. So I know this is like, 

David (he/him): and what is the question you would ask? 

Carolyn (she/her): I would ask that circle that circle. How has your own. Sports identity as a young person shaped the hard work you do now in sports culture.

Mm-hmm. , that's what I would ask. I don't know if Dave, I don't know if Dave Craig has, has a, oh, Jim, Craig has a sports identity now as an adult, but anyway. Oh, I want him in the circle just because I'm still crushing over him.

David (he/him): dang. You know, often I throw that question back to the guest, but that's what we've been talking about this entire time, so we don't quite get to do that part. No, no worries. Thank you so much. Just a couple quick hairs to get us out of here. Who's one person that I should have on this podcast and, you know, help me get them on?

Carolyn (she/her): the folks from the End of Sport podcast.

David (he/him): Alright. And I look that up as we were talking. So I will, I will, I, I'm energized by these different types of conversations on this restorative justice life. And so, you know, we'll see how this lands with our audiences and, and move from there. And then finally, how can people support you and your work in the ways that you want to be supported?

Hmm. Or connect with you in your work. 

Carolyn (she/her): Thank you. Yes. You can reach out to me on my website, I. 

David (he/him): For folks who don't know, can you define 

Carolyn (she/her): Kawa? Kawa is the . 

David (he/him): We, we skipped that earlier. 

Carolyn (she/her): Yeah. Kapwa. K A P W A is the Filipino Tagalog language term for the concept of interconnectedness and interdependence.

It is the, I like to define it as the third vibe between people and among people and different energies like nature and the world.

David (he/him): Yeah. So people can visit your website and like what will they find there? Who do you often connect with and support? 

Carolyn (she/her): bOh oh, gosh. I, I do specific work in. Sports administration, spaces of athletic departments things like that. I also do workshops for teams, groups. I host and facilitate now through Agile, the American Asian American Justice and Innovation Lab.

We have an Asian American identity sports identity community lab that we facilitate lots of different ways to talk sports with me. So let's huddle 

David (he/him): Beautiful. All right. Well thank you so much Carolyn, for your time, your insight. I am aware that we didn't get back to like my internalized minor model, minority myth and like we're gonna talk about that a little bit right after this.

Make sure you tune in next week to hear more of Carolyn's and other Asian-American leaders reflections on how we collectively heal and work through trauma.

But until then, take care and we'll see you next week.