The sudden and tragic death of George Floyd has hit close to home at Montana Tech, which now presents an opportunity for administrators and coaches to hear the concerns and suffering their African-American student-athletes are going through.
“When we’re going through this as a country and a society, it really changes your perspective on what’s important and what your issues are on a day-to-day basis and where your focuses should be,” said athletic director Matt Stepan.
“Leadership sometimes is just shutting your mouth and listening," said head football coach Kyle Samson, "and not necessarily having things to say all the time, but listening to your players, your peers, your staff. And I think this is a great starting point to listen and to admit that we need to do better.”
Montana Tech has never been a stranger to inclusion. Leading from the examples of past Orediggers like Kelvin Sampson, who spread a message of inclusion and understanding to a community that often doesn’t have to live with the reality of what life is like for African Americans elsewhere.
“That’s something we’re trying to live up to, not only the standard he set when he coached here but also the standard in the way he lived his life, one of inclusion and compassion," said head men's basketball coach Adam Hiatt. "I mean, we had him on campus last fall and he was meeting with our team and just the standards he has in his program are the standards we want to have in our program, as well. So, we admire him, we respect him, we admire everything he has to say. We’re going to make sure we live the legacy that he’s established here.”
Above all, the Montana Tech community understands right now its priorities lie within all of their student-athletes dealing with an indescribable amount of emotions and to make sure they know how much they care about their lives off the field.
“Going forward I think that kind of just goes to everything we’re trying to do here at Tech, where we’re trying to build relationships with kids that know we care about them as people and not just as football players or basketball player or whatever it may be," Samson said.
“We share relationships. Relationship is the most important piece to our program," Hiatt added. "And so when one of our members suffers, everyone suffers.”
“That’s our family and we need to pull together as a family and be there for all members of our family, especially for those who are really feeling this pain," said Stepan.