Jackie: Thank you everyone for listening. My guest today is Dr. Jen Fry. Jen, thank you so much for being on our show. Would you tell our guests a little about yourself?
Jen: Yeah. I always tell people I wanna intro myself because I feel like it's a little easier to talk about yourself than reading off the bio., I feel like I have a little bit more little razzle dazzle if you must. I was a college volleyball player, college volleyball coach for about 15 years.
I'm from Arizona. So moved to Alabama for college, which really scared my white mom, right? I'm coming from five minutes from the Mexican border to a place where we hear about all of this civil rights turmoil. I had a phenomenal time at Montevallo, then decided there I wanted to be a coach and I was a coach for about 15 years.
Traveled all over the US, was able to play for a national championship when I was at Illinois, just had phenomenal, phenomenal experiences. When I went and moved to essentially the last school I decided to coach at, I started to see that there was kind of this space between race and sport that wasn't talked about the way I wanted it to be talked about, nor the topic.
And so with that, I made the decision. I think, you know, the careers of 40 years in one place I think are gone. We're not gonna see that, right? The person who gets the watch, who gets the chair, the whatever it is, the cloth, because they've that that's gone, people are moving and doing different things, people are jumping careers, you know, before I thought I'd be a college coach for the rest of my life, I would be the person that retires at 60 years in the game. And I decided to make a career switch. And it was one of the best things I could have done. One of the scariest things. I mean, I think that a lot of times we don't talk about how scary is to make a career switch, right.
To like jump and be like this thing I've only known, the people I've only known this, the, the support network I've only known, I am leaving all of that to like parachute out and hope my damn parachute even works.
Jen: Not even like get to the job, but the parachute works. And so I was so lucky and had. Such a phenomenally supportive group of friends and parents and, and family members. And so I went into this space of talking about DEI and didn't really know what I wanted to do. I just knew it wasn't done the way I wanted it to be done. And so I said, I wanted it to be done with nuance, with context, with uncomfortableness, with authenticity.
I wanna be myself and do it. I don't want to go work for a company and have to do their thing that doesn't fit who I am or talk about the topics the way I want to. So I decided to leave coaching, went and worked at Duke for a few years to kind of figure out what I wanted to do, and it was at that point, I decided that I wanted to both get my PhD as well as do my business full time.
So I just decided to leave kind, I guess my second career working academics, to then go start my company and get my PhD in geography at the best Big Ten school ever. Michigan state.
Jackie: Love that. And Jen, tell us, was there a specific situation or experience that said 'I'm moving out of coaching and into consulting?'
Jen: No, you know, everyone asked me that it wasn't like this aha moment. It was more of this gradual aspect of starting, cause I think as coaches, we don't really check in with ourselves mentally and emotionally. We're seeing that with like, with a lot of the mental health stuff happened around college athletics, but I was starting to feel very resentful of coaching.
I felt like I was leaving Thursday for a Saturday game and missing four days of life and my friends and doing things, and I was starting to feel resentful being there. College coaching is a grind, and with recruiting, if the recruit calls, it doesn't matter where you're at. You need to take that call.
And so you're in situations where you're out with your friend, your family, you're on vacation. You have to take these calls and the calls might be an hour, two hours, if it's a, it's a recruit you want. And I felt like I was just missing now on life. And I think also what the situation was previously, the places I lived in, I didn't really have a life cuz they were small towns.
All that I could do was coach. But when I moved to North Carolina, I now had this friend group and I had people and places I wanted to go. And it was like almost out of touch where I, people were telling me about the things I could drive to, but I just couldn't go cause of my schedule. So I just was feeling really resentful of coaching.
And I also starting to learn more about myself, identity, kind of the spaces I maybe want to get into I'm reading, I'm going to webinars and I'm starting to think like, this is the thing I wanna do. And I didn't, I didn't know what I didn't know. I'm kind of glad I didn't know what I didn't know, cause maybe I wouldn't have jumped, but like I just, I, I, you know, for me it was like, I'm starting to get resentful of coaching. I love helping people and maybe it's the time that I help people just in a different way, and my vehicle changes.
Jackie: Absolutely. Jen, well, let's take a step back and talk about your experience as a collegiate athlete. Can you tell us, you know, what were some of the important lessons that you learned by playing at that level?
Jen: Yeah, I think, you know, one of the things that, that sticks out to me now in, you know, looking back in hindsight is what it means to be a really good teammate. I don't think we talk about that enough. Like, we aren't taught what it means to be a really good teammate and value someone over yourself for a bigger picture.
Like, we don't really talk about that in the workspace, in any spaces. And I think that I, like, there were times I think back in high school, I was the worst teammate. I see some of the videos and I'm like, oh God, 16-year-old Jen was such a bad teammate. Like it, it was so bad and then think about in college, you know, wanting to be captain, but not fully, holistically, understand what it meant to be a captain, just wanting the title. And so I think, you know, one of the things coming out is what does it mean to be a really good teammate, and understanding that maybe your role isn't at the front of the line, but it's at the back cheering for people and supporting people.
You know, I think about it at Illinois, I was a volunteer assistant. I was like the lowest of the low on the totem pole and the head coach then who's at Stanford now, Kevin, he was great with me. And, but also let me know this is your role within the program. And I think many times people can't develop to be good teammates cuz the coaches or whoever doesn't tell them the role on the program.
And, and Kevin Hamley was great at being like, this is gonna be your role. This is what we expect. But also this is how your role, even though you might not be on the court, is gonna help create this amazing culture. And people like, aren't really told of how much it can help change a school, change a program. You know, if you're saying on the bench, you're not doing the things you want. And so I think, you know, being a really good teammate and if you take it to the office, sending what that looks like, and the nuances of it, I think was a really beneficial lesson.
Jackie: Absolutely. And you know, you're right. You know, there are so many courses that we take in college about learning how to operate in business, but being a good teammate should be one of those classes and something that you know is competency because it's so important in accomplishing whatever, you know, the organizational goals are. Sometimes you have to take a backseat and that's, that's good advice for all of us.
Well, Jen, tell us, you know, you coach for a long time, what are some of the things that you enjoyed most about that? And then we'll talk about what you're doing now in consulting, but as a coach, what was exciting about that? What kept you in that industry for so long? Mm.
Jen: I think it was the fact that you got to help people transform themselves from the person they came in at 18 and 19 to this person that's 21, 22, you know, those years are so critical and the transformation and helping young women figure themselves out at that point.
Jen: Right. Like, I mean, I think that was the best thing. Yeah. It wasn't, the winning part is seeing people develop and building those relationships. So a lot of the people I coached, I, I get to be friends with now, and it's like a different level of friendship. Right. It's kind almost like going from having your parent to now your parent to friend.
Jen: And it, it's very different. I think about my high school coach who now is, is a dear friend of mine. And, you know, I was in high school 25 years ago and I still would call her coach Moe like that, that title there, but like, there's that different relationship now that we're both adults. And so I think that's a really cool thing is seeing my athletes, having kids and starting families and doing these great things.
One of my, athletes is Chanel. I think it's Walker Smith or Smith Walker. I can't remember the, the hyphen, but she is the team photographer for the Panthers. And she is probably like, if you think of Black creative in college athletics or professional, like her name is at the top, like she is changing the industry.
She was the director of like content creation for Tennessee football, first Black female in that type of position. So she's doing great. I have another athlete, Nicole Taylor, who like started this club, volleyball club, and is doing it from a very different way in how she treats her athletes. Think about, I have Anna, who is a nurse and how she's right will ask me, hey, how do I interact with my patients in these ways? And I get to see some athletes who are doing such phenomenal things and knowing that maybe I had a hand in helping them develop themselves and how they wanted to treat others.
But I mean, don't get twisted, Chanel and her twin sister, Danielle will tell you, when I coached them, baby, we would go at it like you would think I was the big sister. We would go at like you ain't about to walk away from me, just mumbling, what you gonna say? Right. Like we had that relationship of like, you, ain't just gonna say what you want, but like, that's also like the mutual respect we had of each other that we could be upset with each other.
And it's not like this elongated thing. Like we gonna talk about it and then keep it moving. And so I think it's just that relationship building that I really enjoyed because you're helping them. I think for coaches, they always forget, like they're helping us as well and how we look and view it and at people and shift and change. So it's, it's just really a beautiful thing.
Jackie: That's awesome, and that theme of development was a thread, right, through the coaching career and now into the consulting career. So you're helping organizations develop through the lens of sports. Can you tell us a little bit more of what you're doing now and the type of work that you do with organizations now?
Jen: Yeah. So I started JenFryTalks and like I said, I wanted to do it authentically where I saw that there was a whole of stuff that was missing. And so what I do is I try and bring it from the idea of I'm helping you build skills and build capacity, you know, while I understand, I think that there's a place for the moral or heart argument.
I think we need to really talk about, what it means to look at this from the aspect of skill building.
Jen: And what it means to say, listen, the way the world is moving now, and people are moving. And especially after George Floyd, it maybe showed us that we don't have the skills to talk about these conversations the way we wanted to.
Jen: And because of that, we have to start being more introspective than we thought. And that's okay. But what do you do with that knowledge, cause I think many times people come at this from an aspect of what is our department doing? What is our university, our organization, what is the C-suite? What are all these people doing? Versus what am I doing? What am I doing to change for the better, but also on the other side, what am I doing to cause harm?
Jen: And people don't think of that. It's like, well, you know the department, they aren't doing this, this and this, but you're a white woman, what are you doing with the other white folk to start creating change? You're a white person that is leading a staff of 50, what are you doing to help your staff? And so I think the issue is, is that we tend to keep it very far away from us instead of very proximal. Because when we do this work very proximal, it, it hurts. We start to maybe learn that the people we loved and trust aren't really, weren't really saying you're maybe doing the right thing.
and that also comes from their past of what they learned and the traumas they have. And so we don't realize that maybe we've been looking at this idea of race, not in a way that we want to, but in a way that we are just taught by them. And so then when we're talking about it or not talking about it, it's because of that baggage and trauma of how they really taught us that talking about race is bad.
That if you mention anything with identity, it's bad. And so, because it's bad now, whenever my athlete or a coworker wants to talk about race, I immediately have this shame and trauma that talking about race is bad. So when they wanna talk to me about a topic then, because it's bad, I haven't even investigated. And this person has a whole other language and verbiage that I have no clue about. Well, now I'm even more uncomfortable and I'm feeling guilty, I'm feeling shamed. And so, because all that now I definitely want, don't wanna talk about this this topic to them. And then when problems are occurring, we're not retaining people, things are happening.
I'm not saying it's a race issue, because I've never even really talked about that, or even though in a very nuanced and complex way. I'm just gonna immediately push back. And then I'm gonna say, right, if you wanna talk about race, you're the racist, you're a race baiter cause all it is trying to weaponize words to get me to stop talking about it. Because what I tend to see is like, it's almost like a, an 18 hundreds duel, who's gonna say the word racist first.
Jen: Because if I say it first, you can't say it back to me. So what I do is I'm kind of like, okay, I'm hearing racist. Well, you're the racist. And so now that I've pulled that trigger, now you're on the defensive of, I'm not racist. I blah, blah. And now I've been able to take all of the pressure off of me. And onto you and now I'm going at you. Well, why would you talk about, why would you do this, blah, blah, blah. And now I've made it that you feel it versus me having to interrogate why I am so guilty, shameful, uncomfortable. When I just mentioned identity, something that we all can see, right? People all be like, I don't see race. Baby, you see me wearing this purple and pink polka dot top, but you can't see the color of my skin?
Jen: they they've been conditioned to not talk about it. And then the equal, anyone who does talk about it as being bad, and that's what we see a lot. And so my goal is to help people build skills, to see, to pull back their layers, to see where this starts, so that then they can enter into more conversations and do more change.
Jackie: Got it. And then Jen, on that same topic, what are some of the, the questions people ask or some of the challenges people share with you that they're afraid to speak up about, that you help them just navigate through so that they can have those conversations with, you know, a little bit more confidence and, and a little bit more context to do those conversations right.
Jen: Very rarely do I do a workshop that doesn't have people sharing with each other. Very like, very, very, very rare, like, I don't even think there's any time I've spoken to anyone that people aren't sharing, at least once with each other, that that just doesn't happen. Like I'm like, I'm not gonna sit here and talk for an hour and a half. But what my goal is to set kind of mini foundations for people to talk to each other.
Jen: Because you have to get that verbal experience in order to be able to gain that knowledge experience. It's almost like going to a gym.
Jen: You have to kind of put the work in to be able to gain the knowledge of what you're gonna do. And many times people forget the work that they've put in. And part of the work is you verbally have to prepare and train yourself. And so very rarely is it that people aren't talking to each other to learn, and sharing out. And I really, you know, when I work by myself or with my friend, Victoria, we really work on setting the container. These are the parameters of how we're gonna talk to each other about these things.
Jen: This is the parameters about how you share out. We're not telling you what you can and can't, but what we're saying is that you are not gonna be sharing out someone else's personal information because you are uncomfortable with your information.
Cause that's what we'll tend to see is we'll be like, OK, pick one of the prompts and share out and they'll be like, well, Jackie said this, this. Baby this ain't Jackie, you're Jen. And then they get upset because I'm like where Jackie, if Jackie wants to share, Jackie can share, but you're not gonna share for Jackie.
Jen: And then they get upset because I'm making them have to share what they did not wanna share, because their goal is to share someone else's stuff to make it look like they're still involved. And so what I say is, no, you have to share yourself. So which one of these prompts are you talking about? And then you can kind of get a little flustered because they weren't prepared for that because maybe the stuff that they said was actually really vulnerable, they didn't wanna share it
Jackie: Right. I was thinking that same thing, Jen, like vulnerability is hard right when you're not practicing it. And so it's, it's easier to deflect rather than,
Jen: a hundred percent.
Jackie: owning that and, and really responding from your authentic perspective and learning and growing and not getting it right all the time is all part of the process but people have to get comfortable with that.
Jen: Well, and, and because you start to realize like, people aren't used to being vulnerable. And then its a, it also asks you like about their friend set, right? Like if you're not practicing being vulnerable with your friend set, who are you practicing it with? Because I think many times folks aren't used to being vulnerable with anybody.
And so now not only am I asking you to be vulnerable, I'm asking you to be vulnerable in front of people that you really don’t know, and that's really difficult. And so because of that, they aren't gonna talk, they're kind of doing this thing of like, I'm just here, so I don't get fined. You know what I mean? Like that aspect of like, you know, I'm just gonna literally talk, but I'm good, check my phone. I'm gonna do those things. And so I'm asking to share in front of people that you don't know with stuff that you're worried that can come back and bite you.
Jen: And so we send a container of like, here's the deal you're here. You might as well learn. You might as well be vulnerable. Because if you're not gonna do it, then, then there's no, like we have kicked people out. We will kick people out. And I always set that precedent. I'm like, here's the deal. You don't have to be here, but you're also not gonna mess with the container because what happens is that if I see you not sharing, well then, and you're in person in power. Well, I'm not gonna do it right. If I see you, Jackie, and you're my supervisor, and you're just doing this... well, I'm not gonna do
Jackie: On my phone. Mm-hmm
Jen: And that's the thing. I just, I spoke at school and I, the, the first thing I say is coaches and staff will not be overseers. You will not be overseers because what we tend to see in, when student athletes have mandatory stuff is the coaches and staff will just sit at the top and watch everyone. And they'll be up there and they'll be up on their phone and they'll just be watching. And I'm like, absolutely not. And I was doing this one recently and there was this guy up there. I said, you're either in or you're out. That's your only option. You're in or you're out. You don't, you don't get to decide that you're gonna be up there.
So you're in or you're out. And if you're out, that's fine, but you're, and you're not gonna then sit on the stairs. No, you're in you're fully in. And if I see you're not in, you're gonna be asked to leave. And so I tell the coaches, cuz the coaches will try and like clump themselves in the far corner at, this ain't your time, boo. You're in, you are in the middle of the audience. You're talking to student athletes.
And it's so funny because the, the kid who was like standing up there, who didn't wanna be in afterwards, came from was like, that was amazing. Thank you so much. You know, I I'm starting this program. How do I do it? And it was just funny, but like, once people get in, they enjoy it. I make it in it's like enjoyably uncomfortable as, as weird is, is to say. And so, you know, I would say so once and to kind of go back to answer your questions, once I kinda start this container and get the container going, they start to are, they're able to be more comfortable thinking about themselves in different ways.
Jen: And because of that, the questions that, you know, one, one of the prompts I have is what's the hardest thing about learning information that goes completely against friends, family, parents, caretakers, K through 12 teachers. Like what's the hardest thing, because we don't think about that. When you learn something new, you don't think about, I have this new information that goes against what my grandpa says, and now I realize my grandpa was really problematic. And so their questions are, how do I talk to people? Now that I've learned this information about myself, about X, Y, Z, how do I talk to them? And to answer their question is, is helping them understand that and understand that it's like, I always say it's simple, but it's not easy.
Jen: It is simple to run a hundred meters. It's not easy to win a championship. It's simple, get out there you run, but it's not easy. And so this is a thing, and theoretical, is very simple, but it is not easy. Mm-hmm.
Jackie: Right, because you're thinking about just as you said, Jen, you know, all of the things that you've been taught over the years, and now you're getting this information and how do you process this new information when it contradicts what you grew up believing in thinking? Right.
Jen: and you have to go back to that house. You have to go back to that house and hear your parents, hear your uncle say these things. And now you guys sit and rectify, do I implode this relationship with people? I love. And I'm always like baby start a riot. Start a riot. Start that riot. Toss that Thanksgiving table.
Jackie: I love that. I love that. Jen, tell us a little about, you know, you've done quite a bit of traveling in your life. Talk a little about some of the places that you've been and what your experience has been as a Black woman navigating other parts of the world.
Jen: Oh, my gosh. So that goes to my, so my, my PhD is in geography. So I look at the racial experiences of professional Black volleyball players in Europe. And I look at, from a place in space analysis of like how we feel in these things that are very opaque and not name, but we can name it. Right, Jackie, like we can talk about with each other, going into this space and being like, nope. This aint for us. And it's not like there's a sign. It's not like there's someone being like, get outta here, Black women, you can just feel it.
Jen: And so for me, you know, it's this aspect of tying my two loves together, like helping and loving Black women and then also geography and traveling and seeing the world. And I, you know, it's been funny because my partner, he didn't have a passport before we got together.
And I was like, I will leave you. You will literally be at home. And I will be traveling. Like I just wanna let you know. And when he got that, now that he's gotten that passport, you would think he is Carmen San Diego, right? Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? Because Daniel tries to, to travel as much as possible because he's seen what it feels like and what it looks like.
And so I I'll start off with my favorite places. My favorite place, I think on earth is probably Cuba. I love Cuba so much. It is just the coolest place. The people, the food, it's just, I love Cuba so much. Also love like Southeast Asia. Love that just because it's so different. The people, the food, the culture it's like, and, and my sister also owns a resort in Bali. So she lives in Indonesia. Yeah. Half the time. So Sola Villas, if you all wanna go to Bali and, and book my sister, Laurie, she is phenomenal. She's a, a crazy human, but she's amazing.
So I I've always had travel kind of in my blood as well. So I think that, but then I think about when I went to like Turkey and Turkey also is one of my favorites, like Istanbul, one of my favorite places, but someone also thought I was a prostitute there and I was in like leggings and a t-shirt. Right. And so from my research, the Black women had several instances where walking around, going to their apartment, people thought that they were sex workers. Right. So that was a common thread in Europe. I would also say China was the hardest for me, because like, you have to think about China as a country is like 96% homogeneous.
Jen: we're not just saying with like, like maybe like Scandinavian countries where it's like white skin, but people might have blonde hair, black hair. No, it is, China is like homogeneous in terms of skin, color, hair, color, like right. Those type of things, like very homogeneous and they've maybe have never been around a black person.
Jen: Depending on what part of, of China. You've like, they have maybe seen us on TV. They have never been around us. So you go there. And in some ways, like from my experience and other experiences of Black women, I know it's, you are just looked at and this wonderment and also scary. I mean, I had this one instance. I was walking this woman essentially bear hugged me so that she could be in a picture with me, for her friend. she grabs me and I'm like, what are you doing? And then I realize that her friends are with the cameras taking pictures of me,
Jackie: Oh, my goodness.
Jen: So like those experiences where it's really, really hard, right. To be in some countries and how you're treated because of this intersect of being a Black woman, and so kind of understanding that context, but like I try and travel as much as possible.
Jackie: That's interesting, Jen, thanks for sharing that. You know, for, for those of us who haven't been able to travel, especially the past few years, you know, it's, it's interesting to understand the difference and how people are treated or embraced or, you know, it's not great right around the world.
Jen, I'm interested in your take on some of the notable racial justice situations in sports and starting of course, with Colin Kaepernick. What are your thoughts on that situation? How he was treated in that situation. And then we'll get on to some, some other athletes and coaches as well.
Jen: Well, I mean, I, I think it goes back to the aspect that Black people always have to implode their lives to get justice. Because I, I know you mentioned we'll talk about Brian Flores. I mean, same thing. These people have to literally implode their lives, Colin Kaepernick, how he was treated, you know, it was almost like, I think the approval rating MLK had when he started was like 33%.
And people try and say, like, he, people need to be like MLK. MLK was hated, violently hated, obviously, cause he was assassinated murdered, he was hated when he was doing the work. He had 33% approval rate, but now he's been whitewashed into this figure that everyone loved during the sixties. No, no, not at all.
And Colin Kaepernick, if you see the ebbs and flows, when he kneeled, it was this hatred, how could you do this? Right, but the reality is, is that when you're protesting in inequalities, you can never do it right. He took a knee, he didn't do anything, you know, egregious, he, he did the, the quiet protest, but that wasn't good enough.
Right? Every, whenever you're protesting, you do always like you have to do it differently. And what they essentially mean is they move these goal posts so that you're not doing it all, or you're doing it so whitewashed that you're doing the protest in your house with the door, shut that, right? Like they want everything to be done their way to keep 'em comfortable. Protest is not meant to be comfortable.
Jen: It is not meant for you to be feeling good. Like protest is hard, it's ugly, but like we're a country literally built on protests, literally. Everything we've done has been through protests. Every single, every single aspect, nothing from marginalized people has ever been done because of morality.
And so how he was treated, blackballed, all of that stuff, the NFL is 69.7% Black. They don't want any smoke about Black people. Right. Which is why Colin has been blackballed, and so I think, you know, what we saw with how he was treating blackball and people were like, well, he got money. He should like, people want protestors and civil rights activists to be dirt poor.
Well, Colin Kaepernick got a check from the NFL. He should have. So you expect this man to turn down millions of money for civil rights. Like they want protestors and, and activists to be dirt poor. How dare we have money or get a check from someone that screwed us.
Jackie: Yeah, absolutely. And then Jen, let's talk a little about LeBron James and, and athletes in general that speak out on politics and then the response being. Shut up and play ball. Right? What are your
Jen: I mean, I think it's this aspect. Like we had a TV reality person as a president, but you're telling me as an athlete, I can't talk about politics? I think it's about power and control of saying, you're not smart enough. This you need to do your job and just entertain us and not talk about things above you.
And that's all it is. I mean, this aspect of shut up and dribble shut up and entertain us. if any of the white athletes saying things, we're seeing people pat on the back wait and speak out, but black athletes are expected to stay, stay controlled, stay entertaining us. And that's what you see with LeBron is that how dare you use your platform for something bigger, you need to just stay entertain us, do your job. And that's it.
Jackie: Absolutely. And then you mentioned just a moment ago, Brian Flores. What are your thoughts on that?
Jen: I hope he gets a bazillion dollars and rides off in a damn unicorn. I hope Brian Flores like the most extravagant thing I want Brian Flores to do. I want, like I said, unicorn, I don't even care. Right? Like the, the Budweiser Clydesdales, like I want him to ride off into the sunset with all of the money. Like he imploded his career to say, what's happened to me is wrong. And it's been done by other people. This is what the president of our institution, for decades. This is what the president of our institution expected me to do.
Jen: This is what the owner, right? Like, so I think that aspect, I appreciate that he did that because again, black people have to implode their career to talk about stuff for things to happen. And he did that. And I think also the fact that the, the Steelers were like, girl, come on, we we'll bring you come on.
That was, I think a great step of Mike Tomlin. That's how you show, right, what we tend to see sometimes is someone gets fired and they're left on the island, even though everyone knew, what they did was right. They're left on the island.
Jen: Versus talk might be like, babe, come on, come over here. And Mike, I can't hire someone else, like that is the biggest show right there. And it's appreciated. And I think that shows like we have to implode and he did that and he made sure he did it right after a certain day. It was like, here is this information.
Jen: so I hope he gets all the money. Because he had to, I impose his career. He might not be hired again as a head coach and he won like that's the worst part, is we see these losing white coaches keep getting hired and this winning Black coach ain't getting a job.
Jackie: Totally agree on that. And then what about Brittany Griner? Right, she's in a terrible situation in, in Russia right now. What are your thoughts on her? How we're handling that as a country?
Jen: Brittany Griner is a Black queer woman who literally is a hostage right now, is a political hostage in Russia. And there's really not two shits done about it. If this was Tebow, they would be having like helicopters go in to grab him. But a black queer woman is not cared about. And I mean, the fact that there's, she's been there since like February 15th
Jen: and there's kind of been nothing about it. Like that should be mind blowing. This should be at the top of Biden, this should be like, right at this point, this is our number one priority is getting her out safely and healthy. And the fact that she is, and I think speaks to what it means for Black queer women. And I also think that it also needs to name of why women have to go overseas because women's sports here doesn't pay.
And because women's sports here, doesn't pay, we're having to go overseas and sometimes put us in potentially bad situations because that's the only way we can get money,
Jen: what happens is so many people look at professional sports overseas in the same kind of way that's done here in the us, right. That you have like a player's association, you have All these rights that if you get injured, they'll pay your contract. If this, that is not the way it's in Europe at all, because what happens is that some of these owners will just decide to start a club because they have billions of dollars. And then what happens is they might go bankrupt, and so you just won't get paid again,
Jen: or you go and, and the club is closed because there's no money. Or if you're losing, they don't like it. They just won't pay. So you have these situations sometimes, you know, when you travel, you have to get work visas sometimes. Like I need outside hitter for the rest of the season. I'm just gonna pay you under the table, and you're here essentially undocumented.
So female athletes are being put in these situations cuz we're not paid here. And what people tend to say is like, well, women's sports doesn't bring in the revenue. Men's sports didn't bring in the revenue for decades. There's a huge wide gap, and we have to remember that. So we have to give it time where it's not gonna be making a bazillion dollars right at the beginning. And people are like, well, it's not making money after the first year. Well, basketball and football didn't either, but you give them time and then you get the contracts and you people will watch women sports if it's on. You can't expect women sports to not do, to do well if it's not being shown.
Jackie: Absolutely. Well, you know, we'll keep her in our, in our prayers and in our hearts and hope that,, there's a safe resolution for her there. Mm-hmm Jen. With all of your experience in sports and your experience in DEI, you got a PhD in geography. What inspired you to major in that for your doctorate?
Jen: It's a, it's a pretty crazy story. I feel like my life is all about crazy stories. So I had gotten my second master's and I, I just like to learn, I don't like to really write the papers I just like to learn. And so I was maybe thinking about a PhD, maybe a third master's and my friend Danielle was like, you can't, you need to get a PhD.
And I never thought about getting a PhD at all. And so her mom Danielle is Black, her mom's Black and her mom got her master's and bachelor's in geography at, at Michigan state. She's a medical geography and her PhD in geography at UNC. And she was like my mom at, at Michigan state. There's this program called advancing geography through diversity.
You should take a look at they're actively recruiting cohorts of native, Black, and Latinx people because they realize in order to create a pipeline, geography undergrad's so white that you're not gonna get the people of color to come from undergrad. You have to start in a different place. So they actively recruit cohorts of native, Black, and Latinx people to masters in PhD programs and help kind of have some baseline courses to help us out.
But I kind of, when I was looking, I applied like four or five different schools and really the thing I liked about geography was that sport geography isn't a big thing, right? And so for me, like it, it's not a, you can't major in anywhere. You can't get bachelor's master's or PhD anywhere. And so for me, it was like, I can kind of change this idea of this discipline and really bring it to athletics more.
And make it more, weirdly enough, athletics centered, especially like Black and brown centered, especially the way that I talk about this topic. And so it just gave me opportunity to do something really different that maybe other disciplines while I could do my thing, not how I wanted to do it with this.
And so I was able to create a brand-new theoretical framework, create a language guide, do some really, really cool things within it because there was so much space. You know, the joke in academics is people are like trying to find these little pieces of difference, right. You know, trying to change this little thing of a discipline, really small area where mine was a humongous area and I had to narrow it down.
And so that was a really cool thing about, it was kind of doing the narrowing down myself on what I wanted to pick and chat about and was most important to me. And so, because I have this love of travel and the world, I was like, how can I bring like these two topics together and talk about black women, especially Black female volleyball players, within geography and just a totally different context.
Jackie: Awesome. That's exciting. Well, Jen, as we begin to wrap up our time, tell me what is the message that you'd like to leave our listeners with today?
Jen: Man, this work is uncomfortable and hard and you still gotta do it to be, if you wanna be a great human, this is the work you have to do. You can't leave it to someone else. I, I read something. It was like, we're tired of thoughts. You, you can't keep doing the I'm listening and learning. You gotta do like I'm listening in action. Because so many, I'm just, I'm just here to listen. Okay. You, I need you to do something with the listening and because some of this stuff is really unpacking themselves, their friends, their families, that's hard, but if you're gonna do the work you have to do that, you have to be willing to say, what about me is allowing people to think that they can say these things about around me?
Cause that's what it is. If people say all the most reckless things around you is because you've allowed that to happen, you have set that culture around. And so this stuff is hard. It's uncomfortable, but if you wanna be a great human, you're gonna have to learn to unpack yourself, to get better at seeing the harm you're doing and what things you need to shift to be a disrupter to be accomplished, whatever it is.
Jackie: Absolutely. Well, Jen, thank you so much for taking some time with me today. I really enjoyed the conversation and all of the insights that you shared. How can people get in touch with you, Jen?
Jen: Yeah, my social media JenFryTalks is any social media. You see, put JenFryTalks and I'm probably there., my website is JenFryTalks.com. Take a look on it. Email is email@example.com. Literally just type in JenFryTalks. You will find me.
Jackie: Awesome. Jen, thank you so much for spending some time with me today.
Jen: I appreciate you, Jackie, for having me on.