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Black Inclusion Week: Emerick Kaitell Talks Diversity in Swim, Bike, Run

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Black Inclusion Week is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements and impact that black people have had on society and recognise the importance of building a stronger, fairer and more inclusive society for everyone.

We spoke to Emerick Kaitell, a British Triathlon tutor, UK Coaching lead tutor, Principal Lecturer at University of Roehampton and is now sitting on the Triathlon London Regional Committee for Diversity & Inclusion.

Referencing Black Inclusion Week, Kaitell said: “Everyone knows about Black History Month but actually Inclusion Week is not necessarily heard of. If you want my concern about Black History Month and Inclusion Week, it’s why is it only a week or a month? How do we transform that into a normal process?

“I appreciate that we need to start from somewhere but part of me sits here thinking it's sad that I'm in 2021 and racism is still rife. I was born in 1968 when it was more evident because it was more in your face. Now I find it's still present just in different forms, but we need to have these events to educate but also isolate some people that will dismiss it.”

Kaitell began his triathlon journey through his wife. After supporting her at a number of events, the pair searched for a local club for her to train at and initially struggled to find anywhere that felt welcoming to both of them.

“We didn't feel welcomed, we didn’t feel like we belonged. There was no real interaction to try and identify who you are, what you are looking for, how can we support you if you're a new person. Clubs had cliques and if you don't fit in, which I never did, being a man of colour, it just didn't really fit.

“The club we ended up going to were welcoming from the offset. There was no pressure that you had to do the swimming, the running and biking, you could join in when you want. Even when I only turned up to cycle sessions, it would be ‘welcome Emerick, how are you doing? Fantastic.’ Having that connection of reality of just talking rather than judging me.”

Kaitell slowly began to expand his repertoire and challenged himself to face his fear of water, saying: “Doing open water swimming was a challenge in itself but that was partly why I got involved in triathlon, because I couldn't do what I wanted to do athletically so I wanted a challenge.”

Kaitell completed his first open water swim at Hever Castle with his wife supporting him from the sidelines. Since then, he’s also competed at Dorney Lake and other open water swimming venues.

Formerly a Physical Education teacher, Kaitell has consistently mentored within sport. He completed his PGCE and taught in both primary and secondary schools before delivering CPD (Continuing Professional Development) for teachers, managing a professional development budget across six local authorities as well as designing and delivering courses for the University of Roehampton.

Kaitell has recently worked with Sam Holness, a black IRONMAN triathlete with autism, known to many within the sport as ‘Super Sam’. Kaitell offered his coaching and mentoring support to Holness and his father who is now moving into a coaching role for the IRONMAN athlete.

Kaitell, who’s now a Level 2 coach, decided that he wanted to begin coaching triathlon after a training camp in Portugal, saying: “The training camp highlighted that I just needed to get involved more because there wasn't enough people out there doing triathlon coaching for our particular people.

“When I got involved in coach education at the beginning, Level 3 was more for performance and my values in relation to coaching is not that. I’ve been coaching since the age of 18 and I was never really interested in the elite. I was more interested in getting people into triathlon and having a positive experience that would see them carry on doing physical activity regardless of whether it was triathlon or not but hoping it would be.”

Having recently taken up a position on the Triathlon London Regional Committee for Diversity & Inclusion, Kaitell plans to use his wealth of knowledge and experience within sport to introduce more diverse practices to triathlon clubs within the region.

“It's an area of interest. I'm doing some of my own work and I thought it's time to step up. I'm not doing as much with triathlon as I used to so this is a way for me to contribute back into the sport,” said Kaitell.

“I'm the first person specifically within the London committee to take up this particular role, so to have that actually recognised is a step forward in regard to the sport taking diversity more seriously and I'm pleased to be in the position.”

Outlining what he aims to implement through his new role, Kaitell said: “There's several things I would like to achieve. First is that clubs within London become more accepting of a diverse group but in doing so that they are prepared for that. What we need to do is give them all the tools that they may need whether that is training, or support with infrastructure and having some hard conversations.”

Currently, the region is running workshops to further inform clubs about how to become more diverse. The first workshop was delivered through UK Coaching and centred around unconscious bias, Kaitell sees this as a first step in creating a shift in the philosophy of many clubs.

“It's about understanding coaching the person in front of you,” he explained. “So it's actually seeing everybody as individuals regardless of their colour, everyone that comes in should be welcomed and measured in the same format, receiving the same introduction of being welcomed into a club.

“Then it's identifying whom they would resonate with and that doesn’t mean a black man is going to resonate with another black man, it means if you’re an absolute beginner, you’ll join other absolute beginners and activators helping them so you’re around people who have the same fears as you do.”

Kaitell continued, “It's a slow process, hopefully in the end we’ll have a coaching forum where diversity will be on the agenda every time regarding how we can support coaches. But it's also getting the club chairs and administrators and anyone that deals with the outward facing side of the club thinking about how they’re attracting people.

“If you want to be diverse you can't stick to a rigid system because the diversity of community changes. It takes people seeing something in other people to actually be able to contribute, inform and be listened to. I think we need to be willing to listen.”

Recalling his own experiences of tutoring and living in London, Kaitell said: “I think I could say from all the courses I've delivered; I've seen two people that were black and one of those wasn't actually going to be a coach. It's because he set up the club and they needed coaches in order to be a club. And his point to me was that it was so refreshing to see a man of colour delivering.

“The reason why I've been involved in triathlon all these years is because I do see the benefit of the sport itself and it has a great opportunity for a lot of us in communities to actually embrace and feel better about oneself. Especially when you've completed a triathlon, it doesn't matter whether it's a super sprint or an IRONMAN but the feeling for each person is similar. I think that you can’t buy that and that's what I want to share across our communities.

“I want to help people and get more people involved regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or gender. We just want more people in triathlon because of the feeling it can give to people and the benefits that go beyond the sport.”

Finally, reflecting further on Black Inclusion Week and celebrating the achievements of black individuals, Kaitell said: “The opportunity of being involved in Black Inclusion Week is great because now it's more about black people seeing what other black people are doing and achieving and I think that's going to be key.

“One of the things that this pandemic has enabled me to do is go onto meetings and boards to actually meet different people of colour who are doing some great things that I didn't even know about. So that's what I see the inclusion week being, celebrating and connecting what is going on out there and for me personally to find out what else is going on and how I can contribute.”

British Triathlon believes that improving representation across the sport is incredibly important. We would love to hear from you if you are a member of the triathlon community who would be willing to share your story to inspire others. Please email us at media@britishtriathlon.org

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