Sports activities Illustrated and Empower Onyx are placing the highlight on the varied journeys of Black girls throughout sports activities—from the veteran athletes, to up-and-coming stars, coaches, executives and extra—within the sequence, Elle-evate: 100 Influential Black Women in Sports.
It looks like Dr. Kiki Baker Barnes, athletic director at Dillard College, has at all times understood the ability of intentional management, particularly for ladies arising in sports activities. Since taking on on the New Orleans–primarily based HBCU in 2006—within the wake of Hurricane Katrina—Barnes has set herself aside as an professional in elevating not simply athletic applications, however communities and particular person athletes round her as nicely. Via her personal experiences and people of the mentors and friends who led the way in which for her, Barnes is ready on elevating up the following technology of Black girls in athletics and giving them that very same delicate care—after which some.
Barnes’s personal begin in sports activities was a bit nontraditional. She didn’t head straight into basketball, the game that might set the tone for the remainder of her profession. “Truly, I wished to be a cheerleader initially. I solely tried out for basketball as a result of I wished to be with my buddies. It wasn’t as a result of I had this love or pleasure for basketball,” Barnes recollects, laughing. Nonetheless, it was via a powerful chief that she realized find out how to take her personal profession extra significantly. “We had an ideal coach, Elliot Gilbert, my pal’s dad. He was simply an incredible man—and he labored us to dying, let me let you know that. I discovered the sport of basketball—and I discovered I wished to be actually, actually good,” she says. “I wound up being a midway first rate participant. I bought a scholarship!”
Quick ahead to 1997 and the launch of the WNBA, a milestone that might influence the lives of 1000’s of girls in basketball and, for the primary time, give them a official platform. As a star athlete on the College of New Orleans, Barnes was sure this may be her subsequent path. “My coach brings me in, he tells me ‘Hey, discuss to a few scouts. In case you’re desirous about enjoying, I’ve bought a chance so that you can check out. You may go to Houston or Charlotte; you inform me which one and we’ll set the date, and get you on the market. I’ll aid you in any method attainable to get there.’”
Barnes was overwhelmed on the alternative, however set her sights on a state the place her neighborhood might nonetheless go to, come to video games, and help her. “I did not even suppose that was a chance. On the time, girls needed to go abroad to play basketball,” she says. “I select Houston, I imply, everybody’s bought to have the ability to come see me play. So I made it to the second spherical … after which I bought lower. I’m like, Man, my basketball profession actually is over. What am I going to do with my life?”
However then she bought a life-changing name from the College of Louisiana at Lafayette. “They wished to convey me on as a graduate assistant for the ladies’s basketball workforce. They gave me a chance and confirmed me the ropes. That was the primary time I had even considered myself being an athletic director,” she says. “I by no means related the truth that as soon as I completed enjoying sports activities, that I might proceed on this work. As soon as I bought in, I am like, O.Ok., there’s lots of people that work in sports activities, however half of them nonetheless do not seem like me. You didn’t see girls in these roles, and I used to be younger. I’m sitting there trying up, and I’m pondering, How do I get an opportunity to get within the chair?”
That motivation, and the flexibility to see herself in a job outdoors of athlete, are issues Barnes would carry along with her via the remainder of her profession—which incorporates serving as the primary girl and first Black president of the Gulf Coast Athletic Convention, and the primary Black girl commissioner within the Nationwide Affiliation of Intercollegiate Athletics. However she’s not pressed—in actual fact, she’s humbly able to share her wealth of data with the following technology of Black girls and set them up for achievement past what they could think about for themselves, and past what they’ve been advised is feasible. “Now right here I’m, 16 years within the sport. I have been the athletic director for that lengthy. I used to be like, now we have to do one thing about making ready the pipeline. As a school scholar, no person was speaking to me about alternatives. I did not see anybody that regarded like me, and we all know how necessary it’s while you see somebody which you can join with.”
“I began my mentorship program in 2017, ‘So You Need A Profession in Athletics?’ It’s my legacy work. It’s my laborious work. It’s my ardour,” Barnes says. “Now I’m serving to younger ladies get related. It is about them realizing that it is attainable. And I really feel like due to my path, I’ve an obligation to make sure they’re conscious of what these alternatives seem like, and the way they’ll efficiently navigate and obtain their aim in management.”
Barnes can also be targeted on the psychological well being and real well-being of her mentees and athletes. She desires to verify the stress of being one of many “first,” or in some circumstances, the “solely,” doesn’t drastically have an effect on the younger Black girls round her—or herself. She believes in creating areas to really feel, cry, grieve, and be utterly open and held. “It’s completely crucial that we take the time to give attention to ourselves, that we create networks. We’ve got circled in areas the place we will take care of ourselves, when we have to, so that we are going to be wholesome and totally prepared for the alternatives, challenges, obstacles that current themselves to us.
“We do not wish to fail in entrance of individuals. There’s a nice burden that we feature to be in these areas, to not mess it up for anyone else. Proper? In case you get the chance, they’re you, they’re judging each different Black individual by what you do. So you aren’t getting to have breakdowns. One of many issues that I’ve been very strategic about with my mentees is letting them see me have dangerous days, letting them see me cry, letting them see me break down. All of us deserve the chance to be nicely. We deserve that and now we have to prioritize that.”
In the end, Barnes is conscious of the burden of her place, and what that visibility means for incoming Black girls in athletics, interval. She doesn’t take her personal energy evenly, but by some means manages to guide with levity, humor and charm—in a method that completely nobody else can. “I, and all of my sister athletic directors, are examples which you can lead in the way in which that you had been made to guide,” she says. “Every individual has a novel factor about them that makes them highly effective. We every have our personal method. I am Kiki, and ain’t no person higher at being Kiki than me. You may’t win. You will by no means win, as a result of this was the way in which I used to be created to guide, and to make a distinction on this world. ”
Naya Samuel is a contributor for Empower Onyx, a various multi-channel platform celebrating the tales and transformative energy of sports activities for Black girls and ladies.