Celebrating Black Gopher student-athletes

In recognition of Black History Month this year, the University of Minnesota is “Celebrating Those Who Made Us Great” by interviewing (via surveys) former Black student-athletes. In this month’s “Sports Odds and Ends” we will publish as many of these interviews as space allows. This week: Ibrahim Kabia, Lea B. Olsen, Alena Brooks

 

 

Ibrahim Kabia

Sport(s): Men’s Track & Field

Years: 2004-09

Hometown: Freetown, Sierra Leone

Occupation: Assistant track & field coach, University of Northern Iowa

Twitter Handle: @CoachKabia

Ibrahim Kabia (Photos courtesy of U of M)

1) What is it you honestly miss most about the university?

I miss being a student-athlete and the opportunity to compete. I miss the comradery shared amongst my teammates, coaches, and so many people on campus that were instrumental in my development as a student-athlete. I miss Roy Griak, may he rest in peace.

2) If you could give the current student-athletes any piece of advice, what would it be?

The opportunity to be a student-athlete at the collegiate level is a privilege. It is an opportunity that so many aren’t afforded; don’t take it for granted. You’re provided with so many resources to develop into a responsible adult and a productive member of society well beyond your college years; utilize them. Most importantly, say please and thank you. People appreciate that.

3) Please share your favorite university or athletic event you’ve attended since you graduated and what made it so special to you.

I have had so many great experiences since I graduated. Dominating the Badgers in “The Dual” that started in my first year as a volunteer coach for the Women’s Track & Field program in 2014 has been amazing. Both men’s and women’s programs are undefeated, three years running. Above all, the women’s program sharing the 2016 outdoor conference title with Michigan was an outstanding achievement as the meet came down to the last event. It was incredibly exciting.

4) What are you grateful for?

I am grateful for the University of Minnesota, my family and friends and mentors who have help me develop into the man and coach that I am today. I am also grateful for the opportunity to have influenced and continue to influence the young men and women in my field of work.

5) What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month is about acknowledging and celebrating the incredible men and women of color who dedicated themselves to causes that promote racial equality and social justices. As race issues have become more prevalent over the years, Black History Month allows me to reflect on how far we have come and understand where we are. It also allows me to be inspired by the next generation of leaders combating complacency and making sure our voices are being heard. Black History Month allows me to reflect on the past and present and be hopeful that better days are ahead.

6) What occupies your time now?

Working as an assistant coach for sprints, hurdles and jumps at the University of Northern Iowa occupies most of my time. When I am not coaching, I am spending time with family, friends, and catching up and reminiscing with former teammates and colleagues when time allows.


Lea B. Olsen

Sport(s): Women’s Basketball

Years: 1987-90

Hometown: Minneapolis, MN

Occupation: sports broadcaster, spokesperson, speaker

Twitter Handle: @leabolsen

Lea Olsen (Photos courtesy of U of M)

 

 

1) What is it you honestly miss most about the university?

Being with my teammates on a daily basis. We worked so hard and had so much fun!

2) If you could give the current student-athletes any piece of advice, what would it be?

Be in the moment because the time flies by too quickly. Take advantage of everything the university has to offer. There are so many resources right at your fingertips.

3) Please share your favorite university or athletic event you’ve attended since you graduated and what made it so special to you.

I enjoy going to watch the baseball team play. I didn’t see them too much in college. My son is a baseball player, so it has been fun to watch with him. John Anderson was here when I went to school, and he continues to do a great job with the program.

4) What are you grateful for?

Super grateful to have had the opportunity to play at the U of M. People still ask me about the experience all of the time. I’m incredibly grateful for my family and all of the great friends I made back in my Gopher days.

5) What does Black History Month mean to you?

I think it’s important to take time to talk about our history, and Black History Month allows you a specific time to have those conversations in schools. Last year I spoke at Minneapolis Southwest High School about the impact that Black athletes have had throughout history.

6) What occupies your time now?

Family first and foremost. Broadcasting for the Lynx, Timberwolves, boys’ and girls’ high school tournaments and some women’s college basketball. I also created a platform titled “Rethink the Win” that helps athletes and parents navigate the sometimes stressful world of sports. Through speaking and interviewing athletes, I encourage athletes to get the most out of being involved in sport and to find the other wins in sport, such as teamwork, leadership and work ethic.


Alena Brooks

Sport(s): Women’s Track & Field

Years: 2009-14

Hometown: Diego Martin, Trinidad and Tobago

Occupation: professional athlete

Twitter Handle: @blessedbrooks

Alena Brooks (Photos courtesy of U of M)

1) What is it you honestly miss most about the university?

At the University of Minnesota you are surrounded by a large group of people (other athletes and staff) rooting for your success and ready to assist you in any way they can. That support is what I miss most about the U of M, having a family away from home.

2) If you could give the current student-athletes any piece of advice, what would it be? 

I know this advice may seem cliché and I would have been the first one to roll my eyes at anyone telling me, but I’ve come to know it’s true so I’ll reiterate it. It’s really important to enjoy and appreciate your time as a student-athlete. The real world does not afford all the luxuries of support, treatment, facilities, food, and even coaching without a cost. The lifestyle as a student-athlete is invaluable.

3) Please share your favorite university or athletic event you’ve attended since you graduated and what made it so special to you.

The University of Minnesota‘s Fieldhouse was the first indoor track I had seen, trained and raced on. After I graduated, I got the opportunity to return and compete at the Jack Johnson Classic. Beginning my professional indoor career right where it all started for me was special. I was filled with an opulence of emotion, and I reminisced on the fond memories I had as a collegiate.

4) What are you grateful for?

I am thankful for so many things: life, love, health, strength, abilities, opportunities, the list goes on. Even though there may be one or two things that are not “good” to me right now (or so I believe), I’m filled with joy because I am blessed abundantly.

5) What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month means a lot to me. It not only allows for us to pay homage to those who paved the way, but it gives us all an opportunity to understand how far we’ve come, how we’ve sacrificed, progressed, broken barriers, achieved the seemingly impossible and more. It gives a sense of belonging, hope and confidence to the present Black student-athletes who are ready to leave their mark.

6) What occupies your time now?

That’s easy – my lifestyle is pretty monotonous. Church, track, chefing, cooking, baking and reading.