‘I Still Promise’ initiative prioritizes student-athletes, Valpo community

As the social justice movements happened during the summer, former men’s soccer head coach Mike Avery began to get calls from many different coaches, athletic departments, and international groups about the #oneVALPO story.  

According to Avery, the story of #oneVALPO came back into the forefront back in mid-June. He said he shared the story around 50 different times to different schools and to different groups all around the world. 

One of those calls came from Valpo’s Director of Athletics Mark LaBarbera, who wanted to partner with Avery to reimagine the #oneVALPO promise on campus. 

“He brought the idea to me that maybe it is a good opportunity to go back and revisit it and maybe revamp it and maybe make it a little more current to reflect what is going on in the world today,” Avery said. 

This revision of the #oneVALPO promise has been brought to refocus the thoughts, needs, and priorities of the current student-athletes, administrators, coaches, and staff members.

“While our core values remain an important part of who we are as an Athletics Department and the #oneVALPO promise has helped bring us together around our value of respect, the events of this summer have shown a need for a more action-oriented promise,” LaBarbera said in a press release. 

Avery, who will facilitate the effort, will involve Valpo administrators, coaches, and student-athletes and will include representatives from all of the department’s athletic programs. 

“They were just looking for ways to have conversations with their current student-athletes about what was going on in the world today,” Avery said.

LaBarbera had called Avery and asked him to help him with revising the document. 

“What we are trying to do is to add a little bit more “action-oriented language to what was initially a celebration of diversity. We just want to add language that reflects our desire to take more of a stance to be more active in finding solutions,” said Avery.

The #oneVALPO initiative was created back in 2013 during a non-conference game against Jacksonville. In the 67th minute of that game, a red card was issued after racial slurs were being thrown out to some of Valpo’s soccer players. Since that incident, #oneVALPO promise has been Avery’s pinnacle project for Valpo’s community. 

“The acts of racial injustice and subsequent protests across the nation have helped us recognize that the student-athletes, coaches, and staff of color within the Valpo athletics family need to know that the broader athletics family recognizes their hurt and stands ready to listen to them and look for active ways to support them as valued family members,” LaBarbera said in a press release. 

Avery intends to design a culture that emphasizes people being heard, seen, and celebrated. Having a collaborative group of members has been one of Avery’s goals and what set his teams from the rest Valpo has played. 

“What we are trying to do is reflect the attitudes, the thoughts, and the feelings of the current student-athletes on campus. We want to make sure we are representing their voices,” Avery said.

To Avery, diversity helps understand differences that are less to do with age, gender, religion, and culture and more to do with our personalities and character. 

“We just want to add language that reflects our desire to take more of a stance to be more active in finding solutions,” Avery said.

Over the next two months, Valpo Athletics will partner with Avery to review and revise the #oneVALPO promise.


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