Though it’s hard to talk about, it’s hard to ignore: ethnic diversity is pretty weak in the figure skating world. I’m often the only non-white person on the ice, and while I’m used to it as a graduate from a private university, it can be particularly intimidating for people who aren’t usually in that kind of environment. Diversity isn’t just a political agenda; it enables the expansion and evolution of every entity in which it exists.
That’s where Diversify Ice Foundation comes in. Imagine hearing new music, seeing new, innovative choreography, and seeing less political judging with the propagation of a more diverse skating community. These are only a few things that came up in my enlightening conversation with Joel Savary.
As a young figure skater in Miami and brother to Emmanuel Savary, who placed 11th in the Men’s Free Skate event at the 2019 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Joel noticed he was the only African-American on the ice. It became particularly noticeable at competitions, and realized that the cost of the sport was a huge factor.
With his new project to foster equity in the sport, Joel hopes that Diversify Ice can help create a community for those at the top where diversity is slim, as well as in the lower levels so that those individuals can achieve as much as they are capable of without finances or social pressures holding them back.
Our mission is to provide sponsorship, mentorship, networks, and opportunities to underrepresented figure skaters, so that they are able to achieve their fullest potential in the sport and in life.Diversify Ice Foundation website
Population: Ethnic minorities of all ages
If you’ve ever cracked open a history book, it’s no surprise that figure skating is not a historically ethnically diverse sport. In a predominantly White sport, the first attempts at reaching diversity were met with blatant exclusion, at least in the States. When that was no longer acceptable with Civil Rights Act of 1964, the burden of laying down a path for more diversity in the sport fell upon those skaters.
When the sport grew in popularity, East Asians and the diaspora stepped up, presumably due to a mix of social and economic status. With figure skating costing in the tens of thousands per year at the elite level and easily $5,000-$7,000 per year at lower levels, historically disadvantaged ethnic communities simply lack the means to break into it. Paired with the social pressures of being a cultural minority on the ice, the cycle of anti-diversity perpetuates. But Diversify Ice looks to change that narrative.
Diversify Ice has a couple of main programs with the goal to expose as many people to the sport with as little intimidation as possible. The Sip & Skate is geared towards adults as a social event on ice where people can bond, meet new people, and experience skating in a judgement-free environment. The Ice Skate-Raiser was an event geared towards people of all ages to try skating as well as support the foundation in future programming. Both events share the success of bringing people together to try something new and enable Savary and his board to continue this journey of diversifying the ice rink.
As I was getting on the phone with him, Savary mentioned he was in the process of collaborating with a few schools local to the DMV (D.C., Maryland, and Virginia) area to bring figure skating programming to their students. Many current elite figure skaters grew in love with the sport from experiences such as field trips and birthday parties, so it makes sense to aim for schools to reach as many people as possible for the greatest return of investment. Through this future partnership, Diversify Ice will be able to create a new diverse crop of recreational, competitive, and potentially elite figure skaters, and I am personally very excited for the growing organization!
Ways you can help
Donate equipment or money
While money is always appreciated, Savary explicitly mentioned needing things like gloves, hats, socks, skates, and pilates mats for their programming. As the foundation’s aim is to bring skating to more diverse communities, anything helps! Click here to donate!
Share Diversify Ice on social media
Support them with grants and foundation support
If you know about any grants or fiscal opportunities that the foundation would be a great fit for, please share!
Question of the Day!
What’s you million dollar idea to increase diversity in the sport at all levels?