The Black and African-American population only represents 11% of Goshen College’s student-athletes, and yet, 68% of traditional students who are Black and African-American are student-athletes, according to Justin DeWeese, assistant athletic director of communications.Brielle Agnew is one of the Black athletes on campus, and the only Black woman on the volleyball team.
Agnew, a senior majoring in biology, said that her background in volleyball has been much the same her whole life: mostly “white, skinny, blonde girls with long hair. That’s what it started as, and that is what it was when I first started playing. It’s probably more diverse now.
“I grew up playing with the white girls,” she continued, “so it’s not completely new since I’ve been here.”
“Being the only Black person is definitely challenging,” she said, “just because when certain things happen and situations arise, my response is different from my teammates’ response. It’s hard to explain it to them because we have different experiences and were raised differently.”
A driving force in what brought Agnew here and kept her here was Lauren Ford, the former men’s volleyball head coach, who resigned in January 2023. Ford also was the women’s assistant volleyball coach during Agnew’s freshman season.
Agnew said of Ford: “She taught me a lot of things, and she is definitely part of the reason why I came and stayed here. I adore her and I wish her the best.”
Despite losing a strong Black volleyball figure, Agnew has stayed and solidified her identity as a Black woman. “My mom always says there are more of them than there are us,” she said, “and you just have to know how to play the game, you have to know how to talk around them … and so I took that in with me at first.”
After being here for four years, Agnew said that “literally all of my friends are white. I want to stay close to my roots, and that’s why I talk to my mom and sister twice a week.”
Agnew also highlights a divide in the African-American community on campus and hopes that there can be more connection in the already small group.
“I wish all the Black people on campus were more inclusive with each other,” Agnew said, “even if not all athletes are all African-American.
“I wish we were more cohesive with each other — even just passing by and saying hello; acknowledgement of each other.”