Devonté Casely-Hayford reflects on Black History Month and his sporting heroes

Although October is nearing the end and Black History Month draws to a close, we are to continuing to celebrate the contribution of the incredible African Caribbean figures within our sport all year round.

We recently caught up with coach at Hercules Wimbledon AC and Diversity Champion Devonté Casely-Hayford all about his introduction to athletics, his reflections on Black History Month and his sporting heroes.

How did you get involved in athletics?

“I got into athletics through my cousin who was a sprinter. He used to run for Hercules Wimbledon, and he got me into the sport as I liked to run fast and used to often run for buses. From there he brought me down to the track, and that is how I got into athletics.”

What is your current role in athletics?

“I am currently working with an under-17 and under-20 sprint group at Hercules Wimbledon with quite a wide variety of abilities from national to county and school level.

“I am the Diversity Champion on the England Athletics council. This role aims to showcase and get more ethnically diverse people into the sport as whole. This also includes people who have disabilities, whether they’re in a wheelchair or have some sort of injury. It is to make sure that our sport is fully inclusive and integral overall.”

What does Black History Month mean to you?

“Black History Month is about the greatness of black people, not just about what they teach in school about slavery.

“I think it is good for us to show how we are different inside and outside of sport, whether that is banking, whether it is accounting, anything. Black History Month should be celebrated across a wide range of categories.”

Have you experienced any barriers in life or sport?

“Fortunately for me, I went to a state school and during my time at school they were quite good in terms of bullying.

“Racism-wise I have been abused before with words and some slanders. However, in general it hasn’t been bad compared to some of my peers who I know that have been abused in many ways.”

Is there anything you would like to see change from a diversity perspective?

“Within the sport we show a wide variety of ethnically diverse people, and we are very inclusive compared to other sports.

“The issue for me personally I think are the volunteers behind the scenes.

"I don’t really see enough black officials or enough black team managers across the board. I think it would be good for people to be more supported in these roles."

Who is your personal hero within sport?

“I would say inside of sport as I have personally met him, Linford Christie. I met him at a Street Athletics event. He used to host 60 metre events up and down the country and you would race on a track. He was friendly, really nice and kind.

“The second is a bit of a two in one because this person is actually an England Athletics coach as well. Patrick Hutchinson is somebody who saved a protestor who was being attacked during a Black Lives Matter protest in London. He is someone who I know quite well, and he is someone who gives me general advice within coaching and supports me overall. He calls me his nephew so I would say he knows I look up to him!”

Did you enjoy hearing from Devonté? Earlier this month, Tasha from Black Girls Do Run gave us her Black History Month reflections and an insight into the incredible work her affiliated club are doing to support ethnically diverse women in London to run together.