Beyond The Sidelines: Darrell Adams

Darrell Adams, DC Football at Waterloo University

Darrell Adams – Assistant Head Coach, Defensive & Recruiting Coordinator, University of Waterloo (U SPORTS)

By: Dashawn Stephens, PRSVRE

Growing up in Long Island, New York wasn’t always easy for 8th year U SPORTS football coach, Darrell Adams. The diversity within the city always stood out to him as a child. However, so too did the ethnic barriers. Although Long Island was home to many different ethnic communities, racism was “never hidden” as cross-cultural discrimination and violence was a reoccuring norm. Adams recalls his first direct experience of racism when he was 10. He had just moved from a low-income to a suburban neighbourhood where the colour of his skin became the topic of discussion amongst his peers. After going home and having a conversation with his mother, Adams would learn the reality of how his race would play a factor in decisions he would make throughout life.

It was race that largely played a part in Adams’ decision to start playing football in the seventh grade. Football gave him an opportunity to “blend in with the crowd” and be “seen as an equal”. Football also served as an outlet for Adams to release his anger and stress in a controlled environment. Adams thrived on the field throughout his high school career, and was able to earn a scholarship to Villanova University in Radnor Township, Pennsylvania. While at Villanova, Adams took pride in being more than just a football player as he pursued a degree in Marketing and Communications. After his collegiate career, Adams had a brief stint in the NFL with the New York Jets, before playing two seasons with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the CFL.

After his playing career came to an end in 2009, Adams was hired as the Head of Strength and Conditioning for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. After thriving at the position for two seasons, Adams knew that coaching was his next career path. In 2013, Adams made the transition to Canadian collegiate football and became the Strength and Conditioning & Defensive Line coach for the re-born Carleton Ravens. At Carleton, Adams had the opportunity to pursue his passion of investing in the growth of young athletes. He also had the unique opportunity to help re-build the brand, and identity of the new formulated Carleton Ravens program, after a 15-year hiatus from competition. In three seasons with the program, Adams played an integral role in helping the Ravens go from 0-8 in 2013, to 5-3 in 2015. In the Winter of 2015, Adams began the next chapter of his coaching career at the University of Waterloo where he was named the Special Teams Coordinator. Adams is now the Assistant Head Coach, Defensive Coordinator and Recruiting Coordinator for the program.

Quest for Change

Adams has become an advocate for highlighting the disparity in minority hiring within Canadian collegiate sports. Currently, there are only 3 black head coaches within U SPORTS football (27 programs). Adams cites the absence of black athletic directors across U SPORTS as a direct correlation to this issue.

Although Adams has contributed to a vast amount of success on the field, he takes pride in aiming to create cultural change at all of his coaching destinations. At Waterloo, Adams was immediately focused on addressing the lack of racial ethnicity within the football program. From 2006-2015 the Waterloo Warriors football program never had more than 10 Black athlete’s on their roster in a single season. Since Adams arrived in 2016, that number has increased to over 20 Black athletes per year through his recruiting efforts. The Warriors will have 30 Black athletes on their roster in 2020-21

When I first got there, I noticed the lack of diversity and realized something has got to give. I made it a goal to not only bring in more athletes of colour, but also athletes from across the country”

In wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, Adams has made a strong effort to support the Black community at the University of Waterloo. He recently started working with UW Athletic Director Roly Webster, to create BLM Healing Circles. This initiative brings UW athletes, students and faculty members together to discuss the realities of anti-black racism. He’s also working with several UW athletes who have started the Black Liberated Athletes Coalition, an organization aimed at empowering Black athletes within the UW community. Athletes Coalition, an organization aimed at empowering Black athletes within the UW community. Adams also sits on the BCCA’s Task Force for the Racial Equity Project, the first study of its kind aimed at taking a national approach to identity barriers for people of colour within Canada post-secondary athletic institutions.

Areas of Focus for Racial Equity

Adams believes the biggest area of focus in establishing racial equity in Canadian sports is addressing representation. He wants to see Canadian post-secondary athletic institutions adopt hiring practices that promote inclusion. He feels that institutions should take a page out of the NFL’s playbook and establish a “Rooney Rule” practice which would mandate that institutions interview at least one Black, Indigenous, Persons of Colour (BIPOC) candidate for coaching vacancies.

As Adams reflects on the experiences of BIPOC athletes in Canada, he can’t help but recognize that BIPOC athletes are undersupported and underrepresented. Adams wants to see an increase in financial aid towards BIPOC athletes in addition to athletic financial awards. Also, Adams feels that there should be an increase in mental health resources for BIPOC athletes across Canada

As a veteran coach of U SPORTS football, Darrell Adams is continuing to use his platform to serve as a catalyst for change. As his accomplishments and aspirations have shown, he is truly a Trailblazer in Canadian Heritage and a Leader through Sport.


You can contact Darrell Adams at d5adams@uwaterloo.ca

Waterloo ethnicity data provided by Darrell Adams

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