On Wednesday, June 23rd, PCA hosted a webinar on Inclusivity in youth and high school sports addressing the need to ensure that sports are for everyone and that all athletes feel a part of the "we". Far too often, LGBTQ+ youth and others are left on the sidelines and don't feel like they belong.
The discussion was led by PCA's own Casey Miller, VP of External Relations, who was joined by Joshua Dixon, Team USA alumni, Ashland Johnson, Founder of The Inclusion Playbook, and Hudson Taylor, Founder and Executive Director of Athlete Ally. The goal of the webinar was to help parents, coaches, athletes, and leaders create a more inclusive experience for ALL athletes.
Here are five key takeaways from the webinar held Wednesday.
1. What is the current LGBTQ+ situation in youth and high school sports?
Ashland acknowledges that the world is becoming more accepting of LGBTQ+ individuals, but these individuals in sport still face issues surrounding outness, safety, and participation in sports. Youth sports participation is around 60% but LGBTQ+ youth sport participation is only around 24%. Hudson adds that sport has been an incredibly important part of his life - one that has opened doors for him and is part of his identity, but goes on to state that those opportunities are not being provided for the LGBTQ+ community.
2. “Sports culture doesn’t define us, we define it.” - Hudson Taylor
Hudson says coaches, parents, and all leaders in the sports community are influential in how a young person feels on their team. Coaches and parents have a choice to make when it comes to their words and actions.
3. What can organizations do to help LGBTQ+ athletes and members feel safe?
Hudson says that every time a person, league, or person in a position of power sends a signal that does not allow for transphobia or homophobia, it is heard by someone. Each moment in a professional sports setting or venue is a massive opportunity to show support for the LGBTQ+ community. Ashland adds that these organizations need to have clear LGBTQ+ guidelines for fans, having public accommodations and fan codes of conduct that do not allow transphobic or homophobic language.
4. What are some specific, tangible tools that coaches/parents can utilize for the LGBTQ+ community?
Hudson outlines three buckets of inclusion that coaches/parents can utilize: build safety, have an environment where people are vulnerable and align on purpose.
- Build safety: By getting better educated, by being proactively inclusive, and by saying the words or verbally illustrating your support and type of conduct you expect - related to the LGBTQ+ community - is a great way to build safety. Further, defining consistent lines is another great way to build safety.
- Vulnerability: As a coach or a parent, owning when a mistake is made illustrates vulnerability and helps to provide inclusion. Don’t be afraid to be wrong and to correct your mistakes!
- Align on purpose: There are several questions to ask to “fill” this bucket such as: What are our values? How am I communicating my core values to my team at the beginning and throughout the season? How am I aligning my values to support LGBTQ+ members and athletes? By aligning on purpose from the beginning of the season when expectations are set, inclusivity is achieved.
5. Is there any advice you would give to parents of LGBTQ+ athletes as well as tools/comments youth and high school parents can take from this webinar?
Josh mentions that you have to educate yourselves by making sure you are supporting your child in the fact that they are having fun in what they are doing. He states that parents have to let youth athletes drive their participation in sports or what activity they want to do. Hudson adds that the role of the parent is to be like the bow and the child is the arrow. Meaning, try to send the arrow as far as you can but don't try to make the bow and arrow the same, make it about your child. Wrapping it up, Casey states that sport touches everyone and that there is an endless list of teachable moments.
Looking ahead, there are specific actions outlined by the panelists that sport leaders can take to make children feel like they belong. Ashland states that she hopes to see participation rates in LGBTQ+ athletes increase, more education, and the implementation of policies - specifically policies related to trans protection. Josh mentions that having the education piece around policy and having that advocated for or against at the highest level of sports will trickle down to collegiate and youth sports. Finally, Hudson adds that when he talks to a room of coaches, oftentimes it is the first time that these coaches are learning specific inclusivity strategies for LGBTQ+ athletes. Ideally, in five years he’d like to reach the people who aren’t a part of this conversation or in this webinar today.