9 Ways to Make Your Youth Sports Organization a Safe Space for LGBTQ Players
By Melissa Wickes
June 1, 2023
Creating a safe and welcoming environment for all kids in youth sports is vital—especially today. After all, kids often come to practice as an escape from the outside world, and you may not know just what kind of struggles they are facing off the field or court. June is pride month, so we’re sharing some considerations for making your team a safe and inclusive space for LGBTQ players.
Your goal is to help the players in your organization thrive on the field and in life. The first step toward helping LGBTQ players on your team feel comfortable and able to thrive—athletically and beyond—is educating yourself on LGBTQ identities, terminology, and the specific challenges they could be facing. This will help you understand their experiences and help create inclusive environments.
Establish a non-Discrimination Policy
If you don’t have a non-discrimination policy, you should develop one that includes (but is not limited to) sexual orientation and gender identity. Make sure this policy is communicated to all members of the team, parents, coaches, and any other people who may attend a game or a practice. You should make it clear that your organization is committed to inclusivity and acceptance by communicating this via email, on your team sports app, in your social media, and of course at practice and games.
Foster an Inclusive Culture
Encourage teamwork, respect, and camaraderie among all team members and celebrate diversity by providing opportunities for players to learn about different cultures and identities. You can celebrate Pride this month by doing things like:
- Encouraging players to wear rainbow to games or practices
- Displaying Pride flags at your facility
- Having an athlete who is a member of the LGBTQ community come in to speak to your players
Provide LGBTQ+ Sensitivity Training
Organize training sessions for coaches, parents, and team members to promote understanding, empathy, and respect for LGBTQ individuals. Experts and organizations that specialize in LGBTQ inclusion in sports, like Athlete Ally, can conduct these sessions.
Designate a Point of Contact
You may not have all of the answers just yet, and that’s okay (as long as you’re trying!). Appointing a designated person within your team—like a coach or team manager—who is knowledgeable about LGBTQ issues will allow them to act as a point of contact for any concerns or questions from players or parents.
Respect Privacy and Confidentiality
While you have to work to create an atmosphere where individuals feel comfortable being open about their sexual orientation or gender identity, you should respect their privacy and ensure that any personal information will be kept confidential if they want it to be.
Uniform and Dress Code Considerations
Be open and willing to accommodate individual preference when it comes to uniforms and dress codes, within reason. For example, gender-neutral options or allowing players to wear uniforms that align with their gender identity can help foster inclusivity and make players more confident and able to perform at their best.
Develop a Bullying and Discrimination Action Plan
Your organization should have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to bullying and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. To read more about how to mitigate bullying on your team, click here.
Seek Community Partnerships
There are so many incredible LGBTQ organizations—both within and outside of sport—that can provide resources, support, and guidance on creating a safe space for your LGBTQ athletes. Collaborate with these organizations where you can—it will also help encourage and create more opportunities for LGBTQ youth to participate in youth sports!
Creating an inclusive environment is an ongoing process and unfortunately won’t happen in a day. Have regular check-ins with your team’s practices and policies, listen to feedback from players and parents, and adapt as needed to ensure you are fostering a safe and welcoming environment for LGBTQ kids in youth sports.
Here’s a short guide for promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in your youth sports organization.