Allies for athletes

Published by Madison Williams, Date: October 21, 2021
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When it comes to being a student athlete it comes with many obstacles. Some struggle with the balance of homework and practice, while others struggle with acceptance. Oct. 11 highlighted National Coming Out Day in accordance with the LGBTQ community. Overall, the setting within campus communities have vastly improved in their efforts to make their students feel safe.

Being in a college environment allows some to recognize who they truly are attracted to. At Slippery Rock students and athletes alike are made to feel safe in the community and to be themselves. The university holds month long events and has multiple on campus associations that serve as a safe space for students. Rock Out, Pride Center, and the Counselling center all offer amazing opportunities to learn more.

Coming out and being open with your true self is one of the best things a student-athlete can do for their mental health. To do so comfortably, the stigma around the LGBTQ community needs to be ended. For an anonymous soccer player at The Rock, she believes that coming out to your team and accepting your sexuality can be a very positive decision.

As a high-school athlete she felt ready to tell her family the truth. It isn’t always that simple though and our generation is evolving and aligning morals with society today. However, past generations struggle to grasp these same concepts since they differ so greatly from when they were growing up. While change is not a bad thing though, her family wasn’t exactly sure how to react.

Over time she continued to stay in tune with herself and her sexual preference. In college, during her second semester as a freshman she again decided it would be good to tell her friends and family and make herself clear. This time people handled it better, some even eluding that they already knew.

The easiest way people can be an ally, is just simply by listening and accepting people for who they are. She said the significance behind people being supportive should be accepted more frequently than it is.

When it comes to the reactions of her teammates, she said barely anyone batted an eye. At other universities across the U.S. people face discrimination, violence and blatant disrespect for simply expressing themselves. Not receiving any negativity, and even cracking jokes with her team is something she highly values. Ironically enough she says they even come to her to spill all their boy drama for an un-biased opinion. If she could give any advice to those who are judgmental, she put it simply, “Be a kind human being, be there to listen.” She added that the internal battle faced within the LGBTQ community is tough enough and being comfortable in your skin should be a valid reason for coming out. At the end of the day, you really are no different than anyone else.

“My team really does make it a safe space to be myself,” she said. How you identify and your sexual orientation is something everyone should always be willing to talk about openly. In our era today, the hate outweighs the love. If she could encourage anyone else, student or athlete, she says “don’t hold onto something that impacts you that greatly. Not hiding lifted a weight off my shoulders, I was bawling but with excitement.”

Like Nike says it “Just do it.” She did it and for the last three years she’s been in an openly loving relationship. The two are often seen leaving games holding hands and being proud of their admiration for one another. She added that she plans to eventually attend on-campus events when her athletic schedule allows, as it is a great way to feel more confident.

Organizations within the professional realm have begun working toward making diversity and inclusion a focus in their purpose for sports. Diversity workshops and other instructional videos can be found on the NCAA resource page to learn more.

The NCAA has resources for inclusion and stands in support of student-athletes, coaches and fans of all races and sexual orientations. They absolutely do not stand for any hazing or bullying of the LGBTQ community. Inclusivity within all cultures and backgrounds are highly encouraged for all positions including coaches, staff within leadership and players.

Athletes and non-athletes alike need to come together in support of the ever-changing world and to adequately vouch for change for positive well-being of the LGBTQ community within sports. Harassment at practices or games being the most common form of hate, can be improved with education on the topic. Using proper terminology and describing someone based on their preferred pronouns is a good way to start. Be an ally and provide an environment for your friends and team to be open with one another.

With a steady increase in mindfulness, society will realize too that everyone has a right to be who they are as long as they are not harming anyone with their expression.

Madison is a junior communication major with a concentration in converged journalism and a minor in sport management. She is an active member of WSRU-TV and is the sports editor of The Rocket. Upon graduation, Madison plans to work in the broadcasting industry and coach volleyball.

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