A Safe Zone: 5 Keys to Creating Inclusive Teams

by Erica Quam

President Barack Obama declared June Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.  He has called on Americans to recommit themselves to finishing the work that remains for achieving full equality. And although many athletes of this iY generation are more open and accepting of their teammates than ever before, there is plenty of room to improve inclusion within the culture of sports today. 

Here are 5 Things Coaches Can Do:

1.  Prepare. Assume that LGBTQ athletes are on your team, on your coaching staff, and among your support staff - even if they are not out.

2.  Model.  Model the behavior you would like to see.  Watch your own words - don't use demeaning language. Treat everyone fairly.  Be an ally.  Respect the confidentiality of individuals who have come out to you.  

3.  Be proactive.  At the beginning of the season, make it a point to set clear expectations of respect for diversity amongst your staff and athletes.  Make it clear that anti-LGBTQ actions or language will not be tolerated.  It can be as simple as a conversation about how to create a positive team environment where everyone can be at their best.

4.  Respond.  When you hear anti-LGBTQ slurs, intervene. Don't turn your back and let small comments slide.  Report negative recruiting and harassing behavior to your athletics director and athletics conference.

5.  Educate.  Bring a speaker in to talk about bullying with your team.  Ask for and encourage programs on inclusion within your department.  

Want to learn more?  Check out this amazing resource compiled by Pat Griffin and Hudson Taylor.  It is a FREE resource through the NCAA. Champions of Respect: Inclusion of LGBTQ Student-Athletes and Staff in NCAA Programs.  (Click the photo or the link to download.)

What do you do to promote diversity and inclusion on your team?  Let's get this conversation started!  Share your comments and ideas below.