Focusing on teamwork, on and off the court

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Saunders High School head basketball coach Anthony Nicodemo talks about the importance of teamwork in sports and the LGBT sports movement

October just might be my favorite time of the year. Cool weather, changing leaves, Football Sundays ... and of course the approaching basketball season. My calendar is filled with various meetings and workouts in preparation for the next few months. As a coach I constantly search for ways to improve my team, both on and off the court. I tend to focus a lot on team-building activities. Videos, music and slide shows all play a role in motivating my student-athletes throughout the season. I look for any edge I can to make my team tighter.

During the offseason I spend lots of time figuring out the various schemes for the following season. In the fall, two months prior to our first practice, I begin implementing the new system. Getting the players to understand the various cuts and reads can be a tough task. Usually breakdown drills are required. When November rolls around the daily repetition kicks in and hopefully come December the system is instilled. Each player has his own strengths and weaknesses that all the players around them must learn. In the end all the players must work together on each possession to ensure a score. This particular offense requires all players to be involved equally. No one player is more important than the other and they all must be active participants to succeed.

During the past few months I have had the pleasure of forming some great friendships with athletes from various sports who work together for the betterment of the LGBT community: a team of people coming together for the same purpose. During my trip to the Nike #BeTrue LGBT Sports Summit in Portland I was able to meet so many of these leaders, truly inspiring people who have dedicated their lives to the betterment of others.

After coming out I was able to meet and discuss various issues with groups like GLSEN, You Can Play, Athlete Ally and GO! Athletes. I was looking for a way to become involved and join the movement. Being part of a team was important for both my professional and personal growth. The conversations were tremendous and I was enlightened by so much that I did not know.

Last week I was able to speak on an Invisible Athlete Panel, organized by You Can Play. I traveled to Boston and discussed LGBT issues in sports with members of the community. Hearing different views and opinions really allowed me to recognize others' thoughts on LGBT issues and sports.

You Can Play was founded by current NHL Director of Player safety Patrick Burke and is now directed by Wade Davis, a former professional football player. I also have joined up with GO! Athletes and founder Anna Aagenes. GO!, is a collection of current and former LGBT athletes working to eliminate homophobia. Volunteers converse on a monthly conference call discussing ideas and giving updates on what they are up to in their community. Being able to chat with people from all walks of life from across the country is awesome.

Portland changed my life because for the first time I was with gay people who were very involved in athletics. I saw various groups of LGBT athletes and coaches with robust avenues to talk about their passions. This week I will be launching a Facebook group for LGBT coaches and athletes involved in basketball. It will be a cool place to exchange ideas and discuss the game we love. I hope it will be a place for those who feel left out to feel welcomed.

These groups are such a great resource for not only out student-athletes and coaches, but maybe even more importantly the closeted folks as well. Through experience the members will understand how so many others feel - and they will see the support of a supportive community. Before coming out I often explored websites and sent anonymous emails looking for support. I would ask questions, but share very little tales about myself. In many ways these correspondences were an important part of my process with coming to terms with who I truly am.

Teamwork is essential in every aspect of coaching. Study hall, preparation and games all require a careful manipulation to ensure success. As we try to eliminate homophobia in athletics, a team effort is required. Individuals have the power to make a difference, but to truly solve the problem, everyone involved needs to play their part. Coaches, players and administrators are all responsible to ensure inclusion for all.

If you feel you have no place to go, I assure you that you do. Reach out: There are plenty of people all looking to help. In the end we are all on the same team and will solve these problems together.

You can find Anthony Nicodemo on Twitter.

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