In a groundbreaking move, the Colorado High School Activities Association, which oversees high school sports in the state, has entered into a partnership with the You Can Play project to help raise awareness about bullying and homophobia in the Centennial State's sports.
The partnership will create a video series of high school athletes, coaches and administrators welcoming LGBT and bullied athletes into sports. CHSAA's aim is to showcase leadership qualities that reflect the inclusion of all people. To that end, the partnership has created, with the help of the Gill Foundation, a video contest to encourage all high schools in Colorado to release statements of inclusion. The first video can be seen below.
This is great news. While so much attention is placed on the pros and college sports, it's in K-12 sports that we need the most work. This is a step in the right direction.
You Can Play, Colorado! (Denver East High School) (via CHSAA)
Here's the full press release:
DENVER (Oct. 22, 2013) - The Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA), the You Can Play Project, and a collection of Colorado's professional athletes have joined together to promote a program endorsing inclusion and diversity in sports and extracurricular activities, particularly for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students.
"You Can Play, Colorado!", part of the We Are CHSAA Positive Leadership Campaign, encourages high school students, teams and schools to enter a statewide video contest that documents their commitment to the idea that great teammates are judged on heart, talent and skill, not race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other potentially discriminatory traits.
"You Can Play, Colorado! gives students, coaches, and parents in every part of the state a chance to discuss what's important in locker rooms, on stage, in classrooms, and anywhere a team relies on individual contributions," said CHSAA commissioner Paul Angelico. "Recognizing the contributions of diverse teammates, including those who may be gay or lesbian, and from diverse religions or races, helps students involved in activities realize that success in life comes from many areas."
The video competition will be based on work done by the Denver-based You Can Play Project, an organization dedicated to erasing homophobia in sports, and You Can Play will be incorporated intoCHSAA's positive leadership programs. Thousands of high school, college and professional athletes have contributed You Can Play videos in support of LGBT athletes and their straight allies, all saying that heart, talent and skill matter, and "if you can play, you can play."
"CHSAA's statewide inclusion of a program like You Can Play is truly the first of its kind in the United States," said You Can Play co-founder Brian Kitts. "We've talked with coaches, athletic directors and activity advisors, and students from across Colorado, and we're really enthusiastic about the response. This is a unique program mixing student athletics, activities, and a message of inclusion. CHSAA and Colorado's education leaders are to be commended for moving forward with this model."
"Ending discrimination of any kind in sports has always been the mission of You Can Play," said You Can Play executive director Wade Davis. "In working with CHSAA, it became clear that You Can Play's original mission of changing the culture of locker rooms extends to anywhere students rely on teammates, whether that's a locker room, on a debate or chess team, or in school bands or plays.
"Colorado is fortunate to have a terrific sports community supporting this effort and the nearly 200,000 students who participate in CHSAA's programs each year," Davis said. "The effect of messages pro athletes send regarding winning, teamwork and acceptance of diverse teammates can't be overstated." Davis is a graduate of Overland High School in Aurora, Colo., and a former NFL player.
Professional sports teams participating in You Can Play, Colorado! are represented by players from the Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Mammoth, Colorado Rapids, Denver Cutthroats, Denver Nuggets, Denver Outlaws and others. Colorado Avalanche Captain Gabriel Landeskog's video will be the first sports video released in support of the Colorado high school initiative, Nov. 7 on www.CHSAANow.com.
"You Can Play, Colorado! is the most aggressive project in the country dedicated to inclusion in high school activities and the lessons here will last a lifetime. This coalition of high school students, professional athletes, educators and professional associations is unprecedented," said Leslie Herod, program officer for Gill Foundation's Colorado School Culture Initiative.
Education associations endorsing You Can Play, Colorado! and CHSAA's Positive Leadership Campaign include:
• Colorado Association of School Boards
• Colorado Association of School Executives
• Colorado Education Association
• Colorado League of Charter Schools
• Charter School Institute
• Colorado School Safety Resource Center
• One Colorado Education Fund
• Colorado Rural Caucus
• Colorado BOCES Association
• Positive Coaching Alliance
Grant funding for You Can Play, Colorado! is provided in part by the Gill Foundation's Gay & Lesbian for Colorado.