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NCAA OneTeam Program helps Division III schools become effective allies

At smaller schools like Ohio’s Kenyon College, OneTeam helps guide coaches and athletic staff to create LGBTQ-inclusive environments.

NCAA Photos Archive
With 34 national titles, OneTeam aims to help Kenyon dominate inclusion like they do swimming.

While “big time” college sports like NCAA Division I football and basketball get most of the national publicity, it’s important to remember that when it comes to inclusion, college athletics are about much more than just the Buckeyes and Blue Devils of the world. And that’s worth emphasizing during NCAA Inclusion Week.

It’s with that in mind that the NCAA recently launched its new Division III LGBTQ OneTeam Program.

This initiative is designed to promote the concept of inclusion in small school athletics, develop guidelines to ensure that all students feel welcome to participate in “an athletics climate of respect,” and recognize the involvement of the NCAA in LGBTQ issues.

The first program of its kind, OneTeam features a roster of 35 Program Facilitators representing Division III schools from all across the country. Facilitators are drawn from the ranks of student-athletes, coaches, and administrators and are trained to administer the program to any school that requests it.

One such institution that recently participated in the program is Kenyon College, a Division III school in rural Gambier, Ohio. Over the college’s fall break period, Kenyon trained its athletic coaches, staff, and administrators in the OneTeam program.

2019 NCAA Division III Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Championship
One step to being a better ally: more of this.
Photo by Mike Comer/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The session was overseen by two facilitators: Kenyon’s Assistant Director of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Timothy Bussey and Kayla Gordon, Head Women’s Basketball Coach at nearby Denison University. Bussey described some of the details of OneTeam training to the Kenyon Collegian:

“Some of [the scenarios] are dealing with what to do when you encounter homophobic language or homophobic slurs on a sports team. Some of them deal with, [more] specifically, ‘How do you support a trans student who comes out to you and is transitioning, but still wanting to play on a team that corresponds with their gender?’ They’re all very practical specific scenarios that...have all happened at [D-III] schools.”

These are real-world issues of inclusion that we routinely address at Outsports. And it’s especially important that OneTeam trains coaches and staff to be effective allies at a small D-III school like Kenyon, a college situated in a breathtaking but extremely isolated environment centered around a no-stoplight village in the middle of Ohio farm country.

Full disclosure: I’m a Kenyon alumnus, and to give you a sense of what it was like to attend college in such a secluded place, I distinctly remember my friends planning social outings around trips to the local gas station 15 minutes away. It’s not so much the school where fun goes to die, but more like the school where fun occasionally gets lost on the drive over and winds up stranded in Akron.

NCAA Photos Archive
When I went to Kenyon, we only got this excited when Domino’s started delivering to campus.

At a college like Kenyon, this atmosphere can become especially lonely and stifling for the college’s LGBTQ student-athlete population. To combat this, OneTeam is about training all athletic coaches and staff to recognize these special challenges and how to be confidantes and mentors for students who need them most.

Kenyon is but one example. These kind of social obstacles are found at small and isolated Division III colleges all over the nation. Because of this, Kenyon is just one of several colleges undergoing this inclusion training program.

At the program’s conclusion, the college unveiled a OneTeam banner at the front of the Kenyon Athletic Center, a display that functioned in a similar manner to faculty placing pink triangles or “Safe Space” signs on their office doors. It’s a reminder that LGBTQ inclusion in Division III sports is a year-round focus at Kenyon and other schools like it — not just for one week in October.

Read more about the NCAA’s OneTeam program by clicking here.