While sports events may be on hold, it’s still a great time to talk about how to build LGBTQ inclusion on teams and in athletics departments.

Wednesday evening, Outsports hosted an online conversation with three people who know quite a bit about that very thing.

The hour-long Zoom talk addressed how do you navigate the map of an athletics dept. to affect change in policy, elevate inclusion educational programs, and support groups for athletes and coaches. We didn’t just talk in broad strokes, attendees left the webinar having learned some of the key steps to take, as well as things to avoid.

The people joining the conversation were:

  • Resa Lovelace is Assistant AD – Student-Athlete Development at the Univ. of Maryland athletics department, and formerly worked at the Univ. of Oregon.
  • Dr. Christina Rivera is Sr. Associate Athletic Director/SWA at the UCLA athletics dept.
  • Kirk Walker is a coach with the UCLA Bruins softball team and helps organize GO! Space and Equality Coaching Alliance.

Some of the key observations from these experts were:

  • Some of the key benchmarks the panelists said they consider when determining of a sports environment is LGBTQ-inclusive were the language used in the space, not just whether it was homophobic or transphobic, but also how much heterosexuality was assumed in the space; policies that inclusion trans-athlete access to competition and fan conduct; visibility of LGBTQ people and straight, cis people who support the community; the history of the institution and the community at large in regards to diversity and inclusion.
  • Visibility was highlighted as a key component to building inclusion. The panelists discussed the importance of LGBTQ people in the athletics dept. being out and visible as resources for others who might be struggle. In addition, they talked about non-LGBTQ people being visible supporters, using rainbow stickers on office doors and open conversations about their support with their teams.
  • They stressed the importance of working with other campus resources — the LGBTQ center, residential life, student government — to find financial and practical resources to build educational efforts around inclusion within athletics.
  • A key question several attendees had involved getting buy-in from coaches who may not see LGBTQ-inclusion efforts as important or relevant to what they do. The panelists repeatedly referred to the presence of LGBTQ people on most sports teams, particularly over the course of a coach’s career. They also talked about the importance of focusing conversations with coaches and athletes on their desire to win, and how LGBTQ athletes feeling comfortable and accepted perform better.

There was also an opportunity for attendees to ask questions of our speakers, who were ready to provide specific feedback for how exactly to bring positive, inclusive change to your sports world.

You can watch the hour-long webinar here.