For many of us in the high school educational world, Labor Day weekend not only marks the “unofficial” end of summer, but also back to school!

After a year like none other, it is wonderful to see young people fill our hallways, courts and fields again. Certainly, ongoing health and safety protocols are changing the landscape of the schools, and they are continuing to have a significant impact on athletic programs and the student-athlete experience.

These changes aren’t the only ones altering high school sports. In recent years, we have seen a steady rise of teens identifying as LGBTQ+ as “younger generations are far more likely to consider themselves to be something other than heterosexual,” according to a February 2021 Gallup report.

While high schoolers are feeling more and more comfortable being out compared to previous generations, statistics compiled by The Trevor Project continue to show that LGBTQ+ youth remain at an alarmingly high risk of self-harm and suicide in comparison to their non-LGBTQ+ counterparts.

Despite these realities, high school athletic programs throughout the country continue to provide safe haven from exclusion and offer healthy and welcoming experiences for students of all sexual identities and orientations.

There is no environment that offers the opportunity of vulnerability and authenticity like the athletic arena.

High school coaches understand the importance of building meaningful relationships. Coaches also know that young athletes, and teams, thrive when everyone is given the opportunity to live as their true selves.

There is no environment that offers the opportunity of vulnerability and authenticity like the athletic arena. The very best of our coaching profession knows and embraces this truth.

The support that coaches and athletic programs can provide LGBTQ+ student-athletes continues to evolve with each generation and school year. Language, identity and social media are just a few of the areas where coaches must continue to stay educated to effectively lead diverse and inclusive programs.

Staying on top of the most innovative training and winning approaches is critical for all coaches, as well as staying on top of one’s diversity and inclusion game.

To provide ongoing support to student-athletes, coaches, administrators, parents, and fans, I worked with Outsports to create a great list of LGBTQ+ sports resources available for a new school year, complete with different links depending on if you’re an athlete, coach, parent or otherwise engaged in the high school sports space.

And if you need one-on-one support, please feel free to reach out directly. As a member of the Sports Equality Foundation, I can connect you with an LGBTQ+ sports advocate in your area.

I’m here to help. We’re here to help. And we’re wishing you a healthy and winning season!

You can also find me at these links, and I’m always ready to help: