At the start of every season, coaches establish their coaching philosophies to reflect their team goals. A common team goal is to create and maintain a positive team culture. In order to cultivate a positive team culture, it’s important to create a holistically inclusive gym for your athletes to train in. As coaches and leaders, our actions must reflect our intentions for trust to be formed between the athletes and their coaches.
Here are three ways to promote inclusivity both on and off the court:
NOTE: Please refer to the Human Rights Campaign Glossary of Terms for a quick reference if there are any terms you are unfamiliar with. All sources are included in this article.
This has been the most subtle, yet most effective change I have made in our gym for our athletes. Neutralizing how you address your players is a change so small, some might not even notice.
Athletes – “Athletes, let’s focus.”
Players – “I need several players serving and several passing.”
Setters (or other positions) – “Setters, meet me on court 1 please.”
Practice the change, just like your athletes are practicing their skills. This can be the difference in your athletes feeling comfortable or uncomfortable during practices and matches. Using correct pronouns (when available), neutralizing language, and demonstrating allyship are all examples of gender affirming care (yes, really!).
START THE CONVERSATION
If sharing your own pronouns is something you’re comfortable with, this could be a great way to signify your allyship. For example, “I’m Coach Sheila, my pronouns are they/them/theirs, and I’m the assistant coach for 13 Mizuno!” This is a simple way to open the door for other athletes to share their pronouns if they wish to.
It’s important to note that many young people do not feel comfortable doing so, however, so it’s crucial to let them continue the conversation from here, even if they don’t offer their pronouns in return. According to the Trevor Project’s 2023 US National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People, 27% of transgender and nonbinary young people reported that they have been physically threatened or harmed in the past year due to their gender identity. This means these young people do not feel safe in many of their environments. It’s completely valid for them to feel the same way in our gyms, despite how inclusive we attempt to make these spaces.
KNOW THE RULES