Friday, February 25, 2011

A spotlight on sports

I read an article this week about homophobia in athletics for one of my social work classes. The article, printed in The Chronicle of Higher Education in 2002, was entitled "The Loneliest Athletes." The author, Jennifer Jacobson, wrote about how coaches attitudes toward homosexual players affect the environment and level of harassment and/or discrimination that homosexual players (out and closeted) face when playing on a sports team. The article stated that the athletic department is often the most homophobic place on a collage campus and that homophobic attitudes and slurs are a part of the daily environment for many players.
I started to research the topic a little more after reading the article and I was surprised to find out how much has been written on the subject. This 2011 study Athletic Trainers' Attitudes Toward Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual National Collegiate Athletic Association Student-Athletes in the Journal of Athletic Training Online caught my attention because of it's recent publication and relevance. The conclusion of the study presented three key points:
  • Most athletic trainers held positive attitudes toward lesbian, gay, or bisexual student-athletes. However, nearly 15% held negative attitudes.

  • Women and athletic trainers with lesbian, gay, or bisexual friends or family members and those who cared for lesbian, gay, or bisexual student-athletes held more positive attitudes than did men and athletic trainers without these personal connections, respectively.

  • Athletic trainers must act to improve the athletic training department environment so that all student-athletes (including lesbian, gay, or bisexual student-athletes) feel safe and respected.
The first finding actually surprised me and made me hopeful that there will be improvements in the near future as more coaches become aware of the impact they have on their student's views about homosexuality. Just based on my personal experiences, I honestly thought that the study would find more than 15% of athletic trainers with negative attitudes toward LGBTQ students. But I haven't played sports in many years and I'm glad to see that maybe the times are changing. I think there is still a long way to go though. The old stereotypes and assumptions about female sports players being lesbians and gay male players checking out other guys in the locker room shower still exist.

My daughter recently joined a junior roller derby team. She's 10 and she's been loving every minute of it because she's tough and she likes to go fast. What I enjoyed most was watching all of the diversity in the rink and in the audience of parents. When you're 10 years old, you don't think to care about someone's race or sexual orientation or gender identity or social status, you just want to go fast and have fun.........I wish adults catch on to that a little more.

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