Volleyball is for everyone. Many believe volleyball to be an especially accepting and inclusive community, and it begins when players are first introduced to the sport at a young age. In the United States, 50% of students in grades 6-12 who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) reported being harassed or bullied in P.E. or gym class (GLSEN, 2013).

In a recent study of nearly 9,500 gay and straight people in the United States, 89% believe a sports environment is more homophobic than the rest of society (Out on the Fields, 2016). In that same study, 84% of respondents witnessed or experienced homophobia in sports. There are helpful ways that Club Directors and Coaches can ensure a safe environment for all participants and members of your club.

Here are some ways to begin:

  1. Understand that this topic applies to all of us. We all know someone who is LGBTQ – they just might not be out yet.
  2. Educate yourself on LGBTQ people in sports and the issues they face.
  3. It’s okay to not know all the answers. As you start the conversation, research and reach out to find out answers to questions you still have.
  4. Start by asking one or two people in your club: “How can we create safer spaces for LGBTQ athletes, coaches, and fans?”
  5. Take action to make this a full club conversation.

We encourage that JVA Club Directors and Coaches apply these steps to ensure equality and respect for all players, coaches, officials, administrators, and fans.

At all levels, LGBTQ inclusion is important to address. For coaches, respect and inclusion are key elements for any successful team. If a coach does not call out derogatory language and discuss the inclusion of LGBTQ athletes, a team culture can quickly turn negative and unwelcoming. This can impact an athlete’s ability to perform well or may even cause an athlete to quit due to a lack of support.

Clubs have an equal responsibility to their coaches. While it may come as a shock to some, instances of clubs firing coaches based on their sexual orientation pop up year after year. This same discrimination can exist within clubs’ hiring and promotion practices. Such practices are not only unethical but can result in legal action against the club in a growing number of states and localities.

You Can Play is available as a resource for clubs looking to ensure a safe and inclusive environment. You Can Play works to ensure safety and inclusion for all whoparticipate in sports, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning (LGBTQ) athletes, coaches, and fans.

For more information on You Can Play and resources you can use to create a more respectful environment, visit www.youcanplayproject.org or follow You Can Play on social media at @youcanplayteam. You Can Play is here to assist clubs in ensuring that volleyball is truly for everyone!

About the Author

Nathan Matthews is a Regional Board Member of You Can Play. He is the Head Girls’ Volleyball Coach at Tecumseh High School and Head Boys’ Volleyball Coach at Miamisburg High School,in Ohio. In addition, Nathan is an Assistant Coach for Ohio Valley Region High Performance. Nathan can be contacted at Matthewsn@wittenberg.edu