Lezzers in the Locker Room

This week women’s basketball enthusiasts of all stripes descended on New Orleans for the NCAA Final Four and some other basketball adjacent shenanigans. The Women’s Basketball Coaches Association held its National Convention. This year, one of the convention’s training sessions was about inclusion of LGBT athletes and coaches in women’s sports.

The speakers included Pat Griffin, Nevin Caple of Break the Silence, and Helen Carroll and Ashland Johnson of the NCLR. The speakers planned to address some of the issues coaches face as teams become more welcoming of LGBT players. Some of the topics they planned to address were: teammates dating teammates, negative recruiting tactics based on sexual orientation, be it real or perceived, addressing homophobic and transphobic comments by players, fans and others, and the coming out process.

Women’s college sports exist in a strange world. On the one hand there is the perception by some that women’s sports are filled with lesbians while on the other hand there remain very few out LGBT coaches. Many coaches do the best they can to make the locker room a safe place for all players, some coaches would rather not get into locker room issues at all, and still others discourage LGBT athletes to come out at all.

The session topics seem to get to the heart of several issues (real or perceived) that might worry coaches. I can imagine there are plenty of coaches who would like to support her players who wish to come out but don’t know how to do it. What is the coaches role in supporting the player? Is a public declaration to the team that she stands behind her athlete? Is it a more private role in providing one-on-one support or directing an athlete to other support systems on campus? What about the overwhelming world of teammates dating each other? Do coaches need to be involved or should they just stay out of it?

These are difficult calls for coaches even those who are not uncomfortable with the idea of having LGBT players in their team. I know that my coach’s vocal support made a huge difference when I came out to my team. She made it clear to the players who threatened to quit if anyone else came out that their attitude was not welcome on her team. Coaches can set the tone of their teams and, hopefully, this conference will help give more coaches the tools they need to set a tone that is welcoming to LGBT players. Now, if we can just get them to run this type of program at the men’s Final Four.

Are there other topics you think should have been covered? What advice would you give to coaches or what advice do you wish you could give your own coach?