A Coach's Guide to LGBT Acceptance
Major League Baseball (MLB) and USA Baseball are committed to creating a positive environment for all constituents of the game. The following are MLB and USA Baseball's official statements on inclusion:
- MLB's Workplace Code of Conduct: MLB has a zero tolerance policy for harassment or discrimination based on race, gender, color, religion, national origin or sexual orientation.
- USA Baseball's duties are to provide an equal opportunity to athletes, coaches, trainers, managers, administrators and officials (umpires) to participate in baseball competitions, without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender or national origin.
These statements can also be applied to baseball teams and programs. As a coach, it is vital to understand your responsibility to your young athletes. Every word they hear has influence upon them, and they are looking to you as a role model. Bullying and harassment frequently occur outside the classroom or on athletic fields. Part of the responsibility as a coach is to erase an unacceptable dialogue that is disparaging and harmful to youth.
Discrimination on a baseball field is unacceptable. It is essential to understand this includes the LGBT community. Many LGBT youth hide their truth out of fear of being discriminated against or not being accepted, and it is very common to keep this to oneself. An accepting dialogue can literally save the life of a child. This subject is new for many people, resulting in questions and confusion. As a coach, you are not expected to be an expert, but it is essential to make your team understand baseball's message of inclusion and zero tolerance for discrimination. The words you use when coaching young athletes are extremely important.
So what can coaches do to be more supportive of LGBT athletes? Being an advocate means more than just preventing bullying. Coaches can help create an environment of inclusion by:
- Never tolerating derogatory or belittling language between athletes.
- Recognizing and mentoring each athlete.
- Listening and displaying empathy to all athletes.
Remember: As coaches, you may never know if an athlete is struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity. However, your goal should always be to provide a safe, respectful, and competitive environment for all of your athletes.
As a resource to help answer questions that may arise from your participants, please check out the list of everyday terms that are associated with the LGBT community.