PlayProud 2022: Creating Safe Spaces for LGBTQ+ Youth Athletes

“We’re glad you’re here.” This is one of the mantras that defines the culture and informs the decisions of Soccer Without Borders (SWB). Everyone–whether a participant or a volunteer, a staff or community member–should always feel welcomed, valued, and included.

SWB was founded in 2006 with a vision for an inclusive and equitable world where all youth have the opportunity to reach their inherent potential. In order for people to reach their potential, they need to feel safe to be their whole selves and discover their identities, both visible and invisible. While many identities can be observed outwardly–such as one’s race, language, and age–it is crucial that we also recognize the identities which may not be so apparent, including one’s own gender and sexual identity.

As we enter Pride month, we are honored to continue to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community through our participation in the PlayProud campaign, a program led by Common Goal (formerly streetworldfootball) that equips coaches with the skills and knowledge to ensure an inclusive safe space for all players on and off the field.

While incremental, yet important progress for LGBTQ+ inclusion has been made amongst sports at the national level, youth sports have continued to lag behind. According to a 2019 study by the Human Rights Campaign, four out of five LGBTQ+ youth athletes are not ‘out’ to their coaches and 82% of transgender athletes are not open with their coaches about their gender identity. As a result of this, exclusion and discrimination remains commonplace and LGBTQ+ youth are disproportionately unable to experience the benefits of sport. For example, the same Human Rights Campaign study found that LGBTQ+ youth participants drop out of sports at twice the rate of their non-LGBTQ+ counterparts.

These statistics may be disheartening, but it doesn’t have to be this way! The SWB community is made up of LGBTQ+ members and allies who are working year-round to create safe spaces for youth athletes of all identity types, visible and invisible; however, despite the significant role that representation plays in creating safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth, this type of representation may not always be clearly seen. To increase LGBTQ+ representation and the visible allyship that exists within the SWB community, this year’s PlayPloud campaign is featuring LGBTQ+ members and allies on Instagram, and you can help us amplify this campaign by participating too!

Here are a few things that you can do to support SWB’s PlayProud Campaign in June:

Order the SWB PlayProud-themed shirt at this link!

Make a donation when you purchase this shirt. All donations will go to supporting LGBTQ+ inclusive programming!

Participate in our SWB PlayProud Instagram campaign!

Post a photo of yourself in your own Instagram feed or Instagram Story and let the world know why you are standing in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.

In your photo, make sure you wear the SWB PlayProud-themed shirt or SWB shirt if you have one. If you don’t have either shirt, no worries! Make your photo Pride-themed by adding a Pride-themed sticker/giphy/emoji in the Instagram story or holding up a Pride flag (handmade, printed out, etc) in the photo! Be creative and have fun!

Don’t forget to tag @Soccerwoborders and use the hashtag #PlayProud and we might share your post on our account!

Together, we can work to ensure that all players find a safe and inclusive space to be their best selves, both on and off the field.

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