Since coming out three years ago I've witnessed many campaigns by various LGBT sports organizations in an attempt to change culture. Hashtags, surveys and think tanks have become commonplace in the hopes of making a difference.
While many served their purpose, these methods have become passé. Visibility and building community are the best ways to change culture, and this weekend's Courage Game has found the perfect formula.
The event was the brainchild of Andrew Goldstein and Nick Welton, two former college lacrosse players looking to support 13 year old Braeden Lange. Following his coming out, Lange struggled for support and Goldstein along with other openly gay lacrosse players came to his aide. After hearing how great the first event was, I was compelled to witness it myself so took a ride to Philadelphia for the second version of the game.
In the first five minutes, I was blown away. On two fields, various lacrosse games were underway with participants donning jerseys with Nike's LGBT slogan #betrue on the back. My first thought was, to have a large amount of the lacrosse community, gay and straight come together for one gay player in the name of anti-bullying & inclusion, is awesome.
Over the course of the next few hours I was able to meet various people involved with the event. Several gay lacrosse players took part from middle school through the professional ranks. The camaraderie of the community was amazing.
I joined a group of 35 people for dinner and this is where the impact of the event really hit me. Tables were mixed with all walks of life. Gay and straight, young and old, players and coaches.
These folks will return to their teams and preach inclusion. They will embrace gay teammates and show them support. They understand that their is no difference and yes, gay guys can play sports.
This is how you create change. Actual athletes and coaches taking the onus to create a more inclusive environment. The lacrosse community came to the aide of one of their own and it was truly inspiring.
People at the NCAA and other sports organizations should take note. Instead of spending money on conferences and pamphlets, fund and support events like the Courage Game. There is no better way to learn then doing so with hands on activities.
As the Courage Game grows and expands to other sports we will see more athletes come out and change culture in their communities. It all started with a 13 year old gay athlete who was supported by a 32 year old gay athlete. Visibility leads to change.