LGBTQ+ Inclusion in Sports: A Parent’s Guide

This June, as we celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month, USA Field Hockey will be highlighting resources for how to promote LGBTQ+ inclusion all year long. This will include a guide for athletes, coaches and parents – as well as insight from members of the field hockey community.

This week’s guide is for parents. It includes resources and a brief overview of how to navigate inclusion as a parent or caregiver of an LBGTQ+ athlete.

All athletes have a right to a sense of inclusion and to feel safe within their team and sport, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. As a parent, it is important to be aware of the experience and needs of an LGTBQ+ athlete, whether your child is an LGBTQ+ athlete, or you are helping your athlete navigate LGBTQ+ inclusion within their team.

This guide is meant to help educate parents and caregivers on LGBTQ+ inclusion. There are many resources available to parents to help achieve this goal. There is also an understanding that every athlete is different, in addition to their unique relationship with their parent or caregiver. But if you’re looking for a place to get started, check out the resources below.

  • Information for you and your athlete:

  • Online Trainings:

    This cultural competency training is designed to create dialogue around being an adult ally for LGBTQ+ youth by informing participants about common terminology, the “coming out” process, and challenges at home, in school, and the community.

USA Field Hockey spoke to Jamie Bruesehoff, parent of a transgender field hockey player and author of Raising Kids Beyond the Binary.

“When I think about what I want for my children, it’s what most parents want. I want them to grow into functioning adults that positively contribute to society, be active in their community, and experience joy. I want them to learn how to fall down and get back up, to take care of each other and the people around them. Sports, unlike anything else, teaches them how to do those things. That’s why parents all over the country commit to getting our kids to practice, washing uniforms, cutting up orange slices, and long days spent sitting on the bleachers where you're somehow either freezing or getting sunburned. We all do it because we know getting to play the game they love makes our kids into not just better teammates, but better human beings. LGBTQ+ kids deserve that too.”

“As the parent of a transgender field hockey player, my best advice is to follow your kid's lead. Be ready to be their advocate if needed, and also give them space to advocate for themselves. I pay attention to things like policies and the broader culture of the sports programs my daughter's involved in. I advocate for LGBTQ+ competency training for coaches and teachers at school. But on the field, my daughter's leading the way.”

“More often than not, she just wants and needs to be treated like every other player, but I work to maintain open communication with her in case anything comes up, and with her consent, I keep an open line of communication with her coaches. One of the most beautiful things about sports is that players get to come together from all sorts of backgrounds and experiences as a team. On the field, my daughter isn't ‘the transgender player’. She's just #10, and she loves it that way.”

Below are a few tips for parents of LGBTQ+ athletes.

  • Educate

    It is important that you stay educated. To best support your LGBTQ+ athlete, you will need to dedicate time and effort to getting and staying educated, which can include doing research, as well as talking to people who work in diversity and inclusion. By educating yourself, you can help to educate your LGBTQ+ athlete, so they can better understand how they may be able to advocate for themselves, navigate their emotions, and build support systems. For a youth athlete, you may need to take time to educate yourself on the specific policies in place at their school and on their team.

  • Support Your Athlete

    Although it may seem intuitive, it is important to support your athlete. They may feel additional pressures and challenges at practice or games when they should be focusing on playing their sport. Ensure that your athlete always feels supported and heard.

  • Be Prepared to Advocate

    This point is especially important for youth athletes. There may not always be the support system you want for your athlete – from their coach, school, other parents, and even teammates. You may need to advocate for your athlete if they need accommodations to travel or for uniforms. Be aware of LGBTQ+ student rights – if your child is experiencing discrimination, bullying, or harassment at school you can file a complaint with your local school district, state education agency, or the U.S. Educational Department.

As a parent of a youth athlete, what do I do if my child comes out to their team? (Adapted from USA Swimming’s LGBTQ Cultural Inclusion Resource Guide):

  • Speak to the head coach about existing policies.
  • Establish open and ongoing communication with the head coach.
  • Be an ally: correct offensive behavior among other parents and athletes.
  • Talk to your child about whether or not they feel included on the team. Discuss with coach when necessary.
  • Ask your child and your head coach how you can help.