by Director of Athletics Chris Hartley
PRIDE month means a great deal to me personally and as the Director of Athletics at Lakeside. One of the core values of our Athletics department is broad-based participation. To genuinely uphold that value, our teams must be inclusive to all. Historically, sports has been a place where those who identify as LGBTQ+ are bullied, ostracized, and made to feel less than. In 2011, GLSEN, an education organization working to end discrimination against LGBTQ+ youth, reported that over 25% of LGBTQ+ youth who played sports had been harassed or assaulted either because of sexual orientation or gender expression.
As a cis-gender, heterosexual male who played on all boys teams in my youth, I assumed all of my teammates were like me. Homophobic slurs were used regularly to make fun of others and assert dominance. But as I shifted from athlete to coach, I quickly learned how important it was to be inclusive and to create an environment in which every athlete on my team felt included and valued. That meant stopping team events when homophobic slurs and other hurtful language was used; taking immediate action to ensure the safety and wellbeing of anyone in need; and educating the team on the harmful impact of those actions.
Now, as the Director of Athletics, I am charged with creating and maintaining a culture that not only makes teams safe and accessible to all, but also celebrates every identity, orientation, and expression. To achieve this goal, Lakeside coaches and myself regularly attend professional development workshops to help them create and sustain inclusive team cultures. In pre-pandemic times, the Athletics department has partnered with Lakeside’s Gay, Lesbian, Or Whatever (GLOW) club to host two PRIDE nights during our basketball seasons. These nights celebrated our LGBTQ+ student-athletes while also raising awareness about ongoing challenges in the Lakeside community and elsewhere. PRIDE nights will return once its safe to fill our gym with fans again!
This week, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) launched a program to help schools learn about issues that transgender and gender non-binary student-athletes face, and to give teams the tools necessary to better support those students. It is a great step for our state. The WIAA toolkit outlines many of the steps Lakeside has already taken. I am proud to work for a school that thinks deeply about supporting and celebrating all of our LGBTQ+ students.