Cal Lutheran coaches offer support to LGBTQIA+ athletes


Infographic by Elisa Zody — Digital and Multimedia Editor

Cal Lutheran’s staff training aims to create more inclusivity on campus, and not just within sports teams.

Kennedy Lum, Reporter

LGBTQIA+ History Month celebrates the expression of identity and honors the civil rights movements that coincide with the liberation of people regardless of their sexual orientation. 

Mind, Body and Sport: Harassment and discrimination – LGBTQ student-athletes,” an article written by Susan Rankin and Genevieve Weber in the National College Athletic Association, says that despite widespread acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community on college campuses, there is little research about how intercollegiate athletics have adapted. 

“One study of five Division I campuses in fact, explored how athletic teams respond to diversity, including race, gender, socioeconomic level, geographic region and sexual orientation,” Rankin and Weber said. “The authors noted that ‘questions about sexual orientation brought about the most highly charged responses.”’

California Lutheran University has 22 competitive intercollegiate athletic teams and a total of over 500 student-athletes. Head Softball Coach Debra Day said that the university is always striving to be better for all of its students, and Cal Lutheran does a good job of supporting its students in all capacities.

“Society has changed over the years,” Day said. “Things have become more obvious that we as a society have let down certain populations, and it’s great that eyes are being opened on how we can better support everyone.”

With numerous years of experience as a coach and an athlete, Day said the most important value within a successful team is trust.

“We love everybody, if you can play ball then play ball,” Day said.

In addition to softball, the basketball team at Cal Lutheran plays a significant role in creating a positive culture within the athletics department.

Cal Lutheran Men’s Head Basketball Coach and alumnus Russell White said that he plans to support his players.

“Talking about certain subjects is just a requirement, whether it’s finances, race, or sexual orientation, or religion it’s not easy conversations but they’re conversations we need to have if we’re going to be more inclusive,” White said. 

Michael Gennette, head tennis coach, said, from his experience, it is important to create a safe environment for all players by promoting inclusivity.

“CLU has provided a lot of training for our staff including anti-bias training and guidance from our supervisors about how to use supportive language, inclusive language, including how to avoid unconscious bias and microaggressions,” Gennette said. “A lot of this was very helpful, especially for people who weren’t aware that they may have been using phrases that have been in our vernacular for many generations and we’re repeating hurtful comments unintentionally.”

Gennette said Cal Lutheran has made an effort to educate students and staff about addressing others with their preferred pronouns, and it has made the campus environment more welcoming for all.

Associate Professor of Counselor Education Daniel Tillapaugh has done research on intersectionality, LGBTQIA+ issues in higher education and masculinity within the context of college men. 

Tillapaugh said that, in his research, he found that LGBTQIA+ identifying athletes found a sense of belonging from their sports teams.

“Some LGBTQIA+ student-athletes remain closeted out of fear of discrimination from their teammates and coaches,” Tillapaugh said. “For most LGBTQIA+ student-athletes, though, they largely want to be able to enjoy their sport and also be validated for who they are as a whole person, not just be the token LGBTQIA+ student-athlete.”

In October, Cal Lutheran changed the Hispanic Heritage Month banners along the Spine to LGBTQIA+ History Month banners.

With LGBTQIA+ History Month ending, Cal Lutheran will host Transgender Day of Remembrance in the Student Union, Nov. 21 at 10 a.m.