Northfield Mount Hermon Takes the Lead with You Can Play Project
As part of the GForce Sports Invisible Athlete forum panel, Andrew Goldstein and Dave Farber have spoken to thousands of high school and college kids about homophobia in sports. Last fall, Andrew and Dave visited Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts and talked about their experiences. Recently, NMH became the first high school to make a You Can Play video. Andrew and Dave are proud of the students, faculty and staff they met last October and Andrew tells about the visit and how things have changed at NMH.
"When we visited NMH, we met with a few students who felt intimidated by the words that they heard on a regular basis around school and especially in the locker room. So we met with the faculty, with administrators, coaches, teachers, and dorm parents. We wanted to explain to them that there was a problem in their school, that homophobic language was pervasive in the athletic environment.
They immediately had questions but they didn't ask us to defend our point of view. They focused on what they could do to make a difference. This absolutely amazed me. I thought it would require us to give specific examples and explain how we, as scared closeted high school athletes, had listened to these words everyday with a smile on our faces only to go home at night and feel terrible about ourselves. But they were ready to move forward and do something. They just needed the tools.
We helped them to realize that they can start small: don't allow homophobic language in their locker room, engage captains and leaders of the team to ensure a safe environment for all athletes, and to promote respect for everyone. We spoke to the entire student body and they were supportive and receptive to our message. Within days, we started hearing back from the students that things were changing. Ground rules were set by coaches and captains. Team leaders and administrators alike wanted to look out for all of their team members.
Watching their contribution to the You Can Play project is incredibly moving and rewarding for us. Our visit to NMH empowered the students, faculty and staff to declare that all athletes are welcome and will be judged only by their participation, heart and skills. We can only hope that other high schools are inspired to step up and promote respect for everyone like NMH has done. Thank you, NMH, for leading. It just goes to show how a simple dialogue can result in something significant.