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Locker Room Talk

How do you make sure the locker room remains a safe, inclusive space for the team as a whole?

Soccer49

Locker Room Talk
(by the Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity)

The locker room is sometimes seen as a sacred place for teammates – a place where “what is said in the locker room, stays in the locker room”. Although this thought process could lead to athletes feeling open enough to talk freely, it can also lead to a multitude of problems due to it being such an intimate and vulnerable place. The four walls of the secluded locker room often foster team bonding and long term friendships, however, sometimes at the cost of other individuals.

Gossiping, sexist and degrading language, homophobic slurs, and body shaming are just some of the topics that arise within the “team space”. And for those who identify within the LGBTQ+ community, the locker room can become even more of an isolating experience.

Some of these negative slurs are also used on the field as a form of a mental tactic- if I cannot beat my opponent physically, I will break them mentally. It has been ingrained in our minds that this type of negative speech is a “part of the game”- calling opponents “fags” or that they “throw like a girl” in an attempt to throw off their game. Ultimately, this type of behaviour maintains and reproduces the problematic attitudes towards the LGBTQ+, and other marginalized communities.

How can you help create a positive atmosphere? All it takes is putting up a Rainbow Pride sticker, or a positive space poster around the change rooms/athletic facilities. Let it be known that you stand for equality and inclusion, and verbally encourage your athletes to follow suit. Be supportive to every type of athlete, no matter their background, gender, or sexual orientation. Some coaches have players sign an “accountability contract” setting the boundaries regarding vocabulary on race, ethnicity, sexuality, and gender, holding every player accountable for their actions.

We have taken many positive steps forward towards inclusion in sports, however, it is clear that these negative, hyper-masculine attitudes are still rampant within athletic communities.

How do you facilitate a positive atmosphere  in the locker room?
How do you make sure the locker room remains a safe, inclusive space for the team as a whole? 

 

Coach Lacey – Gymnastics – York – 13 Years

Do unto others as you would want to be treated. Part of coaching isn’t just the sport stuff, it’s life skills, social skills and we as coaches have a duty and role to play to shape how young minds grow. And it’s not hard to remember as coaches that we need to teach kids that everyone deserves the same level of treatment no matter who they are.

 

Coach Greg – Hockey – Toronto – 11 Years

Creating a positive sport culture in and out of the locker room starts at the top and that is with you, the coach. You need to be open, accepting, lead my example and not tolerate when kids put each other down with harmful remarks etc. It is you who sets the tone for what happens in and out of the locker room. Kids only do what they can get away with, and sport is for everyone regardless of age, gender, orientation, ability etc and we as coaches need to ensure it stays that way, open to everyone.

 

Coach Tim – Ringette – Tillsonburg

This year will be my first season as the head coach and my plan is to have inspirational quotes posted as the players walk in so they can read it and think about the quote. The coaching staff have put in place where there is only one iPod in the dressing room for music and all other electronic equipment is left with their parents or at home. That way the players will have discussion instead of checking their social media. A female coach/manager will periodically be in and out of the change room to monitor the conversations.

We have had in the past where the players will group up and start having an attitude which doesn’t help the team atmosphere. We decided to move the players around where they are seated around their team mates not their friends to open up the conversation/communications. The coaching staff will be monitoring this as the season goes on and make positive adjustments to keep the spirit going!

 

Coach Tommaso – Swimming – Toronto – 10 Years

To me, the best way to create a positive and safe environment in the locker room, is to have “eyes and ears” in it, meaning having an athlete we know we can trust who is going to inform us if there are any “problematic” behaviors or discussion.
It’s also important to have meetings with the whole team they reinforce the principles of conduct and positive behavior in the locker room and in everyday life.
I also think that team building activity, or social activity done outside of the training time and training environment are great to reinforce the bond between athletes and prevent exclusion.

 

Coach Barb – Volleyball – Barrie – 16 Years

…We set goals for the new season and include down time and locker room time as off the court space that must be kept as a positive energy environment which includes every member of the team. The captain remains the conduit between players and coaches who is expected to notify coaches should issues arise. It can be a difficult situation if a player is negative towards players or the team goals. This is where discussion takes place between player and coach to try to circumvent ongoing issues.

 

Coach Edward – Swimming – London – 7 years

…Codes of conduct at our club are key. It isn’t just something signed and returned, I make sure to review it with my kids and parents at separate meetings to begin the year. I let them know we do not tolerate any kind of discrimination against anyone who is a member of this team and club. We are all here to have a good time and make friends and degrading anyone is not the way we respect and work with each other.