Words Matter
By Dan Woog, LGBT & Allies Chair

Words matter.

In 2019, coaches make sure not to tell boys “Don’t play a girl.” (Unless of course they want to inspire their guys to be like Ali Krieger.)

But other words we never think about.

When we talk to a male team about “your girlfriend” — because we assume that every boy on our team has (or wants to have) one — we send a message, unintended but strong, that any guy who would rather have a boyfriend is different. An outsider. Not part of our team.

When we talk about “your mom and dad,” we tell our players without a mom or dad — or with two moms or two dads — that their family is somehow not like everyone else’s. Those few words set them apart from others.

When we laugh — good-naturedly — about a boy’s baking or dancing talents, or a girl who can fix a computer or change a tire — we reinforce outdated stereotypes. And we make that boy or girl feel somehow separate.

No one likes to be thought of as different. One of the many reasons young players love soccer is to feel part of a group. Even if no one else notices non-inclusive language, those on the outside do.

Every coach wants to make every player feel accepted. Words are one of the best ways to do that.

Instead of saying to girls, “when you have a boyfriend,” try this: “when you find someone you love.”

Rather than talking about “your mom and dad,” try “parent or grandparent.”

And instead of joking about a player’s talents and achievements, embrace them. Challenge the rest of the team to follow suit.

Words matter. What do you say?