By Shawn Danhouser
The one truth we can all agree on as soccer coaches is that our game is intended for everyone. Soccer doesn’t care:
- How old you are
- What color your skin is
- How much money you have
- Where you are from
- Who you pray to, if you do
- How tall or short you are
If you can play well, you are welcome on any team.
Like many parents, my children have shaped my perspective and altered my course. My parenting life has been non-traditional. It started when my youngest child was diagnosed with autism. This brought my attention to the lack of programming for children with disabilities, so I got involved with adaptive soccer. As my two older children grew up, who they identified as individuals changed as well. My oldest identifies as non-binary, and my middle child is a transgender female. While this was a lot of change to take in, the one thing that didn’t change was who they are to me, and how much I want them to succeed in life and most importantly, be happy.
Becoming an LGBT+ ally made sense to me as a high school coach. I put it out there in small symbolic ways every day, with ally pins on my backpack, and United Soccer Coaches rainbow laces on my shoes. If someone is looking for an ally, I will be there for them.
One way that I have evolved as a person through the journey that my children have taken is that I now recognize that sexuality is a very small part of who the overall person is. A good player or good coach has very little to do with their sexual orientation or gender identity. What they know and how they perform is what matters.
I’ve never been one for role models, but I have learned how important they are for many others. Having someone that another person can identify with in an influential role, as a coach, administrator or teammate, can be incredibly inspiring, and provide the confidence to succeed at the next level.
Studies put the percentage of Americans in the LGBT+ community from between 5 and 10 percent. It is clear that nearly everyone knows and loves many people in this community already.
We are in the people business much more than we are in the soccer business. As coaches we understand that we have to coach to the individual as much as the collective. With the likelihood for many of us that we will coach people who are part of the LGBT+ community, educating ourselves how to better coach this segment of our player pools only makes good sense. It will also make us better people (and coaches) as a result. If you want to be more successful, and develop deeper relationships with your players, I highly recommend you start your education with the United Soccer Coaches LGBT Diversity and Inclusion Diploma. The course is online and free to all.
When you hear a disparaging comment from a colleague about another coach, call them out and educate them. Visibly show your support by ordering the rainbow laces for your team from United Soccer Coaches’ Play with Pride campaign every September. And finally, consider joining the LGBT and Allies Advocacy Group. All are welcome.
Soccer doesn’t care who you are, only what you do. Shouldn’t we act the same way?
(Shawn Danhouser is a member of the United Soccer Coaches LGBT & Allies and Disabilities Allies advocacy groups. He is US Youth Soccer Midwest regional chair for TOPSoccer, and coaches high school and TOPSoccer teams in suburban Chicago. Shawn holds the Premier Diploma, and has been a United Soccer Coaches member since 2009.)