The crack of the bat, the thrill of rounding the bases, the cheer of the fans, and the support of my team are what captivated me and have kept me participating in sport. I stepped onto the baseball field at the age of four and have been involved in organized sports in some capacity ever since. Sports have always been my ‘safe’ space, my confidence builder, the place where all my stress drops away, and most importantly, a space where I’m viewed by others as an athlete before any other identifying factor about me including my sexual orientation and gender identity.
When I was asked to be the Inclusion Chair for this year’s BC Winter Games, I was a resounding yes! It combines my lifelong love for playing, coaching, and engaging in sports with my desire to help organizations create welcoming, respectful, and inclusive spaces. I embraced the opportunity to support and educate our community on ‘best inclusive practices’ with open arms.
From my many years of coaching and consulting, something I know to be true is that the best way to inspire change is to be the change you wish to see in the world. As this relates to the Games, this means ensuring diversity and inclusion are considered within everything we do.
Creating welcoming, respectful, and inclusive spaces requires motivation, interest, and desire. This has been a big focus of the 2023 BC Games organizers. In addition to ensuring venues are accessible, things like gender-neutral bathrooms, name tags that include space for pronouns, and inclusion education have been at the forefront of our minds. This year’s Games are striving to create an inclusive experience for all.
The community of Vernon, which is located on the unceded First Nations Territory of the Syilx Okanagan, is buzzing as energy builds for the upcoming B.C. Winter Games happening March 23-26, 2023.
As you can imagine, this four day provincial youth sporting event has many moving parts and requires endless hours of planning and organizing. It requires the helping hands of many volunteers taking care of things like accommodations, logistics, transportation, meal services, first-aid, and of course, numerous administration duties.
The 2023 Winter Games is my first year being part of the excitement. Something I’ve come to understand over the past six months is how each and every person involved in the Games plays an integral role in ensuring the event really comes to ‘life’. Creating a positive, enjoyable, and welcoming experience for athletes, coaches, spectators, staff, and volunteers is top of mind.
Something new that you’re likely to notice at this year’s winter Games are stickers and t-shirts with the slogan ‘Everybody’s Games’. Our goal is to create ‘safe spaces’ within our community that celebrate diversity, are free of judgement, and where everyone can play and participate to their full potential. Safe spaces means ensuring that everyone feels supported, welcomed, validated, and respected for exactly who they are.
As the Inclusion Chair I have not only dedicated my efforts to ensuring athletes of varying abilities, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds are welcomed, but also ensuring folks in the 2SLGBTQI+ communities feel safe and supported.
Changes this year in support of these initiatives have included adding pronoun stickers to name badges (encouraged for all but always optional), hanging the pride progress flag at the opening ceremony as a visual confirmation of inclusion, the creation of an Inclusive Language Guide, as well as a 90 minute inclusion education session and Q&A for volunteers. These initiatives were designed to help drive positive change as we progress along our learning journey together.
Inclusion education isn’t about shaming or blaming people for what they don’t know, or wagging a you-should-do-better finger. Instead, the aim is to invite people to celebrate diversity by what I like to call learning and unlearning. My hope is that by creating a safe place for learning to happen this will help individuals show respect and kindness for all people at the Games, and beyond.
You’re invited to join me in making this year’s Games a welcoming and inspiring space for those visiting our community from elsewhere in the province, and for those who call this land home.
I believe that inclusion education for the BC Games is important because it’s not only the ‘right’ thing to do but the smart thing to do. Times are a-changin’! If we hope to navigate this brave new world with greater understanding and grace, we need to think and act differently. We need to approach life from a place of curiosity over judgement. The well-being of ourselves and the generations to come depend on it. That is how we are going to make progress as individuals, groups, and communities.
I’m honoured to have been able to contribute a small piece to this year’s Games that I hope will leave a legacy for years to come.
As we gather for this four day event dedicated to celebrating sport, I invite you to adopt the slogan, ‘The BC Games are Everybody’s Games’.
Interested in learning how you can make your workplace and community more inclusive? Check out my book, Dismantling The Obstacles To Workplace Inclusion.