By Sean Savage
“I might be the representation for a kid that I never got when I was little,” said A. Harper, a goalkeeper for Springfield College women’s soccer team.
On Oct. 5, the Pride celebrated a special night. In conjunction with “Athlete Ally” – a group that defines itself as educators for all levels of athletic communities to understand the obstacles of LGTBQ+ people in sports, and finds ways to build inclusive communities – the team hosted “Play with Pride” night to honor the LGBTQ+ community.
As a whole, Springfield College is committed to valuing and validating the gender identity and expression of campus community members. “Recognizing the LGTBQ+ community is honestly essential,” Harper said. Rainbow flags filled the bleachers for the game as players and fans showed their support.
Sports are a powerful tool for social development — improving the well-being of every individual in society so they can reach their full potential. The success of a community is linked to the well-being of each and every citizen. Sports are not just physical activity — they promote physical and mental health education, foster cognitive development, teach social behavior, and help social cohesion.
Speaking of the LGTBQ+ community, Harper added, “We not only exist in every space but have actively contributed to countless milestones and moments in and out of sports over the decades, so pretending that we have not doesn’t pay homage to those incredible figures.”
Sports can be used to increase the social capital and integration of LGBTQ+ people into the wider community, as well as empowering them and providing skills that will help give back to the community.
“Playing for a cause always makes the game feel a bit bigger,” Harper said.
The sense of playing for something greater than oneself was reflected in a strong outing for the Pride. They hosted Smith College and prevailed with a 1-0 victory on Brock-Affleck field.
On the pitch, each player had an extra sense of intrinsic motivation: “I think there is always a sense of importance when a game day represents a certain thing,” Harper said. “Especially when it comes to an identity that is so central to who I am.”
In addition, Springfield has taken more steps for the inclusion of all. Pride sports teams have added pronouns to their rosters. To Harper, as well as many others, having pronouns included should be the norm.
“Not only does it create a sense of inclusivity and understanding not just within the team, but within the athletic department and beyond,” Harper said.
They continued, “If I’m mentioned in a match recap or a story, the small act of having my pronouns respected makes me feel more accepted and visible not only as an athlete but as a person. Having pronouns in our bios makes that a very achievable thing for everyone.”
Springfield is renowned for hosting impactful events. As for the LGBTQ+ community partnering with Athlete Ally was a step in the right direction.
“It was a really cool thing to have, and should definitely be used more often going forward, as it highlights such an essential community at Springfield and beyond,” Harper said.
Photo Courtesy of Robin’s Nest Photography