Why Inclusiveness Should Start with Sports

Ivey prides itself on producing business leaders. They screen students by only accepting those that have exhibited an exemplary balance of extracurricular activities and leadership skills. For some students, this balance was demonstrated through volunteering in the community, work experience, and/or involvement in school clubs. However, for many successful entrants, sports was the key to developing the time management, teamwork, and leadership skills that Ivey looks for.

From a young age most kids are placed into a sport by their parents. Be it soccer, baseball, hockey, dance, swimming etc. you name it. Chances are you’ve played at least one or two different sports in your life.

And that’s a good thing. With only minor direction from coaches and parents, you have space to grow and learn with your friends in a secure, usually (and hopefully) fun bubble. Sports teaches you a wealth of skills. For example:

  • Teamwork
  • Discipline
  • Leadership
  • Commitment
  • Time management
  • Patience
  • Hard work
  • Competitiveness
  • Decision making
  • Creativity

The list can go on and on. Take one look at that lengthy list and it’s no wonder you see so many current and former athletes around Ivey and leading our world. It’s clear that sports has an influence on our future leaders, so ensuring that the dressing rooms, fields, arenas, benches, and stands are inclusive environments at a young age is the key to fostering inclusiveness everywhere.

However, sports has traditionally been seen as some of the least inclusive environments around. Recently, former NBA player Amar’e Stoudemire said he would steer clear of a gay teammate among other homophobic slurs (1). Meanwhile, Soccer Fans’ Racist ‘Monkey Chants’ Cause Brazilian Star to Leave in Tears (2). And Andrew Shaw is Suspended for a Playoff Hockey Game for Uttering a Homophobic Slur (3).

There is no place for any of this in sports, and these are not the role models in sports that we want our future leaders idolizing.

Think of it this way, if your teammate is feeling down because they don’t feel accepted, then the consideration of your teammates feelings aside, they are less likely to perform well. This is hurting not just them, but your entire team. Inclusion and allyship needs to be taught at a young age using sports, with absolutely no exceptions.

Don’t just sit there and be a part of the problem, advocate when you see someone being exclusive or offensive. Calling in is an effective, and polite way to let someone know that their actions are not acceptable (4).

Inclusiveness can’t just be taught and advocated for just when we get into places of higher learning or the workplace. It needs to start earlier. By supporting actions like the You Can Play Project (5) and Women in Sport (6) that share the mission of promoting equal opportunity and acceptance, we can improve the quality of our teams and leaders not just in sports, but in schools, business and in the workplace.

Using sports as a base to emphasize the importance of inclusivity will create an entire generation of citizens and leaders to understand the benefits that come with an inclusive environment. So let’s do it.

Written by Geoffrey Kung