Penn Coaches Have Work to Do When it Comes to Dealing with Gay Players

A recent LGBTQ training session turned up some worrying results.

An article in the latest issue of The University of Pennsylvania Gazette shows that some Penn coaches still have some work to do when it comes to dealing with gay players, and more importantly, that some are hesitant to establish a zero-tolerance environment on their teams. The piece, written by Dave Zeitlin, profiles Penn’s Athletes & Allies Tackling Homophobia (PATH), the school’s support group for gay college athletes. In one paragraph, he mentions a recent SafeZone training session for coaches.

One of the most interesting discussion points came when a question was posed: what would you do if a parent of a recruit calls you to ask if you have any “gays” on the team? There were many different answers. Some coaches admitted they wouldn’t know how to answer. Others said they would tell the parents they weren’t sure, and it’s not something that’s discussed. Others advocated answering “yes” no matter what, and if that’s a problem, well, then they shouldn’t send their kid to Penn. When he thought about it himself, [tennis coach David] Geatz realized it would be best not to discount any recruit, even if he or his family might have an issue with a gay teammate.

“A lot of people might be homophobic just because of a lack of education,” says Geatz, who in 30 years as a coach had never before been to a training seminar like this. “If you bring a homophobic person on the team, and he’s on campus and he meets a guy like [out Penn tennis player Jason Magnes], he can change.”

When [LGBT Center associate director Erin] Cross posed that question and other difficult ones, it quickly became apparent that some coaches had never considered them before. … For a few, it wasn’t something they wanted to think about either. One head coach left the room after a half-hour, and there were others who “sat with their arms crossed looking down,” Cross noted.

The article shines a hopeful light on the training sesh, and in some cases it was, but it’s troubling that more attention isn’t given to the coaches who walked out or Gaetz’s willingness to welcome openly homophobic players onto his squad. True, people can change, but change can take a while. What happens until then?