If You Can Play, You Can Play

"At Cal Athletics, we not only accept our LGBT student-athletes, we embrace them for who they are." - Sandy Barbour, Director of Athletics
By Cal Athletics on Sat, June 29, 2013

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After watching a handful of other schools produce videos for the "You Can Play" movement, former rower Heather Hargreaves knew Cal had to be next.

Hargreaves, who co-founded Cal's Student-Athlete Gay-Straight Alliance (SAGSA) and is a Collegiate Ambassador or "Go! Athletes"  - a network of current and former student-athletes dedicated to fostering an open LGBT environment - led the student effort to make a video that demonstrated the campus' support for athletes of any sexual orientation.

The video, which will be posted on You Can Play's website, features Cal administrators, coaches and student-athletes expressing their support for an open environment for LGBT student-athletes. The message is that if an athlete is good enough to play a sport, that's all that should matter - the watchwords of You Can Play's mission.

"It was very touching to see everyone that stepped up for this," Hargreaves said. "This is not just for student-athletes at Cal right now, but for student-athletes next year and the year after that. Seeing all these people stand up that have won national championships or Pac-12 titles makes a huge statement."

Among those included in the video are Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, athletic director Sandy Barbour, football coach Sonny Dykes, men's basketball coach Mike Montgomery, women's basketball coach Lindsay Gottlieb, men's soccer coach Kevin Grimes, lacrosse coach Ginger Miles, rugby coach Jack Clark and Olympic swimmer Caitlin Leverenz.

You Can Play formed to ensure equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation. The organization works to guarantee that athletes are given a fair opportunity to compete, judged by other athletes and fans alike, only by what they contribute to the sport and their team's success.

"At Cal Athletics, we not only accept our LGBT student-athletes, we embrace them for who they are," Barbour said. "We honor diversity at Cal. Fostering an inclusive environment is not just the right thing to do, it allows our student-athletes to perform to the best of their abilities in all aspects of their lives. It's important to me, as the leader of Cal Athletics, that each and every one of our student-athletes, coaches and staff members know that they can participate in the sport they love regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression."

Hargreaves said she was motivated to produce a You Can Play video after seeing schools such as UCLA, Duke and Stanford release one. As a Collegiate Ambassador for Go! Athletes, Hargreaves has been able to network with student-athletes across the country on regular conference calls, where You Can Play has been a popular topic.

Hargreaves and rowing teammate Becca Lindquist founded SAGSA last year to try to alter the culture of Cal rowing and other sports on campus. With the support of the athletic administration, SAGSA has grown and, according to Hargreaves, helped foster a more open environment across the athletic department's programs.

To solicit support from different programs, Hargreaves attended an assistant coaches meeting along with Barbour and spoke candidly about her own personal experience about coming out. She also e-mailed coaches or approached student-athletes in person.

Hargreaves, who graduated last month, plans to stay heavily involved with LGBT issues in sports. She recently returned from Portland, Ore. where she took part in Nike's second annual LGBT Sports Summit.

"It's been really great to see how supportive everyone is," Hargreaves said. "We can capture that in a more visible way through the You Can Play video. Incoming freshmen can see the culture we've made for ourselves. Everyone is accepted. You don't feel like you have to sacrifice the sport you love or who you are."

To watch the video, click here.


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