By: Martin Schlegel
Rainbow piñatas and shoelaces, both part of MSUM’s Play With Pride game.
Developed by the LGBT Coaches and Allies Member Group along with the United Soccer Coaches, Play With Pride is a new initiative to show support for athletes and coaches of all sexual orientations.
From Sept. 18-24, players and coaches on high school and college soccer teams across the country were encouraged to participate. Those who participated wore rainbow laces during matches as well as post their participation on social media using the hashtag #PlayWithPride.
“This is a simple, effective and very colorful way to send the message that every person, associated with every team, is valued and respected,” Dan Woog, chair of the United Soccer Coaches LGBT Coaches and Allies Member Group, said in a press release. “Soccer is an amazingly diverse sport. That diversity includes gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender coaches, players, support staff, referees and fans.”
The entire Dragons team, including the coaching staff, wore rainbow laces in honor of Play With Pride during the team’s home opener on Sept. 22.
Head coach Christie Kopietz said everyone was excited to show love for the LGBT community.
“I think it was a really big moment for us to show our support to the (LGBT community). I’m really proud of the girls for participating and creating the safe spaces for everybody that’s involved with the program.”
Sophomore forward Rachel Jensen said being able to devote a game with the special laces meant more personally to everyone involved. She concurred with Kopietz, saying it was a special opportunity to show the community the team stands together.
“I feel it’s really welcoming,” Jenson said. “It shows people in the community that we are a part of a team and we won’t judge anyone that wants to be a part of it.”
The success of the initiative can be measured in social media posts, as many player and team accounts posted pictures featuring the rainbow laces.
United States Coaches communications officer Kurt Austin said, before the social media posts came flooding in, Play With Pride was a success.
“The response from our membership has been phenomenal,” Austin said in an email. “Our entire allotment of (4,000) laces was requested and fulfilled within days of announcing the initiative.”
Kopietz said the initiative played into her team and community values she stresses to them. Overall, it was a message the team was excited to be a part of.
“Diversity is a really broad topic, we’re just focused on one specific group,” Kopietz said. “In general, we want to create an inclusive environment and that should mean a lot to really every player.”