To highlight the voices of Athlete Ally Ambassadors across the country, Kyle James of Ithaca College is leading an interview series to expand upon why these young LGBTQ activists feel passionate about inclusion in sports and beyond, and what the climate is like at their institution for student-athletes who identify as LGBTQ.
This week he talks to Liz Collins, a Junior Government major with a minor in Consulting at the College of William & Mar. She is also on the Women’s Swim Team.
KJ: So what made you want to become an Athlete Ally Student Ambassador?
LC: Last winter Hudson Taylor came to speak to our athletic department. It was really moving to hear everything he’s doing around the nation. I was also in a Women’s Studies class last spring and in the class we had to have a social activism project and I chose Athlete Ally. The class put me into action and Hudson Taylor got me more involved in Athlete Ally.
KJ: That’s really cool that you got to meet Hudson Taylor! And it really worked out well that you got to use Athlete Ally for your Women’s Studies course.
LC: Yeah! It was perfect timing because the movement had been growing so much right around the time I had to take the course.
KJ: Definitely. So, I saw on Facebook that you started the “One Tribe, Many Allies” campaign at your school. Can you tell me a bit more about that!
LC: Sure! Bridget and I got together to have a wristband and pledge signing movement. Eventually, we’d like to get the athletic department on board, but for right now we’re selling them to people on different sports teams. Our athletic department has the slogan, “One Tribe, One Family” so we thought it was a clever play on words.
KJ: I think so as well!
LC: Thanks! Along with the wristbands, we had players sign pledges and we hung them up in the locker rooms. We also created a survey and distributed them to the swimming, lacrosse, and gymnastics teams that gauged tolerance. We hope to redistribute them soon to see if our campaign caused any changes in the programs.
KJ: Have you or William & Mary Athlete Ally done anything else at your college to promote LGBTQ students in athletics?
LC: We’ve done some work with our Safe Zone program at our school to offer workshops at convenient times for athletes and for National Coming Out Day, we participated in Safe Zone’s “I am an Ally” Facebook campaign by getting the SAAC to hold up a sign.
KJ: Were you able to get the entire SAAC or was it just you and the two other ambassadors?
LC: We got the entire SAAC to do it!
KJ: That’s really cool! I’m glad to know that your SAAC is so involved in making athletics a safe place for LGBTQ students!
LC: Yeah! I think our school is pretty progressive in that aspect. Our administration is really supportive and even took a picture for the “I am an Ally” Facebook campaign. We also have multiple coaches involved in the Safe Zone program.
KJ: That really is amazing. I’m really happy you have that environment at William & Mary and I hope one day all colleges across the country can be more like yours!
LC: Thank you! Me too!
KJ: So now on to my favorite question, if you could meet any of the pro ambassadors, who would you pick and why?
LC: I would pick Yogi Berra. Even though I’m a Red Sox fan…
KJ: I bet you were happy with the World Series result.
LC: Haha, I was! Even though I’m a Red Sox fan I think it’s really awesome that he represents a more accepting older generation. I read a lot about him in different sport articles and I really enjoy hearing what he has to say. I think he’s a really progressive guy and a very inspirational person.
KJ: I definitely agree. It’s always cool to see someone step up to be an Athlete Ally, but it’s that much cooler when it’s one of the great baseball legends.
LC: Definitely, that’s one of the reasons I want to meet him.
KJ: So as you may know, Athlete Ally is supporting the “Principle 6” campaign. What are your opinions on the campaign and what’s going on in Russia right now?
LC: I think it’s extremely important. The Olympics, and sports in general, are about coming together and putting aside differences. The only thing you’re really judged on is athletic ability. Russia isn’t doing that and it isn’t right that they’re not holding up those ideals.
KJ: Are the ambassadors at your school, yourself included, doing anything to bring awareness to the issue?
LC: I’ve been posting articles on our Facebook page about the campaign and I’ve sent out the link to the Athlete Ally “Principle 6” pledge to teammates and other athletes.
KJ: Very cool! Is there anything else you’d like me to know about the William & Mary, the Athlete Ally ambassadors there or yourself in general?
LC: At William and Mary, everyone in the SAAC is very supportive. They’re beginning to realize that Athlete Ally isn’t trying to be political. It’s all about total inclusion and everyone is starting to accept that.