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UK Coaching Team
Supporting Specific Needs

Coaching Awareness: Sexual Orientation

Understanding the barriers lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBTG) people in sport face will help you overcome any preconceptions or stereotypes you may have

Everyone faces inequitable behaviour from time to time, but it should not affect your day-to-day life. Some members of society are marginalised because of the person they are. This can also be apparent in sport.

There are very few high-profile lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBTG) people in sport today and that is, in part, down to the attitudes of the people running, coaching and participating in sport.

By being more empathetic and understanding of all your participants, you create a more welcoming and enjoyable coaching environment.

Pride Sports aims to tackle homophobia in sport and promote the inclusion of LGBTG people in national sports strategies and delivery in the UK. By promoting the inclusion of LGBTG people, tackling homophobia and increasing opportunities for LGBTG people to participate in sport, it is hoped sport will progress the great work that is already being done by the Rugby Football League (RFL), The Football Association (FA), and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

When looking to include people from LGBTG communities, it is important to understand the following issues:

Practical barriers

  • lack of appropriate changing facilities and toilets providing privacy for transgender participants
  • lack of money for some female participants
  • lack of investment in LGBTG sport

Personal barriers

  • fear of discrimination, particularly for those with previous experience of homophobic/transphobic bullying in sport
  • lack of visible LGBTG coaches and role models in sport
  • fear of homophobic language (such as ‘poof ’) being used by coaches to put down participants who do not excel in sport, whether they are perceived to be gay or not
  • lack of awareness of opportunities.

Attitudes of others

  • preconceptions about the masculinity of gay and bisexual men and subsequently the ability of gay and bisexual men to excel in sport
  • preconceptions about the appropriateness of LGBTG people to work with children and young people
  • assumptions that lesbians are welcomed in sport and so no effort needs to be made to grow the participation of lesbian and bisexual women or ensure their satisfaction with their experience of sport
  • fear that transgender participants are ‘cheats’ and transgender women, in particular, are participating in sport to gain an unfair physical advantage
  • assumptions by coaches that all participants are heterosexual, which puts lesbians, gay men and bisexual people in the position of having to ‘come out’ if they want to be honest about who they are or make reference to their family/home lives.

Transgender people may not be comfortable using open-plan changing areas – be sensitive to their needs and try to provide a cubicle area where possible.

As a rule

  • Treat people as individuals.
  • Do not assume their ability in a sport based on their gender or sexual preference.
  • It is not necessary for you to know a person’s sexual preference and should make no difference to how you treat them.
  • Do not use phrases such as ‘you play like a poof’ or ‘stop being such a girl’ – these statements are homophobic and sexist and can cause offence.
  • When transgender people participate in sport, they should be accepted in the gender role with which they present; caution should be exercised, however, if this presents a health and safety risk to themselves or another player, or where there is an evident unfair advantage – this will happen rarely in a recreational or club environment.
  • As a protected characteristic, any lesbian woman, gay man or bisexual or transgender person is protected under the Equality Act 2010 – any unfair treatment or harassment may result in legal action.

The following information has been written by those with a great deal of experience in this area. The information is provided as guidance only, allowing you to be more informed in your approach to being a more inclusive coach. No two people are the same; as such, please ensure your first step is always to speak to the person – understand their abilities and goals, and never assume.

Equality in Sport and Physical Activity

UK Coaching's Online Classroom will develop your knowledge of this area and show you how to adapt your existing skills to make your coaching sessions attractive to everyone.

Discover more here

Related Resources

  • Helping People Manage Their Anxiety in Sessions

  • How to Create an Inclusive Environment

  • Creating a Welcoming Environment


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UK Coaching Team