I hear the words diversity and inclusion about 20 times a day. I say it about another 30 times a day since it’s interwoven into everything that I do here at US Lacrosse. But what does it really mean and what impact does it have on our lacrosse community?
Sometimes I think the word ‘diversity’ becomes too abstract for people, often suffering from identity crisis, because the term is used without pertinent significance and the real value of inclusion becomes lost in translation.
In reality, diversity is most often used as a code word that amounts to little more than token symbolism. We put one person in charge as opposed to changing the culture of an entire program or organization. Often times we say, “If I have number of players, then my team is now diverse.” That’s dangerous and often times less fruitful than building a program that is inclusion and equity centered.
The truth is that there is not a single person reading this who doesn't identify with at least one aspect of diversity. When it comes to the issue of diversity, it can mean different things to different people and you're going to look at it from your own personal experience. It is as equally necessary as it is confusing -- and therein lies the challenge.
So now you are asking, “I get it. I know diversity is important and all, but where should our program start?”
There is no doubt that the world of inclusivity is complicated these days. It can be very intimidating, especially if you feel forced into thinking outside of your traditional ‘lacrosse box’. But don’t fret. A lot of the ideas won’t cost you much (or anything at all), but they really will make a world of difference when it comes to making your staff, coaches and players more comfortable with the environment in your program. Before you know it, inclusion will just become just a regular way of handling your day to day operations — and that should be the desired outcome.
In hopes that we at US Lacrosse can shed some light on the diversity issue, we’ve created a USL Diversity and Inclusion Best Practices document to better assist you with tangible ways to create an inclusive environment in your organization. In this document, you can find basic concepts and initiatives that will invoke a greater degree of cultural awareness and competency. It’s essential to approach diversity discussions not as a side thought, but as a core value and an ongoing goal for your program.
We’ve also created a Diversity and Inclusion Assessment Tool Kit for leaders to utilize to further assist your program throughout the diversity planning process. The tool kit provides a standardized approach to measuring, reporting and improving external and internal diversity initiatives that will provide the groundwork (with actual samples and templates) to help you and your leadership team create an environment where everyone is accepted in celebration of their differences.
While these suggestions may not seem like a lot, US Lacrosse hopes that these tips will help you open the door in allowing many more people to participate and enjoy our sport with the opportunity and diversity that we all desire.
Eboni Preston-Laurent is the senior manager of diversity and inclusion at US Lacrosse.
US Lacrosse believes that broad representation and participation add significant value to the lacrosse experience of each of us, and that these valued experiences are enhanced by embracing underrepresented and underserved communities.
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