St. John’s Prep - If You Can Play, You Can Play

Imagine you are a young boy growing up in a family of hockey players. Your father even holds a prominent position in the NHL. You’re proud of this burly tradition of sports. You work hard and make the competitive varsity hockey team in prep school. But then you choose not to play senior year. You tell your family you don't think you will get enough playing time and you’re upset at the coach. But the real reason you don't play is that you don't think you can go another season without someone finding out your secret – you’re gay. It is just too painful being in the locker room with your friends as they hurl casual homophobic jokes and slurs. What would they do if they knew? You feel like you are always skating on thin ice that’s ready to crack.

 

Patrick Burke, founding partner of the You Can Play Project, shared this story about his brother Brendan during a panel discussion with seniors and sophomores at St. John’s recently. The auditorium was silent as Patrick painted a picture of the angst his brother went through for years.

 

“My brother Brendan taught me what the locker room can be like for young LGBT athletes, and then he showed me the difference one person can make by standing up for what is right. With the You Can Play Project, we hope to provide a means for athletes, coaches, and fans to stand up and create an atmosphere of inclusion. As each person or team stands up, LGBT athletes everywhere will become aware that they can be themselves without fear. Once they are freed from the weight of fear and shame, these athletes are able to really live their lives and play to their full potential, making our teams and communities stronger," Patrick said.

 

Founded in 2012 with the goal of eradicating homophobia in sports, the You Can Play Project is changing the way the world thinks about athletes, both straight and gay.

 

Sam Knollmeyer and Garrett White, both young, local athletes, joined Patrick on the panel at St. John’s. In addition to discussing homophobia and how to be an upstander, they shared their own stories as gay athletes who have been impacted by upstanders in their sports careers.

 

For more information: You Can Play Project

 

 

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