A former NFL player and an LGBT activist have joined forces to create an LGBT youth sports camp. Aimed at empowering LGBT and the straight-ally youth, Wade Davis and Darnell Moore created the You Belong Sports and Leadership Initiative.
“We want them all,” said Davis in a press release to OutSports. “It’s empowering for a kid to see a young athlete who’s out on his team and doing well, and for her to see that and think, ‘maybe this is possible.'”
By focusing on a different sport, the initiative will host four camps involving high school and college students throughout the year for youth between 14- and 24-years old.
The camps focus on two areas of empowerment: demonstrate the presence of LGBT youth in the sports world and to decrease LGBT harassment by empowering its allies.
Most harassment occurs away from coaches and teachers and leads to low self-esteem, harassment, bullying, school-dropout and possibly even teen suicide.
According to a study done by isafe.org, 9 out of 10 youths who identify as LGBTQ reported being bullied because of sexual orientation.
“Athletes who play sports have higher self-esteem,” said Davis. “This is an opportunity to empower youth and put them in situations where they will be successful. Most won’t make it to the NFL or NBA, but they will feel a sense of achievement.”
By talking with professional sports teams and leagues for “elite-level” mentoring, the only requirement for youth participation is that they are either an ally or a member of the LGBT community.
The initiative will also provide seminars to promote leadership skills.
“There’s a tendency to talk about youth issues but never talk to youth and invite youth to be part of these conversations,” said Moore in an interview with OutSports.
“They’re never made central to the conversation. A lot of the conversation about news reports centers around the search for the first professional athlete to be gay to come out, the desire to create the safe space for this adult to come out so their career isn’t impacted. But while we’re tackling adult-oriented rights, youth are facing a lot of stuff.”
As an official partner with You Belong Sports & Leadership Initiative, OutSports also partnered with the You Can Play Project.
To make the camps almost cost-free for youth, the initiative opened a fundraising campaign.
The first camp will concentrate on basketball in Chicago on July 25 to the 28. Future sessions will target football, soccer and track and field.