October 2, 2020

Are There Benefits to Joining an LGBTQ+ Sports Group?

Around the UK, LGBTQ+ people have found community, friendship and purpose within LGBTQ+ sports groups. From the Kings Cross Steelers Rugby team to Out To Swim Swimming team, most sports now have dedicated groups and even tournaments for the LGBTQ+ community. Considering their popularity and success, what does academia have to say about these groups? 

This weeks #FridayFindings used research from Mock et al. (2019). The study looked at 228 LGBT-focused sport group participants, and explored some of the psychological impacts LGBTQ+ teams can have. Many LGBTQ+ sports team members describe strong feelings of attachment towards their LGBTQ+ peers, and this study found similar results:

“Over time, the more identity affirmation needs were met, the more people took part in sport-related social activities. Further, the more participants’ identity expression needs were met, the more they attended practice. Enhanced social bonding from sport club participation predicted increased social event attendance.”

This study’s findings suggest that LGBTQ+ sports groups could play an important role for younger LGBTQ+ people, and help them affirm their identities in a supportive environment. Identity affirmation is important for LGBTQ+ people, who, unlike their straight counterparts, often must ‘come out’. Exploring and then communicating newfound identities to a heteronormative world can be a turbulent experience, and often happens in the late teen years or early adulthood. A friendly sports team throughout this period may help make the coming out process easier, and improve the experience of those coming to terms with their identity. 

For non-LGBTQ+ sports groups, this study also provides useful insights. “The more participants identity expression needs were met, the more they attended practice”; by recognising LGBTQ+ members identities and making them feel supported, sports teams can improve attendance and social bonding. This could take many forms, but include, using the correct pronouns with trans players, using rainbow shoe strings, hosting LGBTBQ+ pride events etc. These actions send strong messages to LGBTQ+ members and shown that you recognise their identites. This should help improve team bonding, attendance, and subsequently the team’s sporting achievements!

The key takeaway from this study is that LGBTQ+ sports teams provide positive psychological experiences to members. Especially for those in the coming out process, or teams looking to improve social bonding and attendance, it’s worth focusing on supporting LGBTQ+ identity expression. If you’re considering joining a sports team yourself, check to see if there are any LGBTQ+ teams in your area! The following links should help: 



Source: Steven E. Mock, Katie Misener & Mark E. Havitz (2019) A League of Their Own? A Longitudinal Study of Ego Involvement and Participation Behaviors in LGBT-Focused Community Sport, Leisure Sciences, DOI: 10.1080/01490400.2019.1665599 

Kane Rabanal-Hunt

October 2, 2020

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