By: Liam Stec
Jeffrey Sanborn, the Wethersfield High School boys cross country, indoor track, and girls outdoor track and field coach at Wethersfield High School, has been coaching for over twenty years, and is a coach well-liked and respected by athletes and students alike.
Starting his running career at Wayland Academy and advancing to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse as a collegiate athlete, Coach Sanborn is a highly qualified coach. He also happens to be the only openly gay coach at Wethersfield High School.
However, Coach Sanborn has not always been an openly gay coach at Wethersfield High School, having only come out within the past 10 years. When asked about how he came out and what prompted him to come out 10 years ago, he said, “I actually first did it because there was a bunch of bullying issues at the time”, even noting that, at one point, a student was beaten up for his sexuality.
After this, it became clear to Coach Sanborn that allies were needed, and somebody to look to, as well as someone who could be used as a resource for any questions and further education was needed, and Coach Sanborn decided to take on this role.
When asking Coach Sanborn what his number one piece of advice was to those who are coming out, his first piece of advice was “go find allies.” To be an ally of the LGBTQ+ community means to be a person who has a genuine, strong concern for the well-being of LGBTQ+ people, supports accepts LGBTQ+ people, and advocates for equal rights and fair treatment.
There are numerous sites out there to help educate others in finding allies and a common ground, and one of the number one sites for this is The Trevor Project.
The Trevor Project is an LGBTQ+ supporting site that explores topics that others may be uncomfortable to talk about, discussing topics of suicide, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental health, and community. It’s a place many have found as extremely educational and helpful, even having a built in feature where if you press the escape button three times it will be deleted from your search history.
Educating yourself as well as others is one of the most important ways to fight the adversities and inequalities still present in the fight for complete equality. This even means correcting peers, friends, family, and anyone else when you hear or see something inappropriate, however there’s a way to go about it and do it right.
As said by Coach Sanborn “Tell them it’s not cool and tell them why.” The most basic thing you can do is educate people, tell them why it’s not okay, but make sure to not attack them; if you attack them aggressively they’ll attack you right back.
One important thing for people to realize is that often it’s simple word choices that need corrections. “I’ve never heard anyone say anything in a negative tone, it’s just a language choice they’re not consciously aware of,” said Coach Sanborn. Their language is a product of the culture they’ve been brought up in.
Coach Sanborn said it makes you think, “How many times have you heard someone say ‘That’s so straight?’ Nobody ever has. So why is it okay to say ‘That’s so gay?’”
Unfortunately, this is present in everyday life in varying degrees all over as seen in the news this week with Jon Gruden and his emails. Jon Gruden was an NFL coach of the Oakland Raiders, who had several emails released calling NFL commissioner several derogatory names and homophobic slurs. It is the actions of figures as large as these that can hurt others the most and cause some of the largest and lasting damage.
This is one of the biggest contrasts between coaches and highlights the effects of coaches on people: Some like Sanborn can help others and encourage people to be who they are, while others such as Gruden tear people down for something as simple as being themself.
This isn’t to say that people are completely alone though, according to a new study conducted by Outsports, the University of Winchester and the Sports Equality Foundation, 95% of athletes surveyed said their teammates’ responses to them coming out were overall “neutral” to “perfect”. This means 19 out of 20 times, there will be a positive response amongst athletes, and even then a team never consists of only 2 people, there will statistically be those who support and embrace you for who you are.
Here are some sites for additional information or personal research
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Written, edited, and produced by Wethersfield High School students, covering all news and events.