In our latest article for Pride Month 2021, Sophie Morrison and Jayne Kavanagh, leads for our Olympic and Paralympic teams, explain why an inclusive culture is critical to achieving results on the snow.
As a National Governing Body, our job is deceptively simple. At its most elementary level, we simply have to ensure that we are doing everything we can to put our athletes in the best possible position to reach their potential. If we’ve done everything we can, we’ve given the athletes who proudly wear British colours on the slopes the best possible opportunity to compete and to win.
The devil, of course, is in the detail. And the critical detail in this case involves asking ourselves what we mean when we talk about doing “everything we can”.
What is increasingly obvious to us as leads for our performance programmes, and to coaches and to sports around the world, is that great performances don’t come from simply being at a technical optimum. Or, to reframe the position slightly, an athlete’s technical optimum is only within their reach when their wider needs are being catered for. An unhappy skier, or a distracted snowboarder, or an uncomfortable athlete of any type is facing unnecessary barriers from the moment they set foot on snow.
So as a sport we need to think more deeply, about the ways we can put our athletes at ease and the culture we have a responsibility to create to allow for peak performance. This Pride Month, athletes, coaches and administrators in a whole host of sports have spoken out about the need to acknowledge, celebrate and respect LGBTQ+ communities. A number of our own athletes have done so in recent years, notably Gus Kenworthy and Makayla Gerken-Schofield, and in doing so they have helped to embody the sort of culture that our sport should be known for. Inclusive, considerate, respectful and open. Those are values that we try to ensure we’re putting into play every day, whether in our Head Office environment, at training camps, in competition, or when representing our nation overseas.
And it’s those same values that we want to ensure all our Programme Managers and everyone working on getting our athletes out on the snow is working to support, day-in, day-out.
Not every athlete, coach or administrator will feel comfortable telling their story, just as not everybody will need the same type of support. The point is that by creating that culture, we help to develop an environment where each person can know they will be accepted and respected for who they are – every one as an individual, and every one as a valued member of the snowsport community.
We know we aren’t perfect in this respect. We will make mistakes, we’ll miss areas that we could be more open about, we’ll slip up. What we cannot accept is the idea that we don’t seek to continuously improve in this work. We wouldn’t allow it of our athletes on the snow, and we won’t allow it of ourselves as a sport.
As Team Managers for our World Class programmes across all our Olympic and Paralympic disciplines, we want to see us succeed in every discipline, at every level, and in every way. It’s painful when we don’t. So, if we know that one of the ingredients that will help us to achieve that success is to build and champion a culture of respect, openness and acknowledgement, we will not hesitate to champion it throughout snowsport.
At the beginning of Pride Month, we restated our commitment to LGBTQ+ people in our sport. We want to make it absolutely clear that any athlete, or coach, or team member, or fan is welcome in snowsport. And we do so not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because in valuing the team – our whole One Team – as individuals, and respecting them in their whole selves, we give ourselves the best opportunity to be the world class performers we know we can be.