Meet Princeton Athlete Ally Ambassador Mark O’Connell

June 14, 2013

Mark O'Connel will be a senior on the Men's Diving Team at Princeton University in the 2013-2014 academic year. Below, he writes about Athelte Ally at the institution.

The world of athletics and the LGBT community can appear to be two seemingly separate and hostile spaces for some people. The reality, however, is that LGBT athletes play a critical role in all sports and are no different from their straight teammates and competitors in regards to athletic ability.  Although some may think that allowing LGBT athletes to be open will ruin a team's dynamic or chemistry, I think many would argue the opposite.  An all-inclusive environment that celebrates people's differences can only help a team or an individual's level of achievement.  
At Princeton, we have recently launched our own version of Athlete Ally in order to raise awareness of LGBT issues on our athletic teams.  From an outsider's perspective, Princeton may appear to be relatively conservative, but I have found this to be an inaccurate judgment of the campus environment. Although the university places a large emphasis on tradition, Princeton is very progressive and its students and faculty are incredibly accepting and supportive of those who are different.  Princeton's success in athletics is one of the school’s many traditions. As one of the leading competitor's in the Ivy League, I think it is Princeton's responsibility to show its support for the LGBT community on our varsity sports teams. 

The goal of Princeton Athlete Ally is to create a more inclusive and less hostile environment for those student-athletes who identify as LGBT.  By giving allies the means to express their support for the LGBT community, we hope individuals will feel more inclined to open up to their teammates.  One of the most important parts of Athlete Ally at Princeton is the belief that anyone can be an Athlete Ally.  Whether someone is a player, fan, parent, coach or referee, everyone can support this movement.  Allies can be straight or not straight, sexual orientation does not matter, what does matter is that people stand up for what they think is right. Every student has a right to play and sexual orientation or gender identity should never inhibit individuals from excelling or contributing to their team’s goals.