Locker Room Talk
By Mark Hull
Have you ever received a gift in a really ugly package? I believe we as coaches just received one. Let me share with you what it is and how to open it.
Through the various news networks, the internet and a multitude of social-media platforms, the public discourse of our political season is on full display. What an ugly spectacle it’s been. Over the past few days the sports culture has been blamed for its role in producing some of the coarsest and most demeaning conversations we have ever corporately heard in the American culture. The ugliness of vile sexual banter has been excused away in a single sentence: “It was locker room talk.” Blame it on our middle school, high school, college and professional locker rooms. My initial reaction: “Them are fighting words!” After about two hours (once the “fight or flight” chemical release had dissipated), I regained my capacity to reason and thought: “This isn’t a fight that needs to be won, this is a problem that needs to be solved.”
Sadly, the locker room does bear its share of responsibility. I’ve had to take my own journey of understanding as to how the locker room culture has shaped me. I had logs to remove from my own eyes before helping others with specks in their eyes.
It was over 20 years ago, and I found myself matched up with the lone female in a pick-up game of basketball. She played tough. She schooled me. Afterwards I gave her the biggest compliment I could think of. “You play like a guy!” She looked me straight in the eye and with an uncommon force of dignity that was born out of years of experience said, “No, I play like a girl.” (Watch this short video to better understand her source of frustration). My experience in the locker room, based in the culture of sport, had shaped me in ways that needed to be addressed. I’ve been contemplating what other logs have been blocking my vision ever since.
If our sports culture is part of the problem, then as 3Dimensional Coaches we have the responsibility to be part of the solution.Click to tweet
If our sports culture is part of the problem, then as 3Dimensional Coaches we have the responsibility to be part of the solution. I get the opportunity to travel the world and work with sport leaders who are interested in contextualizing 3Dimensional Coaching in their homeland. On a recent trip to Europe, one of our partners shared with me his three driving forces of change: Information, Experience, and Culture.
He believes that to properly address change, we need to understand what each of these forces can provide. The role of information is to provide knowledge. Experience’s job is to give us wisdom. While both of these are essential, it’s CULTURE that truly drives influence. His point to me was that I can share our knowledge and our wisdom, but it is up to the sport leaders WITHIN the culture to actually influence the culture itself. If this is true, then it requires those of us IN the sports culture to gain knowledge and wisdom so that we use our influence in such a way that this kind of “locker room talk” ceases to exist. Coach, you are the most influential person in the sports culture.
I believe even the worst things can be used for good. As 3D Coaches, we can open this ugly box of blame and find within an opportunity to share knowledge and wisdom with our athletes. Let’s address the issues and help our male athletes resist:
- The objectification of women by reducing them to body parts
- Using language about those same body parts to describe boys who aren’t “tough enough” in attempt to shame them
- Seeking to use the opposite sex to meet some type of physical need or masculine insecurity
Sexual assault is done with words as well as deeds. Have a conversation with your team, especially with your boys, about the lies of masculinity. Give them a compelling vision of what it truly means to be a man. Help them see that it revolves around the ability to love and give themselves to a cause greater than themselves. The same for girls.
Take the ugly box and create a pocket of beauty by helping your athletes to honor the opposite sex. By using your influence in this way, you’ll be able to say with confidence and humility, “That’s not MY locker room.”
- Be A Man by Joe Ehrmann (free TedTalk)
- The Mask You Live In by the Representation Project (Buy, Rent or Stream on Netflix)
- The Sexy Lie by Caroline Heldman (free TedTalk)
- Miss Representation by the Representation Project (Buy, Rent or Stream on Netflix)
Other Femininity Resources: Real Beauty Video Campaign by Dove.