Locker Room Talk: Being Gay in South Athletics

Graphic by Melanie Egan

By Noah Whiting
Sports Reporter

One day we might look back on the fall of 2016 as the season that the girls’ soccer team won the Dual County League. The season that girls’ cross country also won the Dual County League and then tore it up at states. The season that boys’ soccer finally snapped an eight-year drought of not making the state tournament. The season that the girls’ volleyball team made a deep run in the state tournament. The season that multiple Newton South athletes earned scholarships or agreements to play division one sports in college. The season that had a boy playing on the field hockey team.

We might also look back on the fall of 2016 as the first time Newton South had two openly LGBTQ+ captains on one team.

Over the course of the last few years, the LGBTQ community has taken huge strides in the athletic world. On April 29th, 2013, former Celtics player Jason Collins became the first active professional male athlete to come out to the press as gay.

Soon after, in 2014, Michael Sam became the first openly gay football player to be drafted into the NFL.

This fall, our golf team selected two seniors to be captains, Naomi Honig and Mike Pasqualini, who are members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Pasqualini commented that while this appointment may act as an attention grabber for the golf team, having two LGBTQ+ captains does not play a role in the team dynamic or in his personal ability to compete.

“I think we are in a unique situation because both captains are not straight which is probably the most attention the golf team is ever going to get,” said Pasqualini. “But I don’t think it plays a big part in athletics or my golf.”

While this may seem like a big step for those of us who do not play golf, the golf team has found that it has had no effect on the team at all.

For Sam Canavan, a junior on the team, Pasqualini and Honig are just two more great captains. He added that sexuality is rarely discussed on the golf team as it is not an important part of athletics.

“[Their sexuality] does not matter because we are just there playing a sport and [sexuality] is not a part of it so it does not really make a difference,” said Canavan. “They are both cool people and they are able to lead the team well even though golf captains don’t have to do a lot.”

Honig added that the lack of attention on sexuality in sports is significant.

“I definitely think that the fact that it does not play a role negatively or positively is really good,” said Honig.

Both captains agreed that they believe part of the reason it is so easy for them to be open on a sports team is because Newton is generally a very accepting community. While it is an important step for Newton South athletics that people seem to be caring less and less about sexuality in sports, it is clear that we still have room to improve.

Honig acknowledged that while it is great that the golf team is not affected by their sexuality, it may be a different situation with a more “masculine” sport.

“I think it would be saying something if this happened on a football team because golf is not hyper-masculine or anything like that,” said Honig. “It isn’t really pushing much of a boundary.”

Football is a sport that is widely regarded as one of the toughest sports, physically speaking. Some people stereotype LGBTQ+ men as unmasculine, but it would be unfair to characterize all LGBTQ+ people in a certain way.

In addition, football is typically associated with traditional views, which can sometimes be less accepting of an LGBTQ+ individual.

Senior football captain Sasha Hoban thinks that although football culture around the United States may not be at a point yet where it is accepting to all, football in Newton may be more open-minded.

“I don’t know if the culture is [accepting],” said Hoban. “I think Newton South as a team would be more accepting due to our location in the United States.”

The football team at Newton South is striving to change attitudes that have been associated with their sport for so long.

Head football Coach Ted Dalicandro made it clear that he does everything he can to make sure his football team is a safe place for everyone.

“We respect others, and that shouldn’t be a problem at all and if a player, if somebody feels that they are not being respected [or] that they don’t feel safe, [then] they can come see me and I will deal with it,” said Dalicandro. “It is a zero tolerance policy when it comes to anything like that, hazing, bullying.”

It is important that our athletes understand that they are not allowed to disrespect one another, but it would be even better if they realized that they should respect each other not because it is a rule, but because it is the right thing to do.

This is exactly what Coach Dalicandro is working towards as he is trying to teach his athletes that a football player can still be considered a tough guy and a good football player while being accepting.

“I think that you can be macho and physical and tough and be a “football player” and still respect other people’s lives and be accepting of who people are. I think that shows more toughness than everything,” said Dalicandro.

Both Hoban and Dalicandro believe that while the football team still has room to improve, it is a tight-knit family that has the ability to welcome all.

Hoban believes the football team could potentially have LGBTQ+ captains in the future because at the end of the day, the only thing that matters in becoming a captain is if you can play the sport and if you are a good leader and role model.

“I think that it just comes down to how talented they are, how good of a leader they are,” said Hoban. “I don’t think that their sexual orientation will really have a huge affect on that.”

Golf captain Mike Pasqualini stressed that it is important that we continue to make Newton South a safe place for people to express themselves in whatever way they would like. He stressed that it is our responsibility to “make sure everyone feels mentally safe in whatever locker room environment or on any sport that they are playing,” said Pasqualini.

This message is important for all athletes to take to heart as we look to improve our athletic culture in every way possible.

Honig concluded with a message to all Newton South athletes who are not yet open about their sexuality, urging them to step into the embrace of Newton’s accepting culture.

“Obviously you can’t guarantee that some people won’t have some personal or religious reaction to it that is not completely supportive, but the people that love you and the people who are your friends on the team are still going to be your friends and are still going to love you no matter what.”