At this year’s annual meeting with Lehigh’s athletic director Joe Sterrett, senior Taylor Tvedt took the microphone, stood in front of the entire athletic department and announced the need for support and awareness for Lehigh’s Athlete Ally organization.
Athlete Ally is a national organization that seeks to create and further promote an equitable, inclusive environment for all individual participants involved in sports. Specifically, the group focuses on the importance of acknowledging the support for LGBT athletes and coaches.
The program emphasizes that anyone and everyone is encouraged by Athlete Ally to join its mission of improving the respect and inclusion for all athletes going through systematic homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.
Athlete Ally was founded at Lehigh in 2014 by Abby Farrell, who played for the Lehigh’s women’s tennis team. After Farrell’s graduation, the leadership position for the organization was passed down to Sarah Cassidy, a member of Lehigh’s track and field team.
Now, it’s in the hands of Tvedt, a goalie on Lehigh’s women’s lacrosse team. Nationally, Tvedt is representing an organization that includes 24,672 members, 152 pro ambassadors, 100 campus ambassadors and 52 campus programs.
For Tvedt, when one door closed, another door opened.
“When I realized there were three captains on our team, and I wasn’t pronounced one of them, I knew I wanted and needed to take on the leadership role for Athlete Ally,” Tvedt said. “It was the perfect fit for me.”
Taking matters into her own hands, Tvedt wanted to improve her community’s awareness for Athlete Ally and make sure that when she leaves Lehigh she is confident and satisfied that she did all that she could for this organization. However, she hasn’t been working alone.
Athlete Ally has been able to grow and further pursue its mission with the help of various people at Lehigh, such as Julie Ammary, the director of Lehigh’s athletic leadership; Anna Patterson, an assistant director of Lehigh’s athletic leadership; Erin Matyus, assistant swim and dive coach for Lehigh and Chelsea Fullerton, the director of Lehigh’s Pride Center.
“I wanted to do more, especially after how it was last year,” Tvedt said. “I knew I could do more.”
Already seeing the organization grow thus far, Tvedt is proud of the athletic community on campus, taking the initiative to attend various events and meetings hosted by Athlete Ally.
“I am so proud and honored to be in the position I am for Athlete Ally,” Tvedt said.
Cassidy said she believes Tvedt has significantly improved the awareness for Lehigh’s Athlete Ally, and she’s relieved knowing that the program is in good hands.
“(Tvedt) is doing an absolutely incredible job championing the movement,” Cassidy said. “The name and brand is all over campus and she’s diving head first, introducing the Athlete Ally pledge personally to each team, getting everyone on board.”
This semester, Athlete Ally is assembling a core group of committed individuals, further continuing the momentum by spreading LGBT inclusiveness into the mind and spirit of every Lehigh team and hosting conversations that may not have previously occurred.
Athlete Ally is looking to eliminate the common holes within various athletic departments: conversations that aren’t happening, voices that are being silenced and people hiding crucial parts of their true identity.
“Like I said, I am so thankful and proud of the support we have received from the athletes,” Tvedt said. “I would like to see more male athletes contribute to the program. There are so many incredible male and female athletes on campus, I know both the men and women can contribute simply by coming to Ally meetings and future events.”