Finding my Voice: Being a Male in Women’s Sports Advocacy

By Andrew George, NOWSA Community Impact Intern

Nearly two months into my summer internship with the Northeast Ohio Women’s Sports Alliance (NOWSA), I have been fortunate enough to be a part of educational experiences that demonstrate the strength of inclusion in sport. The community-based sports organizations creating gender-inclusive environments in Northeast Ohio have taught me about the diverse opportunities for sport and expanded the outlook I have as a male in women’s sports advocacy.

Prior to accepting my position as a Community Impact Intern, I was well aware of the questions that would come from individuals regarding my status as a male working with an organization dedicated to supporting women in sport. Although the majority of my responsibilities are executed remotely, I have represented NOWSA at in-person events, as well.
I quickly noticed how the reaction and attention aimed towards our table differs depending on who is standing next to me. If either of my supervisors, Barb and Elise, are present, it is much more likely that women will approach and inquire about the organization’s mission, values, and services.

Andrew George (far right) at a youth football camp with other volunteers

Hearing stories and advice directly from women about opportunities for sport involvement seems to resonate more with our primary demographic (women 18+), compared to hearing the message come from me. I understand why I, a 20-year-old male, may not be the voice adult women are seeking to hear to get back into or start a new sport, especially when factoring in the relatability aspect and historical gender inequities in sport still plaguing community, collegiate, and professional levels of competition today. In handling our table alone, men tend to be more willing to approach and hear about what I am representing, perhaps illustrating an element of comfortability with the androcentric, or male-centered, sport culture they are accustomed to.

Additionally, through reconnecting with friends and discussing summer plans, I find that sharing my position with NOWSA typically results in one of three reactions. People are either thrilled to hear about my decision, question the organization’s decision in selecting a male intern, or quickly switch the conversation to another topic. Being a male does not diminish my capacity to advocate for gender inclusion in sports. Sport has the powerful ability to cultivate identity and provide a sense of belonging to one’s life, no matter their gender, sexual orientation, social class, race, or religion. Personally, sports have served as a kind of solace and stability over the course of my life, and recognizing this motivates me in the work I do with NOWSA in helping mitigate barriers women face to accessing sports.

Often times, when people think of what it means to be a voice for social change, it can be confusing figuring out where to start. Some become overwhelmed, assuming it solely entails intensive responsibilities such as large-scale public speaking or constant community outreach. While these are effective tools, advocating for change can also be done on an individual level. Regardless of the topic or issue, a little can go a long way in terms of being intentional about educating ourselves, aware and respectful of the vocabulary we use, supporting local grassroots initiatives, and mindfully listening to those with firsthand knowledge or experience. My time with the Northeast Ohio Women’s Sports Alliance thus far has been characterized by embracing and learning about these components of advocacy, and I look forward to discovering how I can continue to challenge myself and those around me to find the voice that makes a positive impact in the lives of others.

About andrew george

Andrew George is a rising senior at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, OH and current Community Impact Intern with the Northeast Ohio Women’s Sports Alliance. As a double major in sport management and sociology, he has had the opportunity to be a part of many diverse experiences that include working at the Super Bowl, coaching athletes with physical and cognitive disabilities, and engaging in nonviolence training in Selma, AL while on a trip learning about civil rights in the U.S. Following graduation in Spring 2022, Andrew hopes to secure a career that uses sport as a platform to empower communities and advance social equity.