By William Sweet

Photo by Kate Beemer ’15

[Student Life] “If you can swim, you can swim.”

“If you can row, you can row.”  

So begins a video that Amherst athletes and staff created last spring for the You Can Play Project, a national effort advocating respect for all collegiate athletes, regardless of sexual orientation. It offers a simple yet profound message: “Gay or straight, if you can play, you can play.”

“And we want you to play,” President Biddy Martin says in the video, in which more than 90 Amherst athletes spread this message of acceptance, including All-American diver Lizzy Linsmayer ’14, All-American swimmer Connor Sholtis ’15, All-NESCAC tennis player Jen Newman ’14 and All-NESCAC track/cross-country runner Pat Grimes ’13.

Students writing on a banner that reads "You Can Play"
“Eighteen of the 27 teams are represented,” says Assistant Women’s Hockey Coach Liz Gallinaro, “and it would’ve been more, but it was hard for some of the spring teams.”

Kate Beemer ’15, an athletic liaison for the Center for Community Engagement and a video intern, was among the students instrumental in getting the project from script to screen.

While there is support for LGBTQIA athletes at Amherst, that support is not always immediately obvious to students, Beemer says: “It’s addressed more in the arts community or even female sports and, I also think, with male individual sports. But as far as male-dominated team sports, there is a lack of acknowledgment to bring it up in open conversation.” She says the project “raised the discussion for a lot of people.”  

The three-and-a-half-minute video also features Athletic Director Suzanne Coffey and several coaches.

“Amazing student athletes who come to Amherst join a proud tradition of excellence, diversity and tolerance,” Coffey says in the video. “No matter what their sexual orientation, they support each other, and they get support from coaches, faculty, fellow students and fans.”

Or, as Football Coach E.J. Mills says in the video, “When you play for Amherst athletics, what counts is effort.”