Supporting LGBT+ experiences in sport and physical activity

Supporting LGBT+ experiences in sport and physical activity

Energise Me are part of the 2022-23 cohort of Leading for Renewal (LFR) participants. Delivered by Inclusive Employers and funded by Sport England, LFR, equips participating organisations with the skills, knowledge and insight to embed inclusion into their culture and core functions.

In this blog, Energise Me shares the experience of researching and developing the ‘Pride in our workforce’ resource which aims to increase the confidence and competence of the workforce in delivering physical activity for the LGBT+ community.

The origins of the ‘Pride in our workforce’ research

Energise Me are the Active Partnership for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.  Back in 2019, we conducted research on the role of the physical activity workforce in creating positive environments and experiences for the LGBT+ community.

The Pride In Our Workforce research project stemmed from the ideas of local LGBT+ young people and three particularly alarming stats (highlighted in the visual below) about the physical and mental health of this population and their levels of physical activity.

Our goal: to enable to support and encourage LGBT+ participating in physical activity and sport. 

- On average, LGBT+ people's general health is worse than that of heterosexual people. (National LGBT Survey, 2017)

- Individuals who identify as LGBT+ are more likely to access mental health services. (Public Health, 2014) 

- LGBT+ people are less likely than heterosexual people to do enough exercise to maintain "good" health. (Pride Sports 2016) 

- Physical activity reduces our risk of major diseases by up to 50% and our risk of depression up to by 30% (NHS)

Defining our goals and ambitions

We were passionate about addressing these issues, so we applied to Sport England‘s Workforce Innovation Fund to investigate the role the workforce plays, or could play, in supporting LGBT+ people to become more active.

The first phase of the project aimed to fill gaps in research and understanding. We worked with Bournemouth University to explore four key questions:

  • What role do the workforce play in the LGBT+ community accessing and enjoying physical activity?
  • How could an appropriately skilled workforce identify and address actual and perceived barriers?
  • What skills, competencies and behaviours do the LGBT+ community require of the workforce?
  • Is the current workforce representative of our local population?

We defined workforce as anyone working or volunteering within sport or physical activity, including anyone in a public facing or leadership role.  

Conducting the research: focus groups and questionnaires

We explored these questions using an online questionnaire, (completed by 352 respondents),  focus groups and four in-depth interviews gathering the views of both the LGBT+ community (with varying levels of participation in physical activity) and the local workforce.

The findings

Our headline findings indicated:

  • LGBT+ people are less likely to be in workforce roles
  • LGBT+ communities prefer an approachable workforce over an experienced one
  • The experiences of LGBT+ communities could be improved by enhanced workforce environments and understanding

Source: Bournemouth University, Pride in Our Workforce Report

Developing meaningful research outcomes

Following the research, we wanted to ensure a continued focus on the workforce and workforce development.  A number of training and learning opportunities already existed, so instead we decided to develop the Pride in our workforce resource.

Pride in our workforce resource

The resource is divided into two parts.  A guide packed with tips and information on how organisations can support the workforce and participants, building on the lived experiences of the research participants. 

Drawing again on the research findings, a set of 10 scenario cards that explore key challenges in creating an inclusive physical activity environment for LGBT+ communities.  These touch on topics such as language, recruitment, changing room use, public perception, countering biases and how to make the workforce more inclusive.  

We committed to keeping the information simple and accessible and the scenario cards are a great way of stimulating conversations across all parts of the workforce.

Scenario 1 - you overhear language used at a session between friends that is potentially offensive and hurtful to other members of the group. 

How would you address this as the coach/leader of that group?

Accompanying each scenario card is a crib sheet that can be used to help stimulate conversation if needed.  We wanted everyone using the resource to feel supported rather than tested so the focus is on developing understanding rather than getting the answer right.

Positive impact for LGBT+ experiences in sport

The research and resources have had a positive impact.  National partners and local organisations are both accessing and promoting them. 

Feedback suggest the resource is providing people with the confidence to start conversations they wouldn’t have had before and that the approach is valuable in empowering organisations to develop their own ideas and solutions to important challenges.

You can find out how a colleague from another Active Partnership has used and benefitted from the Pride in our workforce resource here.

If you would like support to run a similar project in your organisation or to find out more about how the Leading for Renewal programme works, contact us at or speak to your account manager.

You can also find out about our approach to running programmes like Leading for Renewal here