The NCAA announced a policy yesterday that clarifies their position on the participation of transgender student-athletes in sex-separated sports. The policy is largely based on recommendations included in On The Team: Equal Opportunities for Transgender Student-Athletes, which I am proud to have co-authored with Helen Carroll of the NCLR Sports Project.
The NCAA should be applauded for being proactive in adopting the policy and for developing comprehensive educational materials for school administrators, athletic directors and coaches to assist them in understanding transgender identity in general and the NCAA policy and medical bases for it. The coupling of the policy and educational materials will be an essential part of ensuring a positive and informed response from NCAA member schools.
I’ve found in working with coaches and sports administrators that most have extremely limited information about transgender identity and lots of misinformation and concerns about what it means to enable transgender athletes to participate on sports teams according to their gender identity. The NCAA resources provide college sports leaders with the basic information they need to follow the NCAA policy.
This is especially important because the NCAA policy applies only to post-season competition, which is what the NCAA sponsors. Individual schools and athletic conferences must also adopt policies that govern regular season competition. The educational resources that the NCAA has provided will be extremely important as individual schools and athletic conferences follow the NCAA’s lead in adopting their own policies.
The goal should be for administrators at all levels – individual school, athletic conference and NCAA - to all adopt the same policy. The ball is now in the court of individual schools and athletic conferences to make sure that this happens. The NCAA policy enables transgender student-athletes to participate according to their gender identity and “maintains a relative balance of competitive equity among sports teams,” as stated in the NCAA press release.
The NCAA can be criticized for getting a lot of things wrong as they work to manage the complexity of the business of college athletics, but they got this one right.