While a number of sport groups have once-off pride events, Proud Cricket in Victoria is going further. Jesse Jones reports.

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Young LGBTI people have very low rates of participation in sport, but a program in Victoria is aiming to change that by getting people involved in local, inclusive cricket clubs.

Proud Cricket is a joint initiative of Proud 2 Play, Cricket Victoria, and VicHealth.

Chief executive of Proud 2 Play, James Lolicato, says the project is all about encouraging people of diverse genders and sexualities to get involved in sport.

“We wanted to create a program to make sure that those who haven’t played before, or want to get back into the sport, have an opportunity to do so,” he says.

After the success of last year’s session at Youlden Parkville Cricket Club, the program is now running at Edinburgh Cricket Club, and expected to expand to clubs around Victoria and Australia over the next few years.

“At our first session at Youlden Parkville, the club got so involved that one of the mothers from the club baked a bunch of rainbow cookies with her seven-year-old child to show that they celebrate and support the LGBTI community,” says Lolicato.

“The young person said to us, ‘I just want to make sure that everybody has fun today.’

“It’s not just the club management and directors who are getting on board, it’s also the club personnel, local families, and the community who really want to help out and make sure that everybody’s having fun.”

Lolicato says that while no elite-level male players are openly gay, cricket has a strong contingent of women players, many of whom are proudly out.

“It’s because the women are incredible,” he says.

“They have the strength to come out and really be who they are.

“[Gay] female participation has been so strong for so long, that’s really helped cricket form this amazing culture around LGBTI diversity.”

While a number of sporting groups have once-off pride events, Proud Cricket aims to go further by getting people who want to play involved with cricket in the longer term.

“We want to make sure LGBTI people have the same access that everybody else does to sport and community exercise,” says Lolicato.

“We don’t want it to be just a tokenistic approach.”

The program initially runs for four weeks, during which participants learn the basics of cricket, then join their local club to keep playing.

“It’s giving them that first step to get involved in the club for life,” says Lolicato.

He says it’s a sport that anyone can learn to play, and the introductory program teaches all the skills new players need.

Proud Cricket is working hard to get more LGBTI young people into sport and all the physical and social benefits it can offer.

“Cricket Victoria really show commitment to LGBTI diversity,” says Lolicato.

“They want to be at the forefront for LGBTI participation in sports.”

For more information on the Proud Cricket program, check out www.cricketvictoria.com.au/lgbti-inclusion.

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