In their own words: Lindsey Atkinson on Pride Month
As we celebrate Pride Month during June, the USTA also celebrates volunteers in the LGBTQ+ community whose dedication to the sport helps to keep our game growing strong. With more than 350 national volunteers from all 17 USTA sections, it would be difficult to recognize every LGBTQ+ leader here. But we’re thrilled to highlight these volunteer leaders—in their own words—whose contributions, influence and enthusiasm continue to push this organization and this sport forward. Here, we highlight Lindsey Atkinson, from Indianapolis.
I feel fortunate to have been born and raised in a place I still call home—Indianapolis, Ind. Not only do I find comfort in the diversity and cultural expression the city embraces, but also the deep roots and ever-growing investment in the sports ecosystem.
I am a director of sports at the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), with offices connected to our friends in the collegiate space, the NCAA. At the NFHS, I serve as the national rules editor and rules interpreter for high school basketball, girls lacrosse and volleyball, while also serving as the liaison for tennis in which I work with the USTA to build and provide resources for our member state high school associations.
While I did not come from the tennis ecosystem, I found myself immediately supported by my fellow volunteers on the USTA High School Committee. I have been involved in the committee since close to its inception as a task force in 2017 and have served as a committee member, vice chair and now, chair.
I was a three-sport athlete in high school and was able to play basketball and softball at DePauw University. It was during those four years at DePauw that I not only discovered a career path in athletic administration, but also found my voice as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. I found mentors in coaches and professors that both challenged and empowered me to be better than I was the day before. It was there that I found a community of supporters in the form of teammates, coaches and friends.
It was my first boss here at the NFHS, Becky Oakes, who served as my first professional and most influential mentor. Our first two years together were filled with teachable moments and an unwavering belief in who I could be as a professional in this space. Becky taught me to lean into my strengths and surround myself with individuals who challenge me to be better every day. She encouraged me to teach and coach and build my resume of experience in order to better understand her role as an athletic administrator.
While teaching and coaching brought great joy, it also brought the stress and anxiety that accompanies not being allowed to be your full self. After living openly as part of the LBGTQ+ community for eight years, it was a difficult adjustment to be forced back into the closet. It impacted my mental and emotional health. It was those five years in the classroom at a rural school in Indiana that drove me to never let that happen again to me or to others in a workplace. I am starting my third year on the NFHS diversity, equity and inclusion team in which we develop learning opportunities for staff and connect them to resources to better understand our diverse experiences both in the world and within the workplace.
Celebrating Pride has always meant a lot to me, but it means more to me now that my wife and I have a beautiful, funny, kind, amazing 8-year-old daughter. While we prepared recently to march with our church in the Indy Pride Parade, we were proud to know that Zoe will see she’s not alone in this world with two moms, and that there is love and support all around her in a huge sea of rainbows.