The Ohio State field hockey program hosted the university’s first game in celebration of pride Oct. 10, on the eve of National Coming Out Day.
Senior goaltender Aaliyah Hernandez, who is a member of Buckeye Spectrum, an LGBTQ+ student-athlete group, first brought up the idea for the game.
“We wanted the opportunity to show that we can organize a pride game and wanted to show anyone in the LGBTQ+ community to feel welcomed,” Hernandez said.
Buckeye Spectrum is one of the groups the Student-Athlete Support Services Office offers at Ohio State.
Hernandez said she heard of the group through a recommendation from a sports psychologist.
“I joined in March a couple of months after the start of the group, but I’m still considered a founding member,” Hernandez said. “That was the best recommendation I’ve ever gotten.”
The inspiration for Ohio State’s pride game was drawn from the UCLA gymnastics team, which featured the Bruins gymnasts wearing multicolored leotards and rainbow ribbons in support of the LGBTQ+ community during their meet with Arizona in February 2020.
This was Hernandez’s first time organizing an event to this magnitude, and she said she took ideas from the Bruins’ event.
Head coach of the Buckeyes field hockey team Jarred Martin was all for the event.
“A day like today goes to the bigger picture of things that we take pride in at Ohio State,” Martin said. “It helps to bring education and awareness to what makes a place like this so special. Aaliyah had the idea, talked to her teammates about it and they were happy to do it. It was great to see how everything came together.”
Along with fostering the event at Ohio State, the group also contacted the opposing Ohio University Bobcats for the game.
“[Coach Jarred] Martin reached out to OU and told them what we were planning, and they knew were more than excited to be a part of it,” Hernandez said.
The Ohio University players showed up in their own pride shirts that were worn prior to kickoff. Hernandez said she didn’t know the Bobcats would wear pride gear and she was grateful her opponents supported one unified cause.
Colorful pride flags surrounded Buckeye Varsity Field, joined by the American flag, Ohio and Ohio State flags.
In addition to the decorations, members of Buckeye Spectrum had a table set up at the game with shirts and buttons that were passed around at halftime to those in attendance.
“We wanted to promote National Coming Out Day, and it was a fun way to interact with students,” Megan McNutt, a member of Buckeye Spectrum, said.
Along with the coaches, Buckeye team members were supportive of the event.
“Having different players and coaches in the community, it was really cool to use our platform to celebrate the day,” senior midfielder Emma Goldean said.
Hernandez said she was proud to be part of the event and to see the collective effort pay off. She said she hopes to bring the pride game and events to multiple other Ohio State athletic events with Buckeye Spectrum in the future.
Hernandez and the team are in the middle of a competitive season, but that won’t stop her from creating an impact off the field.
“We wanted to make a difference. It’s not just for me, it’s for anyone who identifies within the community to know there is love around you,” Hernandez said. “People are going to support you however you identify.”