Finding unity through athletics

Female Harvard soccer player runs towards teammates to give a high five

Gabby DelPico ’24. Credit: Harvard Athletics

3 min read

Gabby DelPico ’24 was honored at the 2023 Athlete Ally Action Awards in New York City for her foundational work at Harvard’s Athlete Ally chapter, which was recognized for its excellence and for being an example to other chapters around the country.

For the Harvard women’s soccer student-athlete, the award was a moment to reflect on a two-year journey of hard work and dedication that led her to the stage at Chelsea Piers.

“I’m really proud and grateful. Really grateful that I had the people around me who helped create this [organization],” said DelPico.

Athlete Ally is a national nonprofit that focuses on progressing the LGBTQ+ movement through the unifying power of sports. There are 37 collegiate Athlete Ally chapters across the United States, all focused on improving and enhancing LGBTQ+ visibility on their respective campuses.

“Athlete Ally works for visibility, inclusion and creating queer spaces,” the midfielder/forward said. “We also work on policy changes, such as more gender inclusive bathrooms and having gender pronouns on rosters. On a day-to-day, we create queer spaces and organize pride games, weekly study breaks so queer athletes can meet each other and have a community on campus.”

DelPico arrived to Cambridge from Brockton, Massachusetts, and she recalled the initial transition to Harvard as difficult.

“I was anxious, and I think everyone had a very specific idea of what queer looked like,” DelPico said. “It was hard at first but eventually one of my teammates, Lara [Schenk ’22], who I got very close with, came out to me and that’s what motivated us to start Harvard Athlete Ally.”

DelPico, along with Schenk and student-athletes Kaitlin Lampson ’23 (softball) and Keely Moy ’22 (women’s ice hockey), founded Harvard’s Athlete Ally chapter in the spring of 2021. Getting it started was challenging, but they found support from Athletics administrators including Erin West, assistant director of athletics — Diversity, Inclusion and Student Development.

“Erin has been super helpful and honest with us,” DelPico said. “She’s supported us so much, and you can tell she’s proud of Athlete Ally. You can feel the support within Athletics and it’s really nice to have staff on your side.”

In two years, Harvard Athlete Ally has flourished to 107 members. During the last year, it organized and promoted several Pride Games, including rugby, softball, women’s soccer, women’s basketball and women’s ice hockey. The Harvard Athlete Ally weekly study breaks have become popular events for all athletes.

“The culture here is family-oriented — our teams are so close. Athlete Ally is not just for queer people, it’s also for allies. We have a lot of allies who are super involved, who want to wear rainbow and want to be a part of the message,” said DelPico, who is eager to see the growth and larger community that Athlete Ally creates in the years to come.

“I’m grateful that Athlete Ally is going to exist and thrive once I leave. It makes me proud to think I left a mark on this place.”