COLUMBIA — At 6 a.m. three times a week, Alejandro Cubria is at Walton Stadium setting up drills for the Missouri women's soccer team practice. The sun hasn't even risen yet, but he's already been there for an hour, sometimes more.
As part of his work as a graduate student manager, Cubria travels with the team and stands on the sidelines during games. He wears black and gold on game days and a rainbow bracelet with the words "MU Pride" engraved on it to show his support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
"The fact that I work with the soccer team and the fact that I wear this (bracelet) all day, every day has been really interesting to observe," Cubria said. "That sounds negative, but it's only meant to highlight the positive. The positive is that a conversation is happening in athletics. People have the T-shirts that say 'You Can Play' now. People have these bracelets. People are now aware of it. That is super important."
Bracelets like the one Cubria wears can be found in the MU LGBTQ Resource Center, where he works as a graduate assistant for 20 hours a week, helping set up safe-space trainings and OUTreach panels as well as supervising the undergraduate staff. Cubria, though, has not always been an LGBTQ ally.
Having played soccer for as long as he can remember, Cubria would fit right in playing with a collegiate team. He is tall and built like a goalie, a position he had played since elementary school when a spot opened up after a goalkeeper got hurt. He stepped in and stopped the winning goal. In that moment, he felt like a hero.
Cubria played soccer throughout his adolescence and in high school before playing alongside former professionals in the Houston Football Association league in his hometown of Houston.
Now that he is in his second year as a graduate student at MU, Cubria has shifted his focus from playing to coaching, mentoring, and advocating for LGBTQ inclusion in athletics.
A graduate student studying sports psychology, Cubria meets with the players on the team as often as possible to talk about things outside the game such as motivation, leadership and player's goals.
"This year, he has taken that sports psychology to the next level," junior student-manager Ryan Dell said. "He's doing a very, very good job of getting together with each girl individually and establishing their goals, what they want to do on the soccer field and what they want to do outside the soccer field."
Cubria's commitment to advocacy for LGBTQ issues grew after he was called out for discriminatory vocabulary in high school by a student attempting to establish a Gay-Straight Alliance. From then on, Cubria has dedicated his time to discussing LGBTQ issues and was an outspoken ally during his undergraduate studies at the University of Houston. When he arrived in Columbia, he heard about a job opening at the resource center and jumped at the opportunity.
"I put out the job application, and he wrote back immediately," MU LGBTQ Resource Center Coordinator Struby Struble said. Struble and Cubria had met previously during a pickup soccer game. "He was just like, 'I played soccer with you, and you know who I am, and I just want you to know that I'll go through all the steps, but I'm so thrilled at the opportunity to apply for this.'"
As a vocal ally and consistent presence at the LGBTQ Resource Center, Cubria speaks often about LGBTQ issues on campus and in society. Last semester, Cubria spoke to all MU male athletes about the intersection of LGBTQ issues and athletics as part of the MU athletics department's Men for Men initiative. At the end of April, the department released a video announcing its decision to join the You Can Play Project, a national movement striving to overcome sexual orientation discrimination in athletics.
"Athletes need to be comfortable to be who they are and to be good athletes," Cubria said. "If you immediately go into athletics, and every time you are worried about how people are going to perceive you because of your sexuality or because of the way you express your gender, then it automatically limits your ability to be as good as you can be."
Cubria hopes his participation in both athletics and the LGBTQ community at MU can facilitate an important dialogue about inclusion. His goal for this year is to have a team go through safe-space training to help better educate student-athletes about LGBTQ issues. He'll continue to wear his bracelet at soccer practice, in the resource center and around campus.