I started playing volleyball around the age of 16. I come from a family of volleyball players, but it is not a popular male sport, so there weren’t many opportunities. I had to travel an hour to practice with a club team. Yet, I fell in love with the sport right away. I began coaching right after finishing college and in 2013, my University of Wisconsin team and I were NCAA National Finalists. In 2016, I received the AVCA Thirty Under 30 Award that honored me as one of the top up and coming coaches in the country. I am the proudest of all the former athletes I have coached as I see them go on to do great things in their adult lives.
When I was 19 years old, I came out as gay. I felt it was important for me to live my life authentically, so I could be that example for future coaches and athletes. I was very nervous for potential professional repercussions. I had it in my mind that I wouldn’t have the same opportunities for my career path if I was out. Luckily, that wasn’t correct, but that was a real struggle for me early in my career.
“I was very nervous for potential professional repercussions. I had it in my mind that I wouldn’t have the same opportunities for my career path if I was out. Luckily, that wasn’t correct, but that was a real struggle for me early in my career.”
It was certainly tough growing up in a small-town in the conservative part of the Midwest. I definitely felt that I had to hide parts of myself as a young person. However, college allowed me to spread my wings and be more open. My college teammates were fantastic and were a huge part of helping me find myself. They are my second family. I have been blessed to work in some very accepting communities and universities.
Volleyball has been proven to be a very LGBTQI-friendly sport in general, and that is where I have found my “tribe” so to speak. Also in other sports, athletes are feeling – now more than ever – comfortable to come out and be themselves in their sports communities. That didn’t use to be the case. We have come a long way in that regard.
I would have loved for someone to tell me it’s okay to be yourself. Just how I am. It won’t always be easy. Some people won’t like you for it. That’s okay. They weren’t meant for you and aren’t a part of your journey. To other young athletes I’d like to say that hiding pieces of you to fit in is not the answer. You are beautiful. You are loved. You are important.