3 Reasons to Come Out to Your Coach
March 15, 2011 § 7 Comments
It may seem unimaginable, why would you want to come out to your coach? In talking with my peers that I counsel, a coach’s reaction to learning we are gay is a common fear – and not without reason. Especially amongst male teams, a fog of homophobia has fallen and severed relationships between coaches and athletes. Some coaches are homophobic and others are macho-centric; most are relatively indifferent coaches simply trying to help. It is important to differentiate between the three, as only one “type” of coach really poses a threat – and I use the word type loosely as I find it best not to categorize people. Yet more often than not, our coaches fall into the latter two categories and honestly just want to help – with our sport that is.
Many of us spend as much time with our coaches as we do with our parents. They worry about our health, our academics, and our aspirations just like our parents do. They care. Because they care, we should begin believing that coming out to them is not an experience worth sweating over and that it can potentially help save your high school sports career. What follows are 3 reasons why you should contemplate coming out to your coach even if you are afraid to.
1. If there is/will be conflict.
While wearing pads for football can prevent physical damage on the field, a conflict within a team can lead to physical and emotional damage off the field. One of the best reasons to come out to your coach is to stave off any conflict or abuse by allowing your coach the chance to intervene. Often times we are too late to speak up and then we have few ways of ameliorating a conflict. As a coach of High School athletes, your coach has to keep in mind not only your performance on the field but your safety as well and it is his responsibility to protect you and your team.
Simply email your coach and describe the problem or conflict currently brewing and ask for his help. Depending on your coach’s view, you may want to speak to a guidance counselor first who can help mediate the conversation between you and your coach or team. While many coaches are well learned in their sport, conflict resolution may not be their strongest suit – especially a conflict which deals with homosexuality. So be prepared and have some back up just in case.
2. If it is affecting your playing
No matter your coach’s feelings towards homosexuality, the one thing they should care about is how you compete. Be warned that this point does differ between different team dynamics, if you play a team sport like soccer or lacrosse you can be benched, while if you run or swim well, then you have no replacement. Either way, your coach should be interested in knowing why you aren’t competing the way you normally do – though they might not ask.
If you play on a team sport, don’t let getting benched frustrate you unless you can use that frustration to improve. Instead make a point of sitting down to talk to your coach about ways to handle external stresses and your sexuality. Being gay does not make you any less of an athlete, but the stress involved with coming to terms with your sexuality and outside conflicts can take a tole on your execution. So when talking to your coach, keep a level head and explain what is going on in your life and ask for advice on how to focus. Explaining your passion for the sport can only be beneficial as well as explaining your desire to improve.
Once more, consider bringing a counselor into the conversation just to be careful. A counselor can stave away a great deal of uncertainty and miscommunication between you and your coach, thus leading to greater progress.
3. If you want to create progress.
Not to be mistaken for “changing your homophobic coach into an lgbt enthusiast,” this step is more along the lines of promoting action with your coach against homophobia on your team to make it a safer environment for everyone. If your sexuality is not leading to any stress in your life or you feel you can make a difference on your team, why not step up and talk to your coach?
You’ll want to talk to your coach when he has a fair amount of free time so you won’t need to cut the conversation short as you’ll want to cover your important topics. Some of which may be: what is homophobic bullying, how can we prevent it, what rules need to be in place and enforced, how can team captains help, etc… though there are many more and not every topic needs to be talked about. Asking your coach to tell kids to cut it out will be more than sufficient – if he actually acts on it. So be prepared to remind him politely ask explain how he an help clearly.
Now that you have read 3 reasons to come out to your coach, can you think of any other reasons to come out? Or even better - what suggestions do you have for others contemplating coming out to his/her coach?