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Out lacrosse coach lands in Germany

Kyle Hawkins enjoys his new life after turmoil in Missouri

By Ross Forman
Outsports.com

Kyle Hawkins is back coaching lacrosse, but worlds away from his last gig as the head coach at the University of Missouri.And the fact he’s gay isn’t just a non-issue with his new team, but also the way they discovered him.

Hawkins is now the director of men’s lacrosse and head coach for the HTHC Hamburg Lacrosse Warriors of the German Lacrosse Association. He accepted the position in early January.

Kyle Hawkins
“Europe is obviously a better place for a gay person to be than Missouri,” said Hawkins, who compiled a 127-58 record in nine years at Mizzou, including a Great Rivers Lacrosse Conference championship in 2004 and Coach of the Year honors. “It’s remarkable how much of a factor my sexual orientation was at Missouri and how little it is here. It has not been a factor here at all.”

He was fired by Missouri in 2007 a year after he came out on Outsports as the "Frustrated Coach." His story later became the focus of an ESPN profile.

The more I found out about lacrosse in Europe, the less I’m surprised (I was hired). Lacrosse is growing quickly in Europe, much the way the sport grew 10 and 15 years ago in the U.S. So, with my credentials, I think I’m a real asset to Europeans.

“The more I look at it, I know I’m in the right place; I couldn’t be in a place that would make me a whole lot happier. The social atmosphere is unbelievably more accepting; the pay is very good. I’m now at the forefront of growth of lacrosse in Europe.”

Hawkins was recruited last June by the English Lacrosse Association, “and they heard about me because of what happened at Missouri,” he said. However, funding for Hawkins’ job never materialized.

Last December, the Hamburg team contacted Hawkins for its job while he was still living in Columbia, Mo. They flew Hawkins to Germany for a job interview on Dec. 26.

Hawkins said he was, “pleasantly surprised” with both job offers, even though the English position never materialized.

“This team is very good; I’m very pleasantly surprised,” he said. Hawkins compared the Warriors’ level to play to that of a college club team. It probably is one of the 20 best teams in Europe, he said.

“As far as the level of competition goes, I would say on par with the better (college) club (teams), the better Division III teams and the lower Division I teams,” Hawkins said.

“(During) my first conversation with the English, they admitted that they discovered me because I was gay. When the Germans offered me the job, I wasn’t sure if they knew (I was gay).” Ultimately the Germans told him that, yes, of course they knew he was gay – because they did Internet research about him, and his sexual orientation is prominent online.

“They told me they didn’t care,” that I am gay, Hawkins said. “Now, everyone (associated with the team) knows and not one person in the organization seems to even treat it like it’s odd, much less have any negative reaction. That’s nice.”

Hawkins is in charge of all teams under the HTHC Hamburg Lacrosse banner, from the youth to the adult level. Players on his top-level Warriors team range in age from 22 to 35.

“Everyone knows I’m gay at all levels (of the organization), and no one cares,” he said. … It’s uncomfortably nice, if that makes sense. It’s so nice to not have anyone care (about my sexuality) that it’s almost surreal.”

Hawkins said he is aware of some LGBT players within the organization, but none on his team he is aware of.

Under Hawkins’ coaching, more than 80 athletes were named All-Conference and more than 25 were All-American from 2001-2005. His nine-year record at Missouri was 127-58. In his last season Missouri lacrosse had a record of 6-9; it was the team's first losing season under his tutelage.

“I would have to say, the (Missouri) team just got uncomfortable with the whole situation,” said Hawkins, speaking slowly and choosing his words carefully since he is involved with a lawsuit against the university for his firing. The university has said that it was Hawkins’ coaching style, not his sexual orientation, which was the reason for his dismissal. Hawkins disagrees.

“I do believe there was homophobia at play. I think that homophobia was the root cause,” of his firing.