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The lore of the locker room

High school basketball coach says the locker room isn't all it's cracked up to be

Anthony Nicodemo (left) and his 2013-14 Saunders High School basketball team
Anthony Nicodemo (left) and his 2013-14 Saunders High School basketball team

Saunders High School basketball coach Anthony Nicodemo came out publicly on Outsports earlier this year. He writes a monthly column that appears here and on the Huffington Post.

The middle of November means the start of another basketball season. It will be my 17th season as a coach and my fifth at Saunders High School. The anticipation of the first practice is intense as I rarely sleep the night before. Months of off-season workouts, lifts and scrimmages lead to this day as a new journey begins. It's the one time all teams are even in the win column and can dream of what is to come.

We tend to practice later in the day so we can hold various team activities prior. Study hall, lifting and film sessions usually serve as a prelude to practice. In between I head to the office to review my notes while the players prepare to take the court. Some head to the locker room while others handle some personal stretching.

The locker room seems to hold a special lore in sports culture. Hollywood feeds us iconic scenes of rousing speeches and moments. Players are believed to engage in meaningful conversations about life. Some believe that athletes walk around with no clothes, playing grab ass and flipping each other with wet towels.

The latter could not be further from the truth. The misnomer about this has always made me laugh. In most cases the image couldn't be further from the truth. My players spend very little time in our locker room: A few minutes before and after practice is pretty much the extent of it. On most days I don't even enter the locker room as there really is no need.

Of course, as I write this, video surfaces of former Kentucky star Anthony Davis naked in the Wildcat locker room apparently being spanked by teammates. I certainly have never seen anything like this during my career and hope that it is a very race occurrence. The issue of hazing and bullying is a whole different subject that I hope to write about at another time.

When I came out to the team and the media picked up on the story, the subject of me being in the locker room -- and the perceptions that came with it -- became somewhat of a point of contention.

Some (all anonymously) said I should be fired for ever being in that setting with the athletes. Being a gay male, I must be looking at my players and thinking sexual thoughts! Some people's thought processes are completely asinine. Being attracted to those of the same sex certainly doesn't mean that anyone is attracted to everyone of the same sex.

But I understand the thinking -- Until recently, I thought the same way. Fearing that one person would use locker room myths as a tactic to remove me from my position scared me to death. One crazy parent could turn my life upside down and take me away from something I love. Rather than risk this, I stayed closeted and lived a secret life.

Attending the Nike LGBT Sports Summit in Portland changed my thought process. I really had never met any LGBT sports figures. When I arrived at the summit, I was surrounded by so many people with similar interests. Who knew that so many gay people were involved in athletics? (a touch of sarcasm) I felt so in my element and I knew that I would have support no matter what the outcome of coming out would be. #BeTrue

The public connection between pedophiles and gay men is a complete joke. How many successful men coach female sports? Are they asked to resign because they are attracted to females? Come on, there are men coaching women of all ages and there is no public outrage.

That's because there is nothing to be outraged about. Being gay does not make you a pervert, despite what a small group of ignorant people in this country love to say, just like a man coaching women does not make that coach a pervert.

So after hearing be careful with the kids for the past few months, the basketball season has begun. Sitting in the office a few of the players come in and start dressing for practice as we discuss the upcoming practice session. There is no discomfort. There is no mistrust. It's just another day for the Saunders basketball family. Players are still players, coaches are still coaches and the goal of winning games in December is still the focal point.

The kids are not the problem, they get it. The problem is the adults who do not.

You can find coach Nicodemo on Twitter.

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