(This story was published in 2004).

Coach Eric “Gumby” Anderson has been there. He’s been a closeted athlete, a closeted coach, and now an openly gay coach. Coming out isn’t easy for anyone – particularly anyone in sports.

Coach Gumby has some advice for any coaches thinking about coming out of the closet.

  • Get your paperwork in line. The administration may try to get rid of you from any angle. Get buttoned up before you come out, so you’re not scrambling.
  • Go to the principal of the school. Tell him or her that you are going to apply for “job xyz” and you need a letter of recommendation. Now you have something in writing from the principal testifying to your qualifications as a coach, mentor, etc…
  • Make sure that you, if you have the opportunity, do it at a time when you are secure in your position for the next season. Don’t do it when the season’s over and you’re not coming back to coach for five months. Wait until you’re actually out there coaching again – two weeks into the season – don’t give the administration five months to figure out how they’re going to not have you back.
  • Have some pre-thought out statements – answers to questions. Question: Why do you feel the need to come out of the closet? Answer: The same reason a heterosexual feels the need to tell his players that he and his wife saw a movie together. Think about what could happen under your own individual circumstances and have an answer for what you’re going to do ahead of time. That way, you won’t mess up.
  • Watch your p’s and q’s. You’ll probably be held to a much higher standard than anybody else. Make sure your paperwork is done on time and everything is processed properly, and you follow all the rules. You’ll have to look more than good – you’ll have to have the appearance of not guilty.
  • At the hint of trouble, get legal counsel right away. Call Lambda. Let the administration know that you’re not backing down easy. Coaches and teachers are intimidated by principals. Don’t fear the administration – better to be aggressive than on the defensive. At the hint of trouble, ask questions. Let them know, at the drop of a hat, that you’re considering getting legal counsel. Principals don’t want controversy.
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