The baseball players at the high school where I coach lacrosse thought it would be funny to get under the skin of my players. My lacrosse team all knew I was gay and my sexual orientation was known around the school. The baseball team started mocking my players because they have a gay coach. It could have been one of my scariest moments as a coach.
But my players backed me up and asked the baseball players why it mattered and that they were happy to play for me. This story was relayed to me shortly after it happened and it felt better than any championship I have won either as coach or player.
No one ever tells you how hard it is to come out as a gay man to your family, friends, and even your teammates. For me, telling my friends was easy. It was short, sweet, and didn't have to be drawn out with a dozen questions that you weren't ready to answer.
Coming out to my family was interesting to say the least. Just like most people who come out to their parents, I hoped that their love was unconditional and being gay wouldn't matter to them as much as I was afraid of. I remember the day I told my mother. It was after dinner where everyone was in separate rooms. She was on the couch watching TV so I came to lie next to her and I started crying. My mother is a smart woman and she knew something was wrong because I hated crying and very rarely did it. After I told my mother that I was gay, the first thing she said to me was "what do you mean?" To this day, I still find that to be a very funny answer. And in her defense, she has never had to deal with that. It may have also caught her off guard because a few months prior, I was still in a relationship with my ex-girlfriend, whom I dated for six years while in high school and a couple years in college. Like many people who come out, I did it after a few years in college when I finally realized it didn't change who I was and it didn't matter.
Coming out to my friends and family was easy compared to who I had to tell next -- my teammates. Lacrosse is a very hard-hitting, intensely competitive sport that has a masculine bias surrounding it. Because of that, it was a lot harder to tell my teammates. I told my captain a couple months after I joined the team in 2012 because he was the one who told me to play for the team and we were great friends outside of the sport. Just like all the people I told before him, he gave the same response of how it didn't change anything. With the support of the captain and one of my best friends, most of the team finally found out and echoed the same response. I played for a few years in college before graduating but was lucky enough to start coaching.
I started coaching the youth team in my hometown, Hudson, N.H., where I had a very successful year as a new coach in a new program. After that year, I was able to get the job of coaching lacrosse for my high school, Alvirne High School, where I already knew a lot of those players from the previous year. I've been able to win a championship as a player and as a coach but nothing is better than winning the respect of my athletes and helping them strive for a championship of their own. As I look to continue up the coaching ladder, I want to end up as a head coach at a university and manage a successful program.
While no one ever told me how difficult it would be to come out to my friends, family and my teammates, I was also never told that everything would be OK. I was one of the lucky ones with the amount of support I received from everyone around me and, most importantly, the players that I coach.
Kyle Martin, 26, is a lacrosse coach at Alvirne High School in Hudson, NH. He played lacrosse in college at UMass-Lowell for the men's club team. He can be reach via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and on Facebook and Instagram.
Story edited by Jim Buzinski