UCLA softball coach Kirk Walker originally posted this on Facebook Sept. 8, 2016
September 8th always holds strong meaning for me. It's the anniversary of the day I stood in front of my team at Oregon State and shared the scariest news I could imagine. Eleven years ago on this fall day we started our 2005-06 campaign. Personally I was secure in my identity. But professionally and as a leader of athletes, I was risking everything I had ever known as a Division 1 College Coach. There was no previous example for me to look to as an Openly gay collegiate coach, let alone a coach of a Nationally ranked NCAA program.
The day is etched in my memory and that locker room full of athletes embarking on what would become the most historic in Oregon State Softball History by earning the first and only NCAA College World Series Appearance to date. Those athletes will always hold a special place in my heart for more than that amazing accomplishment. Their love and support for me as a coach and leader was powerful for us all in achieving our greatest success on the field. I'll never know exactly what they thought that day but I will never forget how they made me feel. Which ironically has always been a creed I attempt to live by as a coach. "Your athletes won't remember everything you taught them but they will never forget the way you made them feel, and feel about themselves"
To my coaching peers that remain closeted I challenge you to trust in your athletes and find the strength to take the step of being true to yourself and those that look to you as a leader. What I learned that year is that my leadership, while proven successful over the years, was never completely authentic. When discussions of courage, integrity, honesty, and risk-taking came into play, my life experience was never completely authentic while living in a self-imposed box hidden to most. Hence the term coming out of the closet....
Coaches are not perfect and thank goodness that standard will never be the model in our profession, but our profession requires so much beyond teaching the skills of the game or strategizing the game plan. I take great pride in coaching, leading, and walking alongside my athletes as they journey life and responsibility to themselves, their team, their school, their sport and society, while playing a sport they love at the highest pursuit of excellence daily.
I'm proud of the work that being one of the very few openly gay coaches in Division 1 college athletics or professional ranks has allowed me to pursue. Through the Equality Coaches Alliance and the Sports Equality Foundation and my other work, I hope to empower more to make a difference. I value my ability to mentor and connect coaches, athletes, and sports professionals to their more authentic self.
So many people I appreciate in my life and in my journey on this day. Some I know because of this day, some helped give me courage to stand up that day, and some that were apart of that day. I tag some here, but all are tagged on my heart permanently... BETRUE