With the coronavirus crisis causing my senior year and baseball career to be cut short, I have been taking time to think about my feelings.
Although the time with my teammates and friends has been taken from me, I still find myself leaving my undergraduate years on my own terms as I have developed into a confident, content openly gay athlete.
In June — if circumstances allow — I will attend my dream school, the University of Virginia, to pursue a masters in athletic training and have been more confident in myself than ever.
On the other hand, leaving Bridgewater College behind will not be easy for me. I have developed an identity through the struggles and successes over the past three years and don’t want to leave my lifelong teammates and friends.
Before attending Bridgewater, I accepted a baseball scholarship to the University of Charleston in West Virginia. I was never out as gay during my time there and struggled to open up to people because I feared I would not be accepted for my sexuality.
I pretended to be someone I wasn’t and often kept my distance from the team. This made me very unhappy and I regretted going to team lifts, practices and even games because I feared my peers would not accept me. I felt it was best for me to keep my distance versus being open and then being rejected.
I decided I needed to transfer somewhere closer to home, and where I could get a fresh start. I still wanted to play baseball and get an education in athletic training while in a small school atmosphere.
Arriving at Bridgewater College in Virginia, I decided I wanted to be more honest and open, both with others and myself. I also didn’t want to feel like I left any opportunities behind or have any regrets, whether it would be missed friendships or not getting involved in a group on campus. My goal was to be open and honest without fear that I would be labeled gay.
My struggles are what shaped me into the person I am today. I had an identity struggle on and off the field as a sophomore. On the field I was still closeted, yet to friends off the field I was my true out self.
Living this double life stressed me out because of the amount of effort it took to hide in the locker room and in the dugout. This was not because of external pressure, but because I had an irrational fear that my teammates would not accept a gay athlete.
This added stress translated to the field through my attitude and effort. I found it hard to remain positive or look forward to game days because I knew I couldn’t be my full self. When I had bad days, I wouldn’t open up and share with anyone because I had a fear of being judged.
Looking back, bottling up my emotions led to the most shallow part of my life. During this time, I regretted practice and game days and if it wasn’t for my athletic trainer Meghan, I would have ended up removing myself from the team for the sake of my mental health. She is someone who allowed me to open up and express myself during my identity crisis.
I came across a new obstacle in my junior year — anxiety. I have always been anxious but never to the level that I experienced that year.
I would constantly think and picture myself not performing to the best of my ability. I allowed these negative thoughts and emotions to take over my mind and add pressure to my performance.
These feelings carried over into the beginning of my senior year, but this time I decided it was going to be different. Several factors help move me in the right direction.
On the field, we had a new coaching staff and this gave the program a much-needed culture change. I took advantage of this change to realize that I was a senior and that I was going to leave it all on the table and just have fun. I didn’t care what happened on the field as long as the team won and I ended the year happy.
At this point, I had come out to a few teammates. The first one was Kevin, who is someone who I respected a lot from the moment I came to Bridgewater because of his kindness to everyone.
One day after practice I decided to tell him, and I remember exactly how it went because I was so nervous. I said, “Kev, can I tell you something? Something that I don’t share with a lot of people, and hope you won’t think less of me.”
Kevin listened and reaffirmed that I was like a brother to him. That he would never think less of me and always had my back. Listening to him say that made me very at ease, knowing that a teammate was referring to the genuine me and it was something I had never felt before.
I later then decided to open up to a few more teammates, Jake T and Jake G. Seeing their reactions and how supportive they were made me feel safe and accepted on the team versus not acknowledging that side of myself at all. Especially from Jake G, who was there to witness my low times as a sophomore and junior.
I look forward to finding the positivity that comes out of every day and I found that being honest with myself was all that mattered. My teammates didn’t care because of our mutual respect we have for each other.
Brett Lysohir, 21, is a Bridgewater College senior baseball player. He is graduating in May with a bachelor’s in Health and Exercise Science while also pursuing a certification to be a health education specialist. Starting in June, he will attend the University of Virginia pursuing his master’s in Athletic Training. His goal is to help athletes in all aspects of their sport, both physically and mentally. He can be reached on Instagram @brettlysohir.
Story editor: Jim Buzinski
If you are an out LGBTQ person in sports and want to tell your story, email Jim (firstname.lastname@example.org)