When Evan Heiter shared his coming-out story on Outsports in 2011 — then, a gymnast for the Univ. of Michigan — he said he owed some of his success to the pressures of being closeted.
Now, almost a decade later, it’s the complete opposite that drives him.
“During these quarantine times, living yourself and accepting yourself is so focal for all of us,” Heiter told Outsports from his home in San Francisco. “What motivates me is adopting that constant pursuit of perfection in sports. That kind of mindset, while embracing the good and the bad of who I am, the points that need improvement. That’s what motivates me.”
While he’s no longer competing on the national stage, he’s traded in the floor mat for a microphone, making the transition from athlete to gymnastics commentator.
He got his big broadcasting break in 2015 when a friend at USA Gymnastics contacted him with an opportunity to be a commentator for a livestream of a national championship. Heiter had no media background or expertise, but he had a lifetime of watching gymnastics on TV, competing in the sport for years, and he had the confidence of USA Gymnastics.
“I threw myself headfirst into it,” Heiter said. “That went really well and snowballed into some ongoing opportunities for international, national and collegiate meets since then.”
Today he takes various gigs, including commentary for gymnastics teams at Stanford and Cal. Now a product manager at Apple, he’s content keeping the gymnastics commentary as his “side hustle.”
“I connect really deeply with the sport on a passion level, but I’ve never considered doing a 180 and switching careers. For me it’s a way to stay connected to the sport and give back, but also growing and evolving along with it.”
For other LGBTQ athletes looking to get into sports commentary, Heiter says writing and connecting are the paths to opportunity.
“Work your connections,” he said. “In the sports world, when you start to get into the entertainment sector, it’s working your network and seeing who you know and asking people who got there how they got into it and how they honed their craft.”
He added that writing has been key to being able to formulate ideas on-the-spot and articulate them on a live broadcast. He’s written for publications about gymnastics, volleyball and cheerleading, as well as co-hosting a gymnastics podcast.
Like so many LGBTQ athletes a decade after graduation, Heiter looks back at the person he was graduating in Ann Arbor in 2010 and marvels at his journey. Today he is himself like never before.
“It’s crazy to think how much I’ve grown and evolved since then.”
If you’re an LGBTQ person in sports looking to connect with others in the community, head over to GO! Space to meet and interact with other LGBTQ athletes, or to Equality Coaching Alliance to find other coaches and administrators.