Dennis Del Valle, a professional volleyball player in Switzerland and member of the Puerto Rican national team, has come out publicly as gay in an interview with a Swiss website.

Del Valle, 31, who is from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and who played in college at Penn State, told the 24 Hours website that he decided to come out to show that gay athletes can play at elite levels.

“Now is the time to speak,” Del Valle said, according to a translation of the article. “There must be lots of young athletes who live in secret, in Switzerland and elsewhere. On my level, I have had a successful career being gay. I hope they will say to themselves: ‘Why not me?’ Maybe I could change someone’s life. My speech could allow some to gain confidence, to feel safer, not to stop [playing a] sport for fear of rejection.”

Del Valle’s LUC volleyball team is two-time Swiss champion and had its quest for a third consecutive title halted when the coronavirus shut down play. The website said Del Valle is the first member of a major Swiss men’s team in any sport to come out as gay. He said his one regret is not coming out to his LUC teammates, even though he had discussed it privately with one teammate.

“I especially didn’t want to break the chemistry of the team, that it could become weird in the locker room for some, that they imagine things, fixate on my homosexuality, no longer dare to go to shower in my presence, or whatever. When I get to the room, I’m there to work. It’s my priority. I’m not here to watch guys or flirt, ” he said of his reluctance.

Chris Voth, a pro volleyball player from Canada who came out as gay on Outsports in 2017, praised Del Valle speaking out.

“I’ve known Dennis for many years now and have really appreciated his friendship and support during my own coming out,” Voth told Outsports. “He’s an elite player and has already had an accomplished career professionally and with his national team.”

Dennis Del Vallle celebrates while playing for Puerto Rico in 2018.

Del Valle is a free agent and hopes his disclosure does not hamper his ability to sign with another team, an issue that Voth faced in his career. But Del Valle said he is in a secure place with himself and is glad to be speaking out.

“What an unusual Sunday for me,” Del Valle wrote on Facebook after the story appeared. “While I thought I was doing something nice and special for myself, I didn’t realize how much more I was doing for others like me.

“I wanted to use this platform not to tell the world my story or who I am. But to try to inspire other people, kids, especially athletes that don’t have anyone to look up to.”

You can follow Dennis Del Valle on Instagram.