Laura Hurff didn’t think she was gay when her sister sat her down several years ago and asked her. Then a teenager, Hurff was already a star field hockey player and her sister thought that dedication to her sport could mean she’s gay.

As Hurff discovered who she truly was, that conversation and those stereotypes about girls in sports created internal pressure within herself to stay in the closet.

Now fully out and living life loud and proud, Hurff talks with me for the latest episode of Five Rings To Rule Them All about the pressures stereotypes put on female athletes, what drives her passion for field hockey, and how she’s letting her true self shine in everything she does.

“I am done worrying about what others think,” she says. “I’m just trying to be me, and I don’t care anymore to act a certain way around people. I act how I want to act. If someone doesn’t like me for me, then that’s their choice but I’m not going to change for anybody else because I’m proud of who I am.”

Hurff has already had a wildly successful field hockey career, winning a national title with Syracuse before becoming an assistant coach at nearby Cornell. She’s since left coaching to focus on playing for the national team. While she and her USA teammates won’t be competing in Tokyo next summer, they are nonetheless focused on competing in the international Pro League (once they are able to play again) and aiming for that title of “Olympian” in 2024.

Those teammates have told Hurff that they’ve noticed a difference in her personality since coming out, now seemingly even freer and more open than before.

She hopes her story can inspire others in sports to be their true selves, and she wants to be there for anyone who needs support as they navigate their own coming-out journey.

“Your family is who you want it to be, it’s who you choose it to be. It doesn’t have to be blood. And I would love to be a family member to whoever needs it.”

You can listen to the conversation with Martha McCabe on the Megaphone player, or by visiting Apple podcasts for an easy browser player. Five Rings To Rule Them All is also available on Google Podcasts, Spotify and many more platforms. Just search for Outsports wherever you get your podcast.

If you’re an LGBTQ person in high school or college 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, administrators and athletes in pro and Olympic sports.

And be sure to follow Five Rings To Rule Them All on Twitter.

You can follow Laura Hurff on Instagram @laura_hurff.