When you peruse Morgan Dalziel’s Instagram page, you notice right away that he stands out in a crowd, but it’s not just because he’s 6’4”.
“I’m not a small human,” the out gay high school girls’ volleyball coach told Outsports in a phone conversation last week.
Sure, he also stands out because his usually sandy brown hair is currently dyed platinum blonde. But what separates Dalziel from any other folks you might spend some time getting to know, is that he is chock-full of that northern Midwest charm, along with a strong sense of self-awareness, from where he’s been, to where he’s at.
Which is back living with his mom and dad, on account of the coronavirus.
“I just graduated from the University of Colorado last December,” Dalziel said. He was coaching high school girls volleyball when Covid-19 hit, and jobs vanished. “I couldn’t really justify paying as much as I was in rent and then student loans. So, then I ended up having to move home, and I’m back with my parents right now until I find a full time job.”
In the meantime, Dalziel, 25, has a part-time job coaching girls volleyball at a high school on the North Dakota / Minnesota border. Their indoor season is supposed to begin this week, and when we last spoke, Dalziel was confident his girls would be able to play.
“Originally, we were supposed to play a bunch of Minnesota teams for a make-up tournament, and then while we were planning that, we were having scrimmages with them,” he said, but then the other teams’ season got postponed until the Spring. “So, we’re probably just going to play some smaller schools in the general area.”
Dalziel grew up in Dilworth, Minn., a three-square mile city known as “D-Town,” a little more than half-an-hour’s drive from Fargo. He said he was a three sport athlete in high school, playing football but focusing on basketball, a pursuit that he followed in college, but not for long.
“My last coach in high school for basketball was just really weak,” Dalziel recalled. “He drained everything from me. I kind of wanted to just, like, stick it to him.”
He said two weeks into his first college, a Christian school, it dawned on him that he wasn’t where he wanted to be or doing what he wanted to do. “I just didn’t want to be at the school, because I picked it solely for basketball. Then the moment that I realized that I didn’t want to play basketball anymore; I was just over it. I was over the school. I was over the people. I was over basketball.”
Dalziel decided to transfer.
“That was kind of like the first steps of me starting to be happier with myself,” he said. Dalziel attended South Dakota State University, still closeted to everyone except his parents.
“I came out to my parents in high school because I kind of had to,” he said. “I got into a car accident and I was lying to my parents and they kind of prodded it out of me. But I didn’t really come out to everybody else until after I had left the first college I went to, because it was a super Christian school.” Dalziel said that is where, “I tried to force myself back into a box.”
He broke out of that box after two months in South Dakota, at first talking to his roommate, and then coming out to friends. Although he lost a handful, he said, “for the most part, it’s been taken well. Most people are, like, ‘Oh, okay.’” He said his “eyes widened” at South Dakota State.
“Going to a Christian school, willingly, and hating every second of it, to leave and realize that [coming out is] really not that big of a deal, that was really reassuring to me. I didn’t have to worry about what the people I was actually friends with had to say, or anything like that.”
Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton High School was not a place he ever considered coming out. “Where I grew up, it’s not like it’s the nicest area per se when it comes to stuff like that,” said Dalziel. “I know that I didn’t want to do it in high school because my graduating class was literally everybody I knew and everybody was always getting into everybody’s business, and I just didn’t want to add to that.”
Dalziel ultimately followed friends who attended the University of Colorado, and started playing volleyball. From there, he learned not only how to play the game, but how to coach. That decision, he said, was the best he could have ever made.
Coaching high school volleyball was the best decision I could have ever made #soft— morgan dalziel (@morgan_dalziel) October 13, 2017
He told Outsports throughout his athletic career, his coaches have made quite an impression on him.
“I’ve always been pushed by my coaches,” he said. “I’ve always had tough coaches and they were always, ‘Get to a point,’ everything like that, and that’s how I am. But I also wanted to make a positive impact, because I feel like, not all coaches have that. So I want to be that tough, ‘We’re going to do what we’re going to do’ coach. But also, I want to have the kids know that I am also their biggest fan. So that’s kind of what I wanted in high school, but I didn’t really get. So, when I thought about getting into coaching, that’s kind of how I wanted to be.”
Dalziel said so far, none of the players, their parents or fellow coaches have had an issue with him being gay, and he said he doesn’t plan to make it one.
“I just talked to the head coach of the high school that I’m coaching at now about it,” he said, and the coach and her husband “were super cool” about it.
“We talked about it for a little bit, and then we proceeded on with what we were doing. It’s just like one of those things that if it happens; if it gets brought up or if somebody asks about it, I’m more than willing to talk about it. But other than that, I’m just trying to keep it to myself, because I’m there to coach. I’m not there to spill my life stories to everybody.”
The message Dalziel ultimately wants his players to hear is about being a part of a team.
“You might be 5’2” and growing up and you might hit a growth spurt, which means your whole position is going to have to change,” he said. He encourages girls to be more willing to expand their skill-set, instead of feeling that the one position they’ve trained to play is all they know. “That’s going to really put a damper on yourself as a person, telling yourself you can’t do it. That’s the whole aspect of a team: you don’t want to be teammates with somebody who has that mentality, and you don’t want to be that team that also has that mentality.”
At the moment, Dalziel is single and not in a relationship, other than as a “Dog Dad” to Millie, who is a 5-year-old pit bull mix.
“I’ve had her since I was 20,” he said. When asked about an Instagram post in which he wrote, “you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” Dalziel said: “She helps me more than I feel like I’ve helped her.”
And if you want to see more photos of Millie, she has her very own Instagram account.