Outsports has a new feature, Out in the World: diving into our deep archive of Coming Out stories and updating the stories of out athletes, coaches and other sports personnel who continue to prove, everyday, that Courage Is Contagious.

College basketball coach Matt Lynch became an overnight gay celebrity after coming out last April. An assistant coach for the UNC Wilmington men’s team, Lynch’s poignant coming-out essay went viral, and even landed him a spot on the “Tamron Hall Show.” To close out the year, he was featured on Forbes “30 Under 30.”

No wonder why he feels elated.

“I remember when I was in the closet, I would hear people who had come out, and they would always be like, ‘I wish I would’ve done it earlier,’” Lynch said. “I was sure I wasn’t going to feel that way. I was completely wrong.”

On this week’s edition of “The Sports Kiki,” I spoke with Lynch about his post-coming out journey. His announcement certainly came during a weird time in our history: the start of the coronavirus pandemic. He told his players over the phone, and then was let go — along with the entire coaching staff.

Lynch says he went on to enjoy the “best unemployed six months anybody could ever have.” After years of coaching non-stop, he was finally able to pause and work on himself. He’s pleased with the results.

“All of my friends and my family will say there’s this newfound confidence,” Lynch told me. “I have just this light about me when I walk into a room. I lift the mood of the entire room. That was a direct quote of what my sister told me just a couple of weeks ago. From a personal standpoint, I just feel happy.”

There are some oddities to coming out in the middle of a pandemic. Dating is more difficult; nightlife is on pause. But that hasn’t stopped Lynch from starting his personal evolution — physically and mentally.

When the world reopens, he will be ready.

“I always hated having my picture taken, because I never felt good about the way I looked,” he said. “I really never knew why. Now, I’m working out and seeing my abs form and my arms popping. I’m feeling good about it.”

When Lynch told his players last year, they were supportive, but curious. They peppered him with questions about how he was able to talk about girls with them before, and how somebody suddenly “becomes gay.”

‘You don’t seem that way.’ I’m like, ‘well, that’s what I’m trying to fix,’” Lynch said. “A gay person doesn’t seem whatever way. It’s a part of a human being.”

Lynch is back coaching this season, landing an assistant role with the UNC Wilmington women’s team. He says he’s more motivated than ever to succeed. He knows people are watching.

“Now that I’m visible, I want to help create the opportunity for people to fall behind me and understand there’s nothing wrong with being gay and coaching basketball,” Lynch said. “Who you put your head down next to at night doesn’t determine your ability to coach or lead a group of young people. I still have that drive. I feel as if I almost have to turn it up a notch.”

Since coming out, Lynch has connected with multiple gay coaches in the basketball world. It’s reinforced the notion that he’s not alone.

Finally, he can exhale.

“There’s a lot more joy,” Lynch said. “Whether we’re driving on the bus for six hours or practicing, I’m finding the better parts of positivity and the good parts of life to be point out. I enjoy every single minute more.”

Click here to check out this episode of our Outsports podcast, The Sports Kiki. You can also subscribe to the show on Apple’s Podcast page as well as on Google Podcasts, and wherever you’ll find Outsports podcasts.

Outsports welcomes suggestions for our Out In the World series. Who would you like to hear from again? Also, please reach out if you yourself would like to update us on what you’ve been doing since coming out in Outsports.

Check out our archive of coming out stories.

If you are an out LGBTQ person in sports and want to tell your story, email Jim ([email protected])

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, administrators and other non-athletes in sports.