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He came out as gay on his college volleyball team. He’s now its head coach.

Nathan Matthews heads back to Wittenberg University, where he thrived as an openly gay volleyball player.

Nathan Matthews with a trophy
Nathan Matthews was an assistant for the University of Kentucky women’s team that won this year’s NCAA title.

Nathan Matthews is having himself a homecoming, being named this week as head men’s volleyball coach at Wittenberg University in Ohio, five years after he began his college career on the team as a player who was openly gay.

“Becoming a collegiate head coach during Pride month is definitely a very special moment for me,” Matthews, 24, told Outsports. “Before I came out, I worried that I couldn’t reach this milestone as an openly gay coach. Now, I’m excited to lead a program where everyone can be entirely true to themselves.”

The promotion for Matthews caps a fantastic spring that saw him as a graduate assistant coach on the University of Kentucky’s women’s volleyball team that won its first NCAA title. Despite his young age, it’s Matthews’ second head coaching job, as he coached high school volleyball while still in college and was named his county’s coach of the year.

Matthews thrived at Wittenberg, a Division III school, and in his 2016 coming out story, he told of the acceptance he found on the team.

“Repercussions with volleyball has never been a concern of mine,” he wrote. “I have had out teammates in the past and have never seen a negative reaction. In addition, all of the coaches I’ve had while playing volleyball have been completely dedicated to inclusion both in their language and actions. My teammates, coaches, and the athletic department here at Wittenberg are no exception. ...

“At the end of the day, I am sharing my story to reach those who need to know they aren’t alone. I am sharing my story so that perhaps I can be the role model I so desperately needed.”

Openly gay men coaching men’s teams is still somewhat novel, which is why it’s exciting to see Matthews get the job at a place where he was allowed to be himself, and where he helped lead the team as a player in 2019 to its first conference title. I love that he has a rainbow flag emoji and the hashtag #BeTrue on his Twitter and Instagram accounts. As he advances in his coaching career, he can continue to be a role model for LBGTQ people in sports.

Matthews can be reached on Instagram and Twitter.