Xander Pink plays volleyball for Ball State. | Claire E. Witte

When Ball State University men’s volleyball player Xander Pink serves an ace, he can get sassy and throw some attitude. Being an out gay athlete gives him the freedom to not care.

“It’s funny and entertaining. And sometimes some people might think it’s a little much,” Pink said. “I get excited. In that moment, you don’t care.”

Pink is one of three out LGBTQ athletes at Ball State profiled by the Ball State Daily in an informative story by Caleb Zuver and Elijah Poe about out athletes on campus. The consensus was a feeling of support and acceptance on campus, where athletes are allowed to be themselves.

“We know what is going on with everyone, and nobody is going to judge you on whoever you like, love or want to be with,” women’s basketball player Estel Puiggros told the reporters about her team. “It is nice to be surrounded by people who are encouraging and being like, ‘We support you,’ or ‘We are proud of you and here for you.’”

Her attitude was seconded by out freshman volleyball player Cameron Gray.

“Men’s volleyball is a sport that does have a good amount of LGBTQ+ people, so over the years it has gotten very normalized,” Gray said. “Now that more people are starting to come out, it is just the culture of the sport — caring, open, accepting and supportive.”

Puiggros, who is from Spain, says the attitude in Muncie, Indiana, where Ball State is located can be different, with people staring at her if she is walking with her partner. “There are always those moments that it is like, ‘I hope they are not staring at me because of this.’ But they probably are,” Puiggros said.

Pink is originally from Hawaii and has never hid being gay from the moment he stepped on campus, winning him fans. His fun attitude was reflected in the two photos he shared with Outsports.

“Everybody kind of has that knowledge of me, I really don’t have anything to hide from anybody, and I’m not afraid of their reaction,” Pink said. “If there’s somebody looking at me, I’ll be like, ‘Let’s put on a show. If they want to look, let’s give them something to watch. If you’re going to stare at me, I might as well make it entertaining.”

Ball State volleyball player Xander Pink.
Ball State volleyball player Xander Pink. | Claire E. Witte

An atmosphere of inclusion is important to Ball State athletics, athletic director Jeff Mitchell said, even though the school does not have any programs specific to LGBTQ athletes, coaches or staff.

“I believe teams who embrace diversity of any kind have a better perspective on how to achieve success … I believe this contributes to our 19 sport programs being able to grow their respective teams and attract rosters of diverse and talented individuals,” Mitchell said.

Stories like these are important for campus news organizations to run since their reporters are closer to the athletes than any outside reporters. It puts a human face on an issue, LGBTQ inclusion, that has become too politicized. These athletes are thriving by being themselves and helping their teams win, which is a great advertisement for the power of inclusion and authenticity.