Another indoor track season builds toward a championship peak through February and like many coaches nationwide, Springfield College graduate assistant Amanda Kulas is in the middle of it. In her second year at the western Massachusetts NCAA Division III school, she coaches jumpers and sprinters.
Just a few years ago, she was one of those student-athletes pushing toward the goal as pole vaulter at Central Connecticut State, where she holds the CCSU school record in the event.
In high school, she was an accomplished athlete in her hometown, Windsor Locks, Conn., earning conference and state accolades at Windsor Locks High.
She also carried a burden then as a closeted lesbian. For years as a high school student that burden led to a frustration that had her punching holes in walls as a teen.
Last week, in a story in The Springfield Student, Kulas talked about how she carried her burden, how she laid it down by coming out, and how sport aided that process.
“I struggled in school, but I knew that at least on the court my dad could be like, ‘number two, that’s my kid,’ he could say that to people and be really proud about it, she said.”
According to the article, a run-in with the mother of a then-girlfriend led to Kulas coming out to family, including parents she thought would reject her. Instead, they surprised her. “I didn’t have a negative experience at all, my family was very much okay with it and I’m lucky in that aspect,” she said. “I know so many kids that can’t come out or they feel so petrified to come out because their family isn’t supportive. It was great to be able to come out and live freely as who I was.”
Today, Kulas is using coaching not just to teach a sport, but also to set an example, especially to other lgbtq athletes. Springfield College sprint specialist Damien Mackay-Morgan told the Springfield Student that having Kulas as coach made sport a safe place for him as a openly gay student-athlete.
“Having someone like her who understands the hardships associated with growing up homosexual, and understands what it means to live life out of the closet and the target that puts on your head for others who do not support, is the last puzzle piece I needed to call this team and this place my family and my home,” he said.
The graduate assistant is also building a family off the track. Kulas got engaged last year, a far cry from someone who once felt so isolated and depressed in high school years ago. “She’s becoming a voice for the voiceless and I can remember a long time ago when she felt she didn’t have a voice of her own,” Andrew Weller, a close friend Kulas’ told The Springfield Student. “Of course I’m proud. I’m proud of her growth in every dimension of her being.”
The coach probably would deflect being a “voice for the voiceless”, but she doesn’t deny how much better life is now. “I went through a phase in my life where I was mad at myself and struggling,” she said. “but I’m at peace with who I am.”