Our journey through the 2020-21 NCAA Division 1 women’s volleyball season ended this month and I sit here so grateful that our program had the opportunity to compete in 40 matches during this Covid-19 season. My team battled through adversity to finish with 31 wins, which included a Sun Belt Conference Tournament Championship title that earned us a berth into the NCAA tournament in Omaha.
No other program in the nation won more than 30 matches this season and I am incredibly proud of our kids for being so resilient and optimistic through the ups and downs of a long and exhausting season.
On April 14, we made it past the first round of the NCAA tournament with a win over Utah Valley, allowing us to be one of 32 teams left in the big dance. However, our tournament run would end a day later as we faced a tough Nebraska team in the second round. This was only the second time in program history that Texas State has made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament, a moment I was so privileged to be a part of.
This is a special moment for me personally as I am fortunate enough to be associate head coach at an elite level program as an openly gay man, being true to who I am and allowing my entire self to be invested into the Texas State program.
The struggle of combining personal and work life was something I struggled with when I started my career.
You go to college and learn about professionalism and how the blend of personal and work life can be a recipe for disaster. I was raised in a blue-collar family where I learned that you pride yourself on a work ethic and making the most of what you had. I also learned that you do not do anything to disrupt your workplace and your opportunity to be there. Basically, when you are at work, you keep it about work and your personal life gets left outside the doors of your workspace.
When I first got into coaching at the collegiate level I did not talk about my sexuality with my co-workers. I went through the first three years of my career not being open about that part of my life.
As many people in the LGBTQ+ community know, when you have not shared something that is a big piece of who you are, there is this void. I did not enjoy hiding that part of my identity because I felt like I was not being fully vulnerable and open to a genuine connection with the people around me. I pride myself on being consistent and I felt the most inconsistent during those times, not outwardly but there was this inner battle of feeling like I was leading two different journeys.
I just so badly wanted both paths to cross and move forward together. I love connecting with others and not just on the surface. I am a bit of a deep thinker and like to both grow and challenge those around me, something that I have learned can be very difficult without genuine connection and understanding.
When I accepted a position at the University of Delaware as an assistant coach, I was tired of showing up to work six days a week and not being comfortable and decided to be out to my co-workers and student athletes. I still remember the first time I told Sara and Kim that I was gay, we were sitting at dinner at a TGI Fridays, and Kim was talking about this cute girl that I should talk to. They both knew I was gay though I never openly communicated it with them. When I told them, Kim apologized and Sara told me that it was awesome and that she appreciated me sharing it with her.
My vulnerability in that one moment to share with them a big part of who I am changed my life. I finished out three years at Delaware with some great experiences. I was a member of the athletic department’s diversity and inclusion committee, I was highlighted in a coming out feature that the athletic department put together for Pride month and even had two students come out to me during my time there.
The impact of coming out in college athletics has made my job and career so much more enjoyable. I am now at Texas State working with incredible people and making connections within the athletic department, the university and within the community. In the world of college athletics, it is easy to let the fear of being gay prevent people from making the true impact they are capable of. Trust me, I know, I have lived it.
Being able to share all of who I am with other people helps me sit in a more comfortable spot in life. I think the strength and vulnerability it takes to share such a personal part of yourself is what it is going to take help us all connect and build a better tomorrow for those to come.
Keith Anderson, 31, was raised in Winthrop Harbor, Illinois, graduated from Texas A&M University and is associate head volleyball coach at Texas State University. He has eight years coaching volleyball at the NCAA Division 1 level, with stops at Rice University, University of Texas-Arlington and the University of Delaware. He can be reached at KeithAnderson@txstate.edu, or on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.
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