It’s still somewhat rare to be out in the world of sports. It’s not unheard of — there’s lots of great role models like Chris Mosier, David Denson or Michael Sam, of course, but as great as they are, we need to see more out athletes. That’s why we love this video from OutSports, featuring Jessica Smith, the assistant soccer coach from Kansas State University. In the video she talks about being closeted as a teen and thoughts of suicide — and how much better her life was when she came out, and how she was able to help LGBTQ teammates and players as they’re coming out.
While the entire video is worth watching, the story starting at 4:34 is particularly amazing. She talks about how as a teen she submerged her queer identity, letting her sports successes define her. Then, when she got her first coaching job, everyone did a team building exercise of revealing something about themselves. Jessica Smith’s fact was that she was gay — and later, a gay player came to her, letting her know she was struggling with her identity too. Smith says:
I realized very quickly[…] that coaching is about making connections, and you can’t make connections unless you’re honest, and it was the best thing I ever did… and I didn’t realize the magnitude of what I did[…] This particular girl, she was having a really hard time[…] so I texted her, and I asked her how she’s doing, and she wasn’t in a good place. So I asked her if she wanted to meet for coffee, and we did[…] and something felt off, but we had a great conversation, and we were there for about an hour[…] I start to say goodbye, and she says “Jess, I’m so glad you called me tonight[…] because right before we met, I had taken a belt and I’d put it around the doorknob on my door room, and I knew just how far I had to kneel to wrap the belt around me and just drift away.”
If you’re struggling with thoughts of suicide, please reach out to somebody. If you don’t have someone like Jessica Smith in your life, you can always call the Trevor Project at 866-488-7386.