Finding Acceptance, Game Time, And Success In College Sports While Being Out

Have you held back from participating in a sport because you are LGBT?  Deciding to join a team, isn't based solely on if you are good enough to play the sport, unfortunately.  Many factors enter into the equation, one being if the "I" can fit in to "TEAM."

Eric Hall, writer for the Roanoke Times, shares with us a story some of us may know too well.  Hall's telling of Chance Wheeler's sports career and lack there of in high school resonates closely to many of our own experiences.

Without high school experience, Giles alumnus Chance Wheeler finding college volleyball success

For a year, Chance Wheeler made it his objective to be a member of the Giles High School boys basketball team.

Track was Wheeler’s only high school sport during his freshman year, but as basketball season progressed that year, he decided to be at junior varsity tryouts the following fall. He played basketball before high school and wanted to again.

The day of sophomore tryouts arrived. He underwent the necessary physical and packed clothes for basketball that day. But as the day progressed, he questioned his decision.

“I backed out of it,” Wheeler said. “I ended up not going to tryouts. … I didn’t feel like I was going to be fully accepted on the team as a player just because I was gay.”

Wheeler, who came out as LGBT on social media as a high school freshman, said he was called gay slurs and harassed on social media by male athletes at his school. As a result, the 2016 Giles graduate said he never competed in a sport for the Spartans after his freshman year. - Roanoke.com

Hall digs into Wheeler's past and finds that his love for volleyball ran deep and strong, but was not able to be explored at his high school.  Volleyball was more a women's team sport at his school and so he resorted to playing in a local rec league.  Some of the girls did tried to convince Wheeler to try out for the high school's girls team, but he didn't go that route, thinking it would create too much conflict.

Now, he is a freshman on the Wilson College men’s volleyball team in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and he has become a regular contributor, playing in 19 of 21 matches so far.

“What he’s accomplished without getting to play club ball, without getting to play high school ball, he made a college team,” said Mellissa Fisher, a Pearisburg volleyball league referee Wheeler credits with helping him learn to play volleyball. “That’s major for this area.” - Roanoke.com

But how did the 5-foot-8, 135-pound Wheeler go from watching the girls pass the volley ball around to playing volleyball in an accepting collegiate environment?  That may be all understood when Wheeler describes his tattoo.

Six small squares aligned in a row, each square a different color — red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple — from the LGBT pride flag.

“It was a reminder to myself — don’t live with the crowd, don’t follow the leader, just be your own person, do your own thing,” said Wheeler, who turns 19 in April. “As long as you’re proud of yourself, that’s all that matters.” - Roanoke.com

There's a lot more to read about Chance Wheeler.  Head over to Eric Hall's full story at Roanoke.com.  Thank you Eric for helping Chance tell his story.

Fear of acceptance kept Wheeler from participating in high school sports. Was that you?  Can you relate?

Have you found acceptance in sports post high school?  Has your college team embraced you?

Or did you wait even longer to get involved in sports because of your sexuality?

h/t: Roanoke.com