Lacrosse is a very rough sport. Oneonta College’s men’s lacrosse team is one of the toughest teams who play it. The men have a reputation for being tough and menacing; the head coach, Dan Mahar, admits his players are seen as being “rough around the edges.”
Surprisingly though, these men are incredibly accepting and tolerant.
Huh? Doesn’t really fit the bill, right? Let me explain.
Andrew McIntosh is one of the team’s captains. This season, McIntosh, wrote an online essay for OutSports.com, announcing he was gay. You would think that a team of rugged lacrosse players would not be comfortable with this; however, they have been surprisingly supportive.
“I was embraced with open arms,” McIntosh said. “I had teammates come up and give me handshakes, and people saying it takes a lot of guts to do that.”
College sports do not seem like a hospitable place for gay men. However, there have been more and more examples within the past few years of college athletes announcing that they were gay, and the teams they played for were okay with it.
“For some reason, people continue to think that gay people in sports will have a rough time, but we haven’t seen in 10 years anyone kicked off their team,” said Cyd Zeigler, the co-founder of Outsports.com.
Still, the stereotypes intimidate many athletes from coming out to their team members or coaches. McIntosh had a hard time accepting his own sexual identity. He had been involved with sports since he was in kindergarten and saw sports as a safe place from his “confusing feelings about his sexuality.”
“I took sports so seriously because I didn’t have a personal life,” he said. “That was my partner. I didn’t have anything to fall back on.”
This also created much inner-turmoil for McIntosh: “I just thought, you cannot be a gay athlete,” he said. “Gay and athlete don’t go together.”
Fortunately, since McIntosh has embraced his sexual identity, he has not been ridiculed by his teammates, Mahar, or anyone close to him. In fact, he has been supported.
“I know that that was a very difficult and anxious conversation for him,” Mahar said. “I wanted Andrew to leave the office knowing he was supported, and this did not change anything as far as I was concerned.”
Joe Schofield is a sophomore on McIntosh’s team. “It’s not every day that your lacrosse captain comes out to you,” he said. “I was a little surprised, but it was kind of like, ‘Oh, that makes sense.’ ”
Now, the team members are back to “business as usual. We talk about life and how is your day going,” McIntosh said.
In fact, they even joke about it in a lighthearted way. During a team trip to North Carolina, Andy Morris, another sophomore on the team, explained that “some of us said, ‘I hope a girls’ soccer team shows up at the hotel.’ Mac goes, ‘I hope a guys’ soccer team shows up’.”Via The New York Times