Earlier this year, NBA star Jason Collins publicly revealed he was gay, a brave move that has led the way for more athletes to come out of the closet.
Hillsdale College basketball player Derek Schell, 22, wrote a blog in early October, discussing his struggle and eventual acceptance of being gay. He's the first openly gay NCAA Division II basketball player, though we're sure his courage will inspire others to follow suit.
Derek tells us that he was "basically raised in a gym," as he grew up playing the game with his whole family. Both of his parents played and coached college basketball, other family members played competitively, and his older sister was recruited for a college basketball team. "It was an inherent thing that brought us together as a family," he says.
He knew early on he wanted to follow in his family's footsteps and pursue a career in the sport. "I made it a goal when I was really young to make it happen," he tells us.
Though Derek found his passion early, he wasn't completely content. "I grew up in an area where nobody was different, everyone was cookie-cutter families, very traditional," he said. "I started to realize that the difference I saw in myself was my sexuality."
He tried to ignore his true feelings, and dated several girls. "There were stigmas about being gay and misconceptions about masculinity that I refused to confront," he writes in his blog.
It took him until he was a sophomore in college that he could come to terms with the fact that he was gay.
He came out to his sister first, and she was extremely supportive. It was telling his parents that really scared him. "It's always that fear of losing that relationship and we were always so close," he says. "I didn't want to be the one to ruin that."
His parents gradually became more accepting of Derek's sexuality, which motivated him to tell his friends and his teammates.
"A lot of them had great reactions, they respected me, they said 'We love you, we've always loved you as a teammate, you're a great friend.'"
He continues, "Since then it's been ten times better, internally for my health, and my environment around me."
He knows that coming out while being involved in a sport can be intimidating, but he hopes his story inspires people. "[I want] to break down those stereotypes and let other kids in my situation know that it would be okay to tell their teammates and friends too, because it would make everything that much better."
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