A man who coaches high school baseball and volleyball in Dell Rapids and is a former college athlete has very publicly come out as gay. In an article published on Tuesday on Outsports.com, Nate Alfson, 25, writes about struggling with his sexuality as an athlete and finding acceptance in a rural area.
As a college baseball player at Augustana College, Alfson was more than comfortable behind home plate. He found a lot of success as a catcher.
"I had a record for most on-base -- most on-base or something like that. I threw out over 50-percent of runners who tried stealing," Alfson said.
Though he said he was okay at hitting, he will also tell you he was an expert at hiding.
"It's hard to go day by day, feeling like you're sick all the time," Alfson said.
During his freshman year in high school, the Pipestone native realized he was gay. Alfson, who said he is a Christian, spent years praying that God would change him. In college, he feared his teammates and coaches would find out and shun him. He outlines all of this in his article.
"When you aren't openly gay and you are an athlete or a coach, any subtle tell turns into an insecurity. It is gut-wrenching when a teammate, friend or colleague teases you or bluntly asks 'Dude, are you gay?' or -- my personal favorite -- 'Dude, I heard some guys talking and they think you might be gay.' Because I was a college athlete and now am a high school varsity coach for two different sports, I always had the misconception that I had to be super manly, which meant no musicals, no expressing my feelings or not showing I care by doing nice things for someone else," Alfson wrote.
He came out to friends and family years ago.
"I just said, 'I'm done. I can't do it anymore,'" Alfson said.
Recently, he told a few athletes he coaches and their parents. Their support encouraged him to tell the rest of the community through this article. In addition to coaching club baseball for high school boys, Alfson coaches girls' volleyball for St. Mary Catholic Schools. He said he was not able to talk with his employers about the article before it went online, but said he is confident everything will work out for the best. KELOLAND News called school officials for a comment. We left a voice message, but did not get a response at the time this story was aired.
Alfson said many of his former teammates and coaches have sent him messages of support in response to his article. The texts, Facebook messages and emails from the players he coaches are overwhelmingly positive.
"One of them actually called and it was really sweet of him. Just explaining how courageous it was and how awesome it must feel to be able to be free," Alfson said.
Despite coming out in a mostly conservative state, Alfson said he is not seeking attention as a gay rights activist. He just hopes his message shows others that instead of hiding, they can be comfortable with who they are anywhere -- including here at home.
"I'd probably just give 'em a big ole hug and say, 'Of course it's okay. You know, you are who you are and it's a beautiful thing.' It's not different than anyone else. To feel like you can be yourself is the most rewarding, happy feeling you can ever get," Alfson said.