Red Stilletto on a BasketballAs an athlete, I’ve been a part of many teams throughout my life.

But there was a time when I was not out to my teammates. This was in high school, back when the LGBT community wasn’t as visible as it is now.

Still, because I spent so much time with teammates during practice, games and throughout the school year, I often found myself on the verge of coming out with at least one of them. The thing that always held me back was fear.

I wasn’t only afraid of their reaction, I was also afraid of what would happen if the rest of the team found out. A sports team is like a family, and if your “family” doesn’t accept you the consequences can be severe.

I didn’t want to risk not being able to be a part of the team and play the sport that I loved so much. That is where the struggle for gay athletes often comes in.

If you love playing a sport and being part of a team, the last thing you want to do is ruin it. Unfortunately, that is the perception that many gay athletes have. I know because it is the exact perception that I had.

But perceptions change.

Today, more and more gay athletes are finding out that there is another side to the coin. They are finding the courage to open up to their teammates, no matter what the consequences, only to melt into a huge heap of relief when their teammates embrace them.

The sports world has been slow to catch up with the rest of the world, but the important thing is that they it is catching up. And the pace seems to be quickening.

I think that most athletes agree that the success of any sports team rests in the hands of its players and coaches. This does not only include talent, hard work and dedication, but also trust and support between your teammates.

If you don’t trust or support your teammates and coaches off the field, you certainly won’t trust or support them on the field. More and more athletes, gay and straight, are coming to the realization that in order to be successful, you need to be one cohesive unit.

And that can’t happen if you don’t accept a teammate based on race, gender or sexuality. The beauty of a “team” is that it is often comprised of separate individuals from a variety of different backgrounds.

Somehow, these individuals manage to come together on the field to form a single entity that is greater than all of its separate parts.

And when you consider this, you realize that it’s a powerful message for society as a whole.  In other words, embrace the differences and watch what happens.