TAG | The Winner’s Manual
Outlook Columbus interviewed Ohio State Football Head Coach Jim Tressel, and in doing so, became the first GLBT publication to interview a Division I NCAA football coach one-on-one. (At least, so is stated in the reprinting of the interview in OutSports, and I have never seen a similar interview that would invalidate the claim.)
Michael Daniels, who performed the interview, asked Tressel some excellent questions and received equally poignant responses. I’ve extracted my favorites.
Daniels asked how the principles of faith and belief in one’s self that Tressel writes about in his book, “The Winner’s Manual,” can apply to understanding people of other races, genders or sexual orientations.
Tressel’s response: “We try to tell our guys that an authentic you is the best you.”
Daniels asked Tressel why he felt it is more common for athletes to come out after they retire rather than during their careers.
Tressel spoke about how as an elite athlete, your identity since you were young is that of an athlete. “You’re the tallest, you’re the fastest, you’re the best player. All their feedback has come in terms of their role as a player, and they are often hesitant to go beyond that narrow role.” Then, referring to his role in the process as a collegiate coach, he adds: “An opportunity, and a real challenge, we have when they come to college is to get them to see themselves with a broader lens.
“The greatest achievement we can have as coaches is that a young man leaves us with a concept of who he is, what he wants from life, and what he can share with others – someone who is ‘comfortable in his own skin,’ and that identity can go in a number of directions.”
Daniels then asked him a big question: how would the team, fans, and university accept a gay player at OSU?
Tressel, continuing with a string of wonderful responses: “We strive to teach and model appreciation for everyone,
“One, we are a family. If you haven’t learned from your family at home that people have differences and those strengthen the whole, then you are hopefully going to learn it as part of the Ohio State football family.
“Two, every part of our team is important and every role has value – no job is too small and no person is irrelevant – that’s a great lesson that transcends into society. […]
“Whatever a young man feels called to express, I hope we will help him do it in a supportive environment. Everybody is important, and maturity is learning to find and appreciate those differences in others.”
As a gay student at Ohio State, I was extremely proud to see this article posted today. I frequently write about how organizations, coaches, etc. can have a profound influence in battling homophobia—even the ability save lives—if they are explicit with their support. I am thankful for Tressel’s willingness to do the interview and the perspectives he shared.