by Rachel McCloskey
Smith came to Juniata from Fuquay-Varina, N.C., to play volleyball, and it is safe to say that he has not looked back since. Smith is a coach’s baby, which, of course, put a volleyball in his hand by the age of three or four. He also explained that volleyball is not a popular sport in North Carolina. But he defied the odds as former Head Men’s Volleyball Coach Kevin Moore scouted him in his junior year of high school at a USA camp to play college volleyball. Smith is the starting libero for the men’s volleyball team.
Once he got to Juniata, Smith says that he started to pick up on a hyper-masculine stereotype that some expected of male volleyball players. He started to realize that some people’s perceptions of him were wrong. Some envisioned him one way, but he made it clear that he was feeling a complete opposite way.
When I asked Smith, “What do you consider interesting about yourself?” the first thing out of his mouth was, “I am a gay, out athlete.” And I applauded him for being so proud and honest with me. I imagine that it could be a tough thing to do, as Smith and I had just met. It was refreshing to see his confidence and bravery shine though, considering how the media can sometimes portray out athletes. For example, Michael Sam, former defensive end for the St. Louis Rams, came out in 2014 and got some major flak from the American media, who called him things like an “American prima donna.”
With that being said, my next question for Smith was, “What were some of the thoughts and fears you had before telling your best friends/teammates?” and he responded with, “There were none.” He told the team in March of 2014, right before the conference tournament. Smith painted a picture in my head that I do not think I will ever be able to forget. “Once I said everything I had to say, the team rose to their feet and applauded me,” Smith said. How could anyone forget a moment like that?
Shannon Kriz, a sophomore soccer player, is also an out athlete at Juniata. When I spoke to Kriz about the subject, she was also very open and honest with me. “I do agree that Juniata is an open and accepting place, along with the atmosphere that my team provides, but I do not think that Huntingdon is an open and accepting place,” Kriz said. “When I am on campus, I feel as if I am in a bubble, but the minute I step off campus, it is like a whole other world.”
Along with support and friendship, Smith talked a lot about respect. He explained to me that every single player on the volleyball team respects him undoubtedly. “When thinking about when I would tell the team, I just knew I had the right group of people surrounding me. I knew they would understand, and I found comfort in that,” Smith said.
In addition to volleyball, Smith enjoys getting in his car and simply driving to a destination he has never visited before, participating and supporting other sports and sporting events and music. “I started played the cello in sixth grade and continued through eleventh grade,” Smith said. Along with his interests outside of dominating on the court, his POE is management.
As this is my first “Humans of Juniata” column, I have an idea that I hope everyone enjoys. I am going to end each column with a quote from either the Juniata student or faculty member who is being featured each issue- but not just any ordinary quote. This quote will be something that they wish to be showcased.
“I have only one more thing to say,” Smith said. “If you are thinking about coming out, please, come talk to me! You would be surprised—not as many people are against it as you think.”
Categories: Volume 97 Issue 6 Campus Spin