Tennis Provides Outlet, Friendships for Strough
Scott Strough lived the majority of his adolescence afraid.
While regret is a strong word, Strough wishes he could have taken away the power that fear had over him earlier in life. Tennis - and a group of friends as a college tennis player at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo. - helped him shed that fear and live as his true self.
That was in the mid-2010s. Fast forward to today and the Kansas City resident is unabashedly who he is meant to be.
The road to get there was not easy.
Strough grew up in Fulton, Mo. and looking back at his childhood, now believes he knew he was gay by about the fifth grade. Despite that deep-seated knowledge, Strough waited to come out until he was at Westminster. He came out to his college best friend and tennis teammate first. Even though he was still in the hometown that gave him pause in coming out, he said the college atmosphere gave him the courage to live his best life.
“I didn't come out until I was in college. The fact that I was in a separate world being on campus and being involved with my own friends helped me become more comfortable coming out. I was also studying sociology in college. Equality issues became my focus within the greater field of sociology. Being exposed to theoretical conversations - about gender equality and sexual equality - gave me the courage I needed.”
Then there was the exhaustion. Tired of hiding. Tired of the fear. In high school, so much of his identity was tied to societal ideas of what it is to be male. He was heavily involved in sports. He enjoyed the outdoors. He now understands that gender - and the idea of masculinity and such labels - is in the eye of the beholder.
Strough said the weariness eventually became worse than the potential consequences of coming out. When he finally did, most of those important to him were supportive, including his family.
“I was simply tired of hiding,” Strough said. “I knew I was gay in retrospect probably in fifth grade, but I didn’t understand what I was feeling and what that meant. I thought it meant that society is going to label me as gay and that was all. In high school I was in a weird position where I was a jock but I was also one of the “rednecks.”
I liked hunting and fishing and being in the woods. I was so worried about saying the wrong thing or making someone question if I was straight or gay. By the time I was in college I was tired. None of my actions have changed - it’s about the freedom.”
Tennis was something Strough was sure of from almost the beginning. He got his start his freshman year of high school and immediately fell in love. Before tennis, his main focus was soccer, but that changed in his sophomore year. He knew tennis would play a huge role in his future. He kept on improving and after high school graduation, found himself playing for Westminster.
Tennis is a sport that prepares you for life. For Strough, it taught him a myriad of life lessons. To him, tennis was much different than most team sports. With the exception of doubles play, it’s just you on the court, having to problem-solve for yourself when things get tough.
“I was fortunate enough that my high school coach made an impact on my play, but he was not just coaching us on swinging a racquet. Tennis and the challenges it provides are a metaphor for challenges in life. It helped me as I was growing up in how I solve problems, as well as helped me figure out how to approach a problem.”
As he advanced in the game and his career at Westminster, he knew he wanted to have the same impact on others as his coaches had on him. After college, Strough put out feelers at many clubs about teaching tennis. Initially, he didn’t get any bites.
Then something happened. Of all the people to approach him, it was legendary coach Mike Wolf of Elite Tennis and Wellness who answered the call - the same Mike Wolf who coached Kansas City’s own Jack Sock. The two spoke briefly and Strough got his start in teaching tennis soon after.
Coaching has been an adventure for Strough. There was even a time he found himself teaching as Sock was practicing one court away from him. He has since moved on from coaching full-time, but still enjoys the work part-time. Strough also thoroughly enjoys playing and gets to the courts as often as he is able.
Pride Month gives one an opportunity to reflect. Strough did so early this month as a friend posed a question online: What advice would you give to somebody who feels basically too afraid to come out?
His suggestion? Don’t let the fear of coming out rule your life.
“The fear of coming out is never going to go away. That fear is always going to be there until you move past it,” Strough said. “When you take the leap to come out you will find people to support you and truly care about who you are. You will find support. Don’t be afraid of losing people. The people you may lose were people who weren't going to truly be there for you in the long run.”
2021 Tournament Wrap-UpDecember 02, 2021December is already here and with that comes the end of the tournament season. USTA Missouri Valley had a successful season, bringing home seven adult tournament Gold Balls and 3 junior tournament Gold Balls. Read More
Remembering Bill GuilfoilDecember 01, 2021Family and friends of long-standing tennis community member William Guilfoil (1922 - 2021) welcome the USTA Heart of America tennis community to celebrate his life. Read More
HOF Inductee Al PeneltonNovember 19, 2021The late Alvin ‘Al’ Penelton is considered by many to be one of the greatest service line umpires of all time. Penelton loved many things: his family, tennis and helping the community. Read More