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National

Pride Month Spotlight: Dartmouth's John Speicher, Fontbonne's Anh Nguyen

Arthur Kapetanakis | June 04, 2021

Dartmouth’s John Speicher and Fontbonne University’s Anh Nguyen wrote the final chapters in their respective college athletics careers this spring, with both graduating seniors completing their undergraduate studies.

 

Looking back on their years of collegiate tennis, both penned essays for outsports.com discussing their experiences.

 

Speicher, who came out privately during his freshman year in 2017, came out publicly—and to his teammates—three years later as a senior.

 

“While I loved having such a close team, I felt like they didn’t really know me,” he wrote on outsports.com, discussing the earlier part of his college career. “There was always a little bit of distance that I kept between us. I never actively tried to act straight or hide things, but I wasn’t forthcoming with the truth.”

 

The 22-year-old, who notched several ITF World Tennis Tour match wins during his time as a student-athlete, began to feel the effects of that on the tennis court. He eventually sought help from his school’s sports psychologist, who helped him realize that coming out might be the best way forward.

 

“I thought facing that fear would allow me to play with more freedom on the court,” he continued.

 

“Tennis is such a mental sport and confidence is everything. To be able to trust your game and shots in the big moments is critical, and when you’re doubting yourself and lacking confidence off the court, it’s easy to let that affect you on the court.”

John Speicher holds the trophy that Dartmouth received for winning the Rice Invitational in Houston in 2019. Photo provided by Speicher.

After sharing an Instagram post on National Coming Out Day in October of 2020, he was relieved to get supportive messages from friends, family and teammates.

 

While he was only able to play one match as an openly gay athlete, due to the pandemic, Speicher says he is happier now, and living a more authentic life. He hopes his story will increase the visibility of gay athletes, particularly in men’s tennis.

 

After graduating with a degree in neuroscience, he plans to work and gain clinical experience before eventually attending physician’s assistant school. 

 

Read Speicher’s full story on outsports.com.

 

Nguyen signed his letter of intent for Division III Fontbonne in 2018, as an openly gay athlete. While the tennis player and track athlete had to wrestle with the decision to attend a Catholic university, he discovered a welcoming community when he arrived in St. Louis, including a small community of LGBTQ+ athletes.

Anh Nguyen on the doubles court for Fontbonne University. Photo courtesy of Fontbonne Athletics.

 

“There are stereotypes when it comes to colleges with religious affiliations and this leads to a lot of fear for how a gay athlete would fit in,” he explained in his outsports.com essay.

 

After being warmly welcomed, Nguyen developed strong relationships with his teammates, coaches, and the larger athletics staff. Later, Fontbonne’s athletic department participated in the NCAA D-III “OneTeam” program to support the LGBTQ+ community and started ally groups on campus.

 

“It’s the people who make up a university, not the other way around,” wrote Nguyen, who was also a member of the school’s Student-Athlete Inclusion and Diversity Committee, “and I was glad the people there were open-minded and supportive of my sexuality and who I am.”

 

While the Fontbonne men’s tennis program was cut during the COVID-19 pandemic, Nguyen remained a part of the school’s athletic department by competing with the track and field team his senior year. The 21-year-old graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business management and leadership, and plans to attend the University of Florida—home of the 2021 NCAA men’s tennis team champions—to complete a master’s degree in communications.

 

Read Nguyen’s full story on outsports.com.

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