Pride Month Spotlight: Dartmouth's John Speicher, Fontbonne's Anh Nguyen
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.”
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.
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.
“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.
Pride: Andrew WalkerJune 07, 2021To celebrate Pride Month, USTA.com, in conjunction with the USTA’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Department and Partners Business Resource Group (BRG) is spotlighting USTA administrators who are members of the LGBTQ+ community and the role that they play in making tennis a welcoming space for all. Up next in the series is Andrew Walker, Deputy Chief Umpire of the US Open. Read More
Pride: Speicher, NguyenJune 04, 2021Graduating seniors John Speicher and Anh Nguyen both penned essays for outsports.com, detailing their respective experiences as college athletes at Division I Dartmouth and Division III Fontbonne University. Read More
Love, Lead: Be OpenJune 04, 2021This Pride Month, we revisit a powerful video vignette from our 2020 "Be Open" campaign. With footage from the 2019 US Open Pride event, held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, it features some of the most prominent trailblazers in the LGBTQ+ tennis community, including King. Read More