Men's tennis coach Colin Joyner '03 is the only male to be openly gay as a collegiate athletics coach—ever.
Both Joyner and Director of Athletics Jeff Ward said the claim—which was reported by OutSports.com last week—was true, at least as far as they were aware.
"I was really surprised by that," Joyner said. "I was...and then I wasn't. I'm not surprised because the coaching atmosphere...isn't that great for someone who's gay."
The article was on OutSports.com, and featured both Joyner and men's lacrosse captain Ben Chadwick '11. The piece was circulated amongst the Bowdoin community on Facebook, and outlined Joyner's journey coming out both as a student-athlete at Bowdoin and later when he returned as a coach. When he came back to Bowdoin, Joyner initially avoided sharing his sexual identity with the team, but ultimately decided he needed to come out to his players several years ago.
"It's much more important that players know they can be honest with me and I can be honest with them," Joyner said.
Ward expressed how proud he was of Joyner for being a pioneer.
"First of all, I don't think of Colin as our gay male coach. He's our men's tennis coach," Ward said. "It takes some courage to come out. I'm proud of the fact that he's been out and we've been a very successful program. I'm hoping that makes it easier for the next person."
Men's tennis captain Stephen Sullivan '11 concurred with Ward.
"I think it's just another glimpse of how amazing he is," Sullivan said. "It's something that shouldn't be a big deal, but it is."
Joyner noted that his own effort is a positive step in a long battle to eradicate homophobia in sports and encourage closeted athletes to come out. Joyner stressed that closeted athletes often avoid coming out because they believe it is easier.
"I believe that conflict is productive, and that the younger generation shies away from conflict," Joyner said.
Joyner commended Bowdoin's strong support system for gay athletes, including Anything But Straight In Athletics (ABSA), a program he is involved in. In fact, Joyner said, the reporter from OutSports.com became interested in Bowdoin after noticing how active ABSA is on campus following the talk by Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke at the College several weeks ago.
According to Joyner, other colleges with similar programs often direct their programming toward allies—people who already are on board, as he put it—as opposed to actually reaching out to a large portion of the athletic community.
Joyner said he is working on building a network of athlete alumni who are out—many of whom were not while at Bowdoin.
"The stories are piling up with people who did not come out and why," Joyner said. "Most of them wish that they had and have some remorse about it."
Joyner was assertive in his encouragement for people to come out.
"The more that people will have to think about it and be engaged in it, the sooner that environment will change," he said.
After five years with the men's tennis team, including the 2008 NESCAC title, this season will be Joyner's last. He will be heading to either Duke or Northwestern for business school, but said regardless of where he ends up, he would like remain heavily involved in the discussion surrounding sexuality and athletics.