August 25, 2017 at 1:48 pm EDT | by Mariah Cooper
Southampton FC exec and GW alum shares coming out story

A post shared by Hugo Scheckter (@hugoscheckter) on

Hugo Scheckter, Southampton Football Club’s player/team liaison officer, publicly revealed his sexuality on National Coming Out Day in 2016. In a profile for The Times, the George Washington University alum shared how his road to transparency wasn’t an easy one.

On Oct. 11, 2016,  Scheckter tweeted that he was finally ready to be an out member in football (soccer).

Atlanta-born Scheckter, 26, attended boarding school in England where he says he never learned about being gay “as a concept.”  Once he figured out his identity, he decided to tell his family and friends.

“I went to boarding school here, where homosexuality is never talked about. So I didn’t really even understand it as a concept. It took until I was 21 to realize. That was a lightbulb moment, so I made a list of 20 people I wanted to tell in person and the rest I just stuck on Facebook. I told my parents over the phone,” Scheckter says.

In college, Scheckter attended George Washington University and served as the head club soccer coach. He decided to come out to his team because the school was an accepting place.

“Part of coming out was coming out to my team as I was coaching at the George Washington University. It was a very progressive place so it wasn’t an issue. We had three openly gay players in the starting XI. Then I went to my first club in Indiana, where it was not a very liberal state, though the club was. So I was half in, half out. Some knew,” Scheckter went on.

When Scheckter accepted the position at Southampton Football Club, he chose to go back in the closet. Worried that coming out would hinder his opportunity, he didn’t share that part of his life with the team.

After two years, Scheckter realized he had to be open with his team in the same way they were open with him. He says their responses were positive from the adults to the younger members.

“I thought I’d get silly responses from the 12 to 18-year-olds but they were so supportive,” Scheckter says.

Overall, Scheckter wants to normalize gay players and let other people struggling with coming out feel supported.

“We just have to stop the witch-hunt of trying to find a gay footballer and create an environment where someone can feel supported and comfortable,” Scheckter says. “Having role models in the sport is really important. I’m down the pecking order, but I’ve had fans get in touch asking to talk about coming out as they don’t know any other gay people. If I can help in any way, then great. I want to show football is a good place where gay slurs aren’t thrown around any more.”

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