“Hey, Coach, can we talk?” Coach Bittle looked up from his computer has one of juniors, a varsity player stuck his head in the door. Weston (Timothy) a good, team player who kept his grades up. Coach wondered what the kid needed. He always had time for his players, but this was one of the ones that seemed pretty self-sufficient.
“Of course, Weston, come in.” Coach pulled up his screen saver and turned his attention to the boy who was shuffling in, having closed the door behind him.
Weston sank gingerly into the chair across from the desk as if it was made of eggshells. Coach was surprised that the six foot tall over two hundred pound boy could move so delicately; he was a brick in practice and on the field. Coach wondered again what had this kid so tied up in knots.
“Weston, how are you?” Coach peered at the boy as if he could see what was wrong if he stared hard enough.
“I’m alright.” The boy shrugged and shifted in the seat. “I, uh, I heard your, uh, your son was gay.”
Coach stiffened, he wasn’t sure he was ready for where this conversation was going. He wasn’t ready when his own son came out, hurriedly over the phone and quickly hanging up afterwards—no touching heart to heart here, just two men who don’t know how to talk to each other. It wasn’t like he didn’t have warning: the figure skating, the music, the baking, the shorts it all smacked of what the media told him a homosexual was. Weston was the opposite.
Coach managed to get out, “My son is gay.” He still wasn’t quite okay with it. It was another thing that separated him from his son.
Weston nodded, not seeming to notice his Coach’s tension. “And he plays hockey?”
“Yes, he plays hockey.” Coach nodded, this was something he understood, teams and sports.
“How does he do it?” Weston’s look was plaintive, that of a wounded child looking to a trusted adult for help. “Sports guys are so homophobic. I don’t think it would be better if I was out. I think it would be worse.” And for the first time Coach really thinks about the frequency with which his team throws around the word faggot and say “that’s gay” and call people homo and what that might mean to a boy like Weston...or like Eric. It makes his stomach turn and at the thought that he was accomplice to it by letting it go on around him. He gets light headed.
“I’m not sure.” Coach tells the boy, but he’s keeping himself from saying Eric has had better coaches than you do. Eric’s coaches don’t foster the atmosphere on their teams that I have. “I’ll try to do what I can to make things better. To be honest you fit in better than Eric did at your age, but,” he finds himself saying, “Eric comes home for Thanksgiving. If you want you can ask him yourself.”
Weston blinks at him, surprised. “Thanks, Coach, that means a lot. I might take you up on that.” And stands.
“Good.” Coach nods decisively. “Have a good day, Weston.” He watches the boy’s retreating back and realizes that he has been entrusted with a secret and realizing that he had already decided to do right with what had been entrusted to him.