One Washington teen has taken powerful action to change his high school’s “locker room talk” for the better.
18-year-old Liam Ball is Meadowdale High School’s wrestling captain and vice president of the student body. After hearing countless homophobic conversations in his locker room, he knew he had to speak up. So Liam, a gay teenager, came out to his entire wrestling team.
This wasn’t the first time Liam officially came out. He revealed that he was gay to close friends and family when he was a freshman. And while his loved ones were accepting and open, Liam felt concerned about the rest of his school knowing.
“It was the most stressful time of my life. Dealing with the pressure of fitting in, being a leader, and keeping up with my school work,” Liam tells Babble.
Despite his worries, Liam knew that publicly sharing his sexual identity with his team would be the right thing to do. He felt especially compelled after seeing the negative impact the 2016 election had on his classmates.
“When I decided to tell them, it was after the election of Donald Trump,” says Liam. “I had noticed a shift in my school’s dynamic and the way people were treating each other, not just in the wrestling room but around the school.”
Liam chose a meeting in the wrestling mat room to make the announcement to his 30 teammates. For Liam, the talk was intended to go deeper than his own experience — it was about removing hateful language from his locker room, along with teaching acceptance and understanding to his peers.
“I didn’t just make me coming out to them all about me,” Liam remembers. “I was trying to teach the younger wrestlers a life lesson about the importance of respecting and accepting one another.”
Liam’s talk with his team eliminated the negative “locker room talk” almost immediately. In an article featuring Liam in OutSports, he says, “A lot of kids had my back after I had the conversation with them, which was nice. I grew with my team, and we had a much better connection after it happened.”
Liam credits his wrestling coach Brian Boardman for supporting him in his decision to talk to the team, telling OutSports, “He was nothing but supportive. He’s an amazing person. He thought it was a great idea to continue to be captain, set an example and be a role model.”
Liam’s coach is equally in awe of his prized wrestler. Boardman shared in an article about Liam for Seattle Times, “Liam is a great wrestler, but that might not be the best thing about him. He has so much to offer than just that. He’s a kid that could change the world — he’s got that ability.”
Liam hopes his example will help his school embrace anyone who is different and use that acceptance to stop any hatred they see around them. He is also more than happy to be a role model for young gay athletes everywhere.
“I think representation is the most powerful tool that can be used fight bigotry. I needed to familiarize my team and other people that there are gay wrestlers and gay athletes out there, and also that words in the locker room may have no effect on you, but could destroy another’s world,” Liam tells Babble.
For those LGBTQ youth who are struggling to come out to their own communities, Liam offers encouragement. “I know it is scary to come out, but the best way to do it is with confidence. ‘Yeah, this is who I am, and it can’t be changed.’”
Liam is leaving the wrestling mat behind when he goes to the University of Washington in the fall, but that won’t stop him from making a huge impact in his next field. He plans to study Political Science at UW and may even study law after that. Wherever his path takes him, Liam knows one thing for sure: he wants to take the powerful experience he had with his team and make a positive impact on the world.
What an incredible young person! Liam can inspire us all to serve as an example in modeling kind and respectful behavior toward others.