Catching Up With Nathan Novosel: Coming Out Into Freedom

Catching Up With Nathan Novosel: Coming Out Into Freedom

As a student-athlete at the University of Rochester, Nathan Novosel was driven to succeed on and off the basketball court.

The 2012 graduate finished as a 1,000-point scorer and is ranked third all-time in the program in field goal percentage, received All-Association honors three times and was named UAA Rookie of the Year in 2008-09.

He was just as successful in the classroom, earning a 3.75 grade point average with a double major in economics and political science.

“My defense mechanism was to consume myself with basketball, studies, and extra-curricular activities to keep my mind off my internal pain,” Novosel recalled. He spent nearly his entire collegiate career coming to terms with the internal struggle over his sexual orientation. “It was no way to live, but it is what I did at the time,” he added. “It gave me less time to have to think about what I was dealing with.”

Novosel is in a much different place in his life now. “If I had felt then what I feel now, I would have come out earlier,” he commented. “It is so freeing.”

He waited until a week before graduation to reveal his sexual orientation to his teammates. “My biggest fear was losing them as friends and teammates. That is one of the main things that held me back.”

Instead of losing them as friends, it strengthened their relationships. “Once they knew, they apologized for saying things they didn’t mean and were very supportive,” Novosel noted. “They all support me now and some of them were at my wedding.”
L: Nathan, former teammate Michael Lebanowski, husband John Eric Lingat
R: Nathan with former teammate Chip Dende
(Photos courtesy of Kayla Judy Photography)
Novosel married his fiancé John Eric Lingat on August 15th at The Campbell House in Lexington, KY. Over 110 people attended the brunch wedding that Novosel referred to as “a big celebration.” They were the first legal same-sex couple to be married at the hotel.

He remembers vividly telling his parents that he is gay. “My mother told me she already knew. I really appreciate that she never confronted me about it and just waited for me to tell her in my own time,” he said. “My father and I still don’t agree on everything, but he has come so far and it gives me great hope that others from his generation will also come around.”

Nathan and John Eric with their parents
(Photo courtesy of Kayla Judy Photography) 

The freedom Novosel feels since coming out is not just mental and emotional, but even physical. During his collegiate career, he visited the chiropractor on a weekly basis. “I just figured it was all part of being a student-athlete, but since I came out, I have not needed to return to the chiropractor,” he stated.

By coming out and sharing his story and experiences, Novosel hopes he can inspire others who are going through the same struggles he did. “Growing up, I didn’t know any gay people so there was no one I could relate to and I didn’t know anyone who could relate to my situation,” Novosel said. “It stunted my ability to explore my own identity. Now being around other gay people has expanded my mind so much. It is great to see LGBT athletes being open. Another domino falls each time another one comes out.”

“At the same time, as great as it is for someone like Jason Collins to come out, it is most helpful to know someone whose situation I can relate to. There may be UAA student-athletes who can relate to where I was during my college years, struggling with my identity, while also competing athletically and academically at one of the best schools in the country.”

Two of Novosel’s biggest supporters have been the two head coaches he played for, Mike Neer and Luke Flockerzi. “My biggest regret is that I wasn’t confident enough to tell Coach Neer or Coach Flockerzi at the time because they have both been so supportive.” He meets up with both coaches whenever he is in Rochester or one of them is in D.C., where he and his husband live and work.






Nathan with Coach Mike Neer
(Photo courtesy of University of Rochester Sports Information) 

“Use whatever superlatives you want to describe Nate because they are all true,” said Flockerzi, who coached Novosel during his junior and senior seasons. “He is one of the best student-athletes we have ever had. He is the epitome of the UAA student-athlete. He was incredibly dedicated to academics, basketball, and was involved in literally everything on campus. We wish we had 12 Nate Novosels.”

It wasn’t until after his playing days ended that Novosel came out to the coach he captained for. “I felt privileged that he opened up and shared it with me,” Flockerzi said.

Novosel works for Teach for America as a recruitment associate for its Military Veterans Initiative. Earlier this summer, he wrote an article on the Teach for America web site entitled “How I Turned My Deepest Shame Into My Strongest Asset.” The story debuted on the site four days after the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling to legalize same-sex marriage.

Now happily married, he and John are planning to have children in the future. “Living here in D.C. and being with John, I just feel so free,” Novosel remarked. “It was a long journey and I hope my story can inspire others on their own journey.”

(Photo courtesy of Kayla Judy Photography)


This is the first in a series of stories this season catching up with former student-athletes, coaches, and administrators in UAA history.