Syracuse, N.Y. -- Michelle Tumolo has never hidden who she is, to her teammates or her more than 13,000 followers on Instagram. But bringing her sexual identity to a national audience is different.
"I do a million interviews with people just talking about lacrosse, and I was like, 'you know, this would be awesome to talk about me as a person, and who I've been'," the former Syracuse lacrosse star said. "And that was my biggest thing, is helping people be who they are if they're struggling with it, and knowing that it's okay."
Tumolo appeared on fellow SU alum Paul Carcaterra's podcast "Overtime" recently, and she was asked about being a gay athlete as well as one of the best female lacrosse players in the world. An article highlighting that conversation appears in the May/June issue of US Lacrosse Magazine, with the 2017 World Cup gold medalist on the inside front page.
The South Jersey native says excelling in sports gave her the confidence to come out as a senior in high school. Now, Tumolo strives to be a role model to all the young people out there going through the same thing, many of whom have reached out to her via e-mail and social media.
"I just always want to make sure that I'm responding, and making sure that they know that I'm on their team, I have their back. And to know this is who they are, and it's ok."
The 29-year old says she's lucky to have been surrounded by a staunchly supportive group of family, friends, and teammates. She's also aware that's not always the case. So, Michelle's advice is not to rush anything, to come out only when you're ready to come out, and when you're strong enough to deal with possible rejection.
"You have those friends on your team that are just like, instant best friends, especially when I went to Syracuse," said the Orange's third-leading scorer all-time. "But I know that also is scary to come out to them, because you don't want them to not like you anymore. For me, it's just like, if they don't like it, then that's their problem."
Tumolo says she has nothing but love for her former coach, SU legend Gary Gait, and for the program for which she both played and coached. And now as the head coach at Wagner College, she's looking forward to getting on Gait's schedule and bringing her Seahawks to Syracuse. Though, maybe not too soon.
"When Emily Hawryschuck graduates," Tumolo says kiddingly, "no, but it would be an amazing experience for my girls. We would go into the game hoping to do our best, and you know, anything can happen."
Another challenge she isn't going to hide from.