English netball star-turned-coach Sara Bayman played down her sexuality early in her career. She didn’t want to be a distraction or defined by her sexuality.
But now, nearly one-and-a-half years after publicly announcing her engagement to former netball teammate Stacey Francis, Bayman is trying to make up for lost time. She wants to be an advocate.
In a recent interview with The Daily Telegraph, Bayman says she recognizes her fears about coming out were overblown.
“Any worries I had seem a bit ridiculous now because the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive,” she said. “I don’t think we’re high-profile enough to get much negativity and the only time we’ve had anything like it was around people speculating before it became public. I do understand people’s concerns with teammates getting together, but we would never have put anything in jeopardy.”
Bayman and Francis were teammates on England’s 2015 World Cup team, which further convinced Bayman to keep their relationship secret. In fact, they didn’t formally start dating until after the tournament, fearing it could’ve taken away from their play on the court.
Last year, Bayman, who represented England in the 2010 Commonwealth Games, made the transition to the coaching ranks, taking a position with the Loughborough Lightning. Francis is still active, helping England take third last month at the first Netball Nations Cup.
As Bayman and Francis head towards marriage, Bayman says they plan to be public about their relationship — with the hope that it will inspire others to feel comfortable with themselves.
“The positivity since it all became public has actually made me think maybe I should have made a bit more of a statement and acted as a role model for younger people in sport who might be gay,” Bayman told the Telegraph. “Now that young girls can see me and Stacey together, it’s nice that it gets a little bit more exposure. Hopefully that means anyone out there can see having gay people in netball, in sport and in society is totally normal and feel a bit more comfortable in themselves. It would be great if we can play any part in that.”