Every morning Shane Wickes buys a venti coffee with a splash of cream and makes it back home just in time for the Today Show. In 2016, Wickes was one of the speakers at TEDx hosted by the University of Nevada, Reno.
“I was actually supposed to be a master of ceremony last year when I gave a speech.”
Shane Wickes is a Reno native and the talk he gave was about being a gay football coach and his struggle with addiction and depression.
Shane committed countless hours into the TEDx event where he started out as a parking volunteer in 2014. In preparation of the event, the speakers practice their speeches in front of volunteers to receive feedback. Shane attended so many practices in 2015 that event organizer and mentor Dr. Bret Simmons invited him to attend the speaker dinner.
“At this point in time, I was not ‘out of the closet completely’ and I was debating whether or not if I should bring a date,” Shane said reflecting on the night.
Shane was sitting right across the table from Jennifer Knapp, a Christian song artist who spoke at the 2015 event. Knapp’s talk was about her being a lesbian and Christian. Jennifer and Shane hit it off that night and after meeting Knapp’s partner, Shane had to go pick up his date before the after party.
“Jennifer said, ‘I have to meet this girl.’ I smiled and laughed. Little did she know.”
After surprising Jennifer and her partner, Dr. Simmons’ approached. Shane paused; he was about to come out to someone that has known him since he was in high school.
“It’s funny because I dated his daughter in high school” Shane stated.
Dr. Simmons’ was ecstatic to meet Shane’s date and the rest of the evening was a night to remember for Wickes. After feeling so inspired by Jennifer’s story and newfound support from Dr. Simmons, Shane decided to apply for the 2016 event and the rest was history.
“I’ll never forget, I was sharing my story and my idea with Jennifer and she said, ‘What are you waiting for?’”
It was a tricky road to walk for Shane in the months leading up to his talk. He was about to give a grandiose coming out speech to the world, but he was still fighting to stay in the closet.
“I made the decision to stay closeted for that football season, but the circle of people who knew was getting bigger and bigger and the stress was unbelievable.”
It has been just over a year since Shane’s talk and his schedule has picked up ten folds since the world had access to his talk. He has given talks in places at many different high schools and joined a Facebook group called the Equality Coaches Alliance – a private group where LGTBQ coaches all over the country can collaborate on ideas and hand each other support.
As momentum gained with his story with publications like the Reno-Gazette Journal and USA Today, Shane felt as if this new light has caused a lot more problems rather than a new extravagant lifestyle.
“It’s different when you give a talk largely centered around addiction when you are sober, but it is completely different when you are giving the talk and you’re still struggling with your disease.”
When Shane shared his story in 2016, he was still not completely sober. As time went on after his talk, he coped with stress with even more alcohol although there was no more pressure on hiding his sexuality; he was struggling with how to handle the attention. His drinking habits became so bad, that he developed delirium tremens (also known as DTS) which is the body going through an alcohol withdrawal. He developed a true dependency to alcohol.
“I got a feeling that the world knew more about me than I knew myself,” Shane explained to me as he holds a cup of coffee to his lips. “I was overwhelmed and everything was happening so fast that I didn’t realize what I was doing to myself to cope with all of it.”
Shane realized that he needed to really get himself back on track of things. After making a big coaching change, he needed to grab ahold of things again. He decided to admit himself to West Hills Hospital, which is a mental health and substance abuse treatment center.
Shane’s time didn’t last longer than just a few days, but the people he met and the experience itself taught him how much his life means to him.
Shane would not share his exact sobriety date with me saying, “I don’t share this because I feel as if my life has just been so much in the spotlight the past year, I find keeping some things just to myself is healthy for me.”
Now that he has been sober for a few months now and finally reflecting back on his journey since TEDx, Shane has been able to really focus on what he really wants to do in life once he graduates from the University of Nevada this May.
“I’ve really enjoyed writing and speaking. I’m working some new, more creative avenues of writing that help me express my thoughts.”
He is gearing up for another football season, this time for Bishop Manogue via the big news hire of Head Coach Ernie Howren.
“At this point, it is important for me to get back to just coaching football. This last year was insane. Many good things came from it. I am glad I was able to touch a few people’s lives, but I am ready to focus on just coaching for awhile.”
Shane emphasized he is not bowing out of the LGBT sports conversation altogether, but he is taking a much needed break.