DELL RAPIDS, S.D. (AP) — A volleyball and baseball coach at St. Mary High School in Dell Rapids who has publicly announced he’s gay says he feels elated, though he worries it might affect his employment at the private Catholic school.

Nate Alfson made the announcement Tuesday in an online essay he posted on the website Local sportscaster Mike Henriksen said Alfson is believed to be the first openly gay high school coach in South Dakota.

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“When you’re the first at anything, I think that’s big,” Henriksen told the Argus Leader newspaper, adding that Alfson’s decision might help high school athletes who are gay. “Nate is a coach and an athlete, and I think that opens a few more doors.”

Alfson, 25, graduated from high school in Pipestone, Minn., in 2007, and went on to play baseball at Augustana College in Sioux Falls. He said he has known he was gay since he was in ninth grade. He said he struggled with it but has now decided “to share with the world that it is OK to be who you are born as and feel confident about it.”

“I have found that there are other people in the world just like me and I don’t have to feel alone any longer,” he wrote.

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Alfson said he has received support but also is prepared for criticism and strong reactions to his decision, including the possibility that it might jeopardize his coaching job.

“This might be a challenge but I am confident it will work out for the best and the Earth will still keep turning regardless of the outcome,” he wrote. “I hope it doesn’t affect my opportunity to be a good role model for the athletes.”

School officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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