Featured in our 5th Annual Faces of Sports Issue!
Bryan Lee, SDL is the CEO and senior corporate trainer at 100% Bully-Proof. Passionate about his cause, Lee works constantly to help bullied athletes and coaches transform their lives by training them how to stand up, speak out and reclaim personal authority over bullies. By hosting Bully-Proof Bootcamps worldwide, the company is showing the power individuals carry within to change their personal dynamic; it shows participants how one person’s decision to stand up and speak out can also impact the world.
Lee’s background may sound familiar to many. Growing up in a small Ohio town, sports was never on his radar. He was constantly picked on, bullied and called names for his lack of athletic ability. Always picked last for any team in gym class and placed as far out in left field as possible, physical fitness was always a nightmare. Worse yet, no one ever came to his defense or coached him to perform better. This haunted him for years.
Although he’s always had a passion for tennis, Lee’s deep rooted phobia of playing sports caused him to abandon it completely for a career in entertainment. After graduating from Ashland University in 1993 he built a career on the stage instead of the court; he performed in over 20 stage productions, toured for 10 years as a stand-up comedian and acted in two motion pictures.
Then it all came crashing down when his eight-year relationship ended. Not only did it leave Lee with mountains of debt but also with hundreds of extra pounds. Now feeling weak and defeated, he soon remembered his love for tennis and vowed to make a change, saying “I had this epiphany that in order to be strong, I needed to feel strong.”
Beginning by working out daily, Lee shed over 100 pounds and became a Certified Personal Trainer. It was around the same time he discovered the Gay and Lesbian Tennis Alliance (GLTA) and revived his tennis passion. Entering his first tournament in 2008, he was defeated early but rebounded by winning the doubles title that same year at the United States Gay Open.
Leading into the 2014 Gay Games he had amassed 34 wins and believed he’d left all those negative feelings in the past. Taking the court in his first singles match those unpleasant memories immediately flooded back as a spectator began yelling and name calling. Vowing not to let that moment define his future enjoyment of life, Lee took action and had the person removed.
In that moment, an idea was born. What if there was a company that could make events bully-proof? What if there was a training program that could empower the bullied to reclaim their personal authority? It would start with just one person – Bryan Lee. He says that “We all have the right to work and play without being threatened or verbally assaulted. We also have the right to live our lives free of fear and physical abuse.”
In today’s political climate, Lee says “We cannot expect that others will stand up and fight for us; we have to do this ourselves and demand our own change. There is no stronger community than the LGBTQ+ community, and we need to lead the charge!”
By Ian Colgate