Jacques Snyman

At first glance it is no surprise that South African native Jacques Snyman has played sports his entire life. “I was one of those kids that was usually upside-down, hanging from everything,” Snyman joked. “I’m sure it annoyed my parents, so they just took me to a gymnastics class.” All that climbing proved not to be monkey business as Snyman became a national gymnastics champion from ages 6 to 12.

After becoming too big for gymnastics, Snyman participated in everything from tennis and swimming to cricket. But it was in both track and field and rugby that Snyman would find his true sports’ calling.

“My grandfather was an Olympian in track and field and he also played rugby for South Africa,” Snyman shared. “He taught me how to long jump and run hurdles when I was quite young.”

Upon reaching university, Snyman had to make a choice between the two sports—a choice that was heavily influenced by his sexuality. “I didn’t want to pursue rugby out of fear that I would be outed and be rejected by my teammates,” Snyman lamented. “I chose track and field thinking it would be better because it’s an individual sport and nobody knows your business.”

After finding success in track and field in Europe, Snyman had the opportunity to the join the King’s Cross Steelers, the first rugby club in the world to have open membership for gay and bisexual players.

After playing with the King’s Cross Steelers, Snyman worked as a strength trainer for a straight rugby club. After being inadvertently outed via a television interview, Snyman found that his fears were unfounded.

“With rugby, I probably got the most camaraderie and acceptance from straight teams,” Snyman said. “I think that rugby is such a butch sport to play that [guys] are okay with their sexuality.”

“I had more problems from the sidelines than from teammates,” Snyman said. “In fact my teammates would stand up for me. I remember this one incident where someone shouting from the sidelines ‘don’t thrown the ball to the poof’ and one of my teammates ran up to the guy and smacked him in the face and kept on playing.”

Snyman has found his share of success on the rugby pitch but now he seeks success with a different type of pitch . . . operatic singing.

“People don’t expect a rugby player to sing opera,” Snyman laughed. “On top of that I sound like a girl. I suppose it’s the juxtaposed position of someone über-masculine singing über-feminine.”

As a boy, Snyman participated in singing competitions in South Africa. “When I was a young boy, I sang very high and was a boy soprano,” Snyman said. “I would literally come from a rugby game and my mom would charge in and drive me to my singing place. On one occasion my nose was actually broken and I had to stand there and sing.”

Because of his athletic prowess, Snyman says that people didn’t expect him to pursue singing. In 2010, Snyman rediscovered his passion for singing and his countertenor ability- eventually traveling to London to study under Brian Parsons of the Conservatory de Lyon.

Of course Snyman wants his voice to be heard but it’s not only for his singing. Snyman promotes an anti-bullying message wherever he goes.

Sexually abused as a child, Snyman knows what it’s like to have his power and voice taken away. “You can’t talk about what is happening to you, you can’t say anything,” Snyman admitted. “And while I was not bullied per se of getting picked on, I know what it’s like.”

“I’ve always stood up for the little person,” Snyman shared. “When I was in kindergarten there was this boy who was older than me but had a younger mentality. I don’t know why but I protected him and helped him.”

Despite his many sport accomplishments and budding musical journey, Snyman is quick to recognize someone who has made a huge impact in his life. Snyman married his partner Victor Wieciech earlier this year. “[Victor] is the person that has stood behind me from the start—that has believed in me. He is my soulmate and best friend.”

Snyman brings his rugby expertise to Nashville March 9 when he meets up with the Nashville Grizzlies for a Rugby 101 clinic. Snyman will counter his rugby appearance when he sings Sunday, March 10 during the 11 a.m. service at Covenant of the Cross located at 752 Madison Square, Madison TN. That’s one pitch we’re waiting to hear.

For more information on booking Jacques Snyman visit jacquesvsnyman.com.

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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