September 30, 2010 | by Kevin Majoros
A different kind of pick-up game

Members of the D.C. Sentinels, an area gay basketball team, at a recent pick-up game. (Photo by Kevin Majoros)

All across the United States, men and women are feeding their love for the sport of basketball by playing pickup games in open gym settings.

The scene is casual and quite often the gyms are eventually shut down leaving the players scrambling for another location that fits their needs. Tim Francis was one of those players going from gym to gym. After the closing of his gym in 2007, he decided to form a member-based LGBT basketball team run by an executive board of players and named it the D.C. Sentinels. The team follows the guidelines established by the National Gay Basketball Association (NGBA) and have grown to a roster of 43 members.

The Sentinels practice twice a week with two coaches at different locations in the D.C. area. The players run drills as a unit and then break apart into the expected teams for future tournaments. They competed in their first tournament in Amsterdam in 2008 and have since traveled the United States competing in NGBA sponsored tournaments.  Fresh off their bronze medal at the 2010 Cologne Gay Games, they will be hosting the Capital Classic II on October 16 and 17 at the Capital Sports Complex in District Heights, Md.

Tournaments sanctioned by the NGBA are five-on-five play with two 20 minute halves. The Sentinels are expecting 30 teams from across the United States with rosters of up to 10 per team with four of the teams consisting of Sentinels players.

The team is funded by member dues, local contributions and fundraising. They hold an annual raffle and have conceived another annual event called Splash which is a multi-faceted pool party that has grown leaps and bounds in its two years.  Part of the proceeds from fundraising are used to provide a commitment to the community. Recent outreach has included support to Us Helping Us, Food & Friends, Whitman-Walker, Susan G. Komen and AIDS Walk.

As a spectator and volunteer at the Sentinel’s first tournament in 2008, I was impressed by the level of play and the diversity of the players. The Sentinels themselves range in height from 5 feet, 7 inches to 6 feet, 9 inches. For details on the upcoming tournament and the team, go here.

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