Last month at the Capital Pride festival, I was enjoying the sights of the day and eventually made my way over to the LGBT sports teams that were all lined up in a row at the center of the causeway.
After visiting with several of the teams, I ran into a friend who felt compelled to give me his impression of what he felt the LGBT sports teams were all about.
He ran a few steps on his tiptoes and pretended to throw a ball with a limp wrist.
Over the past decade, I have been at local LGBT volleyball tournaments, soccer matches, rowing regattas, flag football games, basketball tournaments, swim meets and the list goes on.
I have never seen anyone who resembled the twinkle toes that my friend portrayed.
The 30+ LGBT sports teams in the D.C. area are made up of over 2,500 athletes with varying degrees of ability. Some are just beginning in their chosen sport, and some are world record holders.
One thing that they do have in common is that they are all part of a team and part of a community.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that by just taking that first step towards one of the local LGBT sports groups can lead to a lot of positive changes in their lives.
I recently spoke to a woman who decided to take that step four years ago by signing up for a local Learn to Row program. Upon completion of the program, she decided to try competitive rowing.
The competitive rowing led to ergometer training (stationary rowing), strength training and eventually cycling. She recently completed a 100 mile bike ride for charity.
All these accomplishments came from a 40 year old woman who had never participated in sports up to that point. “You’re an athlete now,” I said. She just blushed with pride.
Although I have been in sports my whole life, it was just a few short years ago that I experienced a moment that defined what sports could feel like for someone trying it for the first time.
After four days of competition, I had completed my swimming races at the International Gay & Lesbian Aquatic (IGLA) Championships and volunteered to be a timer for the rest of the meet.
Up on the blocks came a heat of swimmers competing in the 200 Medley Relay which consists of four people on each team swimming 50 meters of the four strokes. Up first is the backstroke followed by breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle.
The swimmers in my lane were somewhat older and obvious beginners. The race started with all the backstrokers heading out to the first turn. As they came back towards the wall, the breastrokers all adjusted their goggles and prepared to begin their leg of the relay.
After the breaststroker in my lane made the turn 25 meters away and began heading back to the blocks, we all saw it; his goggles had come down and planted themselves squarely in his mouth.
Not only was his vision impaired by not having the goggles over his eyes, his breathing was also being impaired by the obstruction. While everyone around the blocks was mumbling about his misfortune, I happened upon the look in his eyes.
They were huge and filled with the fierce determination that can only come from having three other swimmers depending on you. He was going to finish that race, no matter what obstacle, and he was going to finish it to the best of his ability.
I had goose bumps and even got a little teary. This guy was truly a hero and truly an athlete.
So what are you waiting for? Put yourself out there. Find the athlete that lives inside of all of us.
Most of the local LGBT sports teams can be found at teamdc.org.