Every year at Capital Pride, the LGBT sports groups of Washington line up in their booths to recruit new players to their teams. Team D.C., the information clearinghouse for the teams, puts out a list asking what sports people are interested in playing that don’t seem to be available.
Every year, the most requested sport is volleyball. Over the past 10 years, the LGBT volleyball groups in D.C. have put together some great teams for the North American Gay Volleyball Association tournaments, but efforts to combine a long-term social and competitive structure have met obstacles.
As with most of the competitive sports teams in D.C., the biggest obstacle has been dealing with the search for a facility at which to play. The most recent volleyball club was Capital City Volleyball which consisted of a group of LGBT athletes playing pick-up games on non-regulation courts at Mackin High School on Wednesday nights.
Many of the competitive athletes did not want the social atmosphere of pick-up games.
Last month, a group of guys led by Michael D’Zgod, Jack Fleming and Marc Laplante, have worked out the logistics and have launched the D.C. Pride Volleyball League which will also run social play. The League immediately filled up with 130 players and will run from March 19 to June 18.
“Finding a place to play in the city has been difficult,” says D’Zgod, commissioner. “High school gyms are ideal, but they are always booked and the D.C Parks & Recreation facilities begin to shut down at 8:30 p.m.”
Many of the LGBT sports teams have discovered great spaces at the city schools only to realize that the schools have no incentive to rent out their space. All funds go back to the D.C. Treasury.
The League turned to long running Gotham Volleyball in New York for advice and ended up obtaining space through District Sports at Thomson Elementary. Competitive league play will be on Thursday nights and matches will run hourly from 6:30-10:30 p.m.with two divisions, intermediate and advanced.
The League will follow a prototype similar to the D.C. Gay Flag Football League where new teams are drafted every season to prevent team dynasties.
“We plan to use the League to cultivate the best players to represent the D.C. community at North American Gay Volleyball Association tournaments,” D’Zgod says.
The League will also offer social open play during the same time period on Wednesday nights and will cap that out at 48 players. They will also continue the tournament legacy of prior groups by running the President’s Queer Cup Classic tournament after Thanksgiving.
D’Zgod moved to D.C. in 2005 and works in congressional affairs. He has played competitive LGBT sports here in rowing, flag football, volleyball, kickball and soccer. Growing up an Army brat, he found himself drawn to the athletic and social benefits of playing sports.
He says sports were his entry into the D.C. community and he has met most of his friends through the LGBT sports leagues.
“It’s great that this is finally happening,” D’Zgod says. “We wanted our own league and we want to give back to the community.”