Registration is open for the next season of the D.C. Pride Volleyball League through March 23. The league is expanding this year to include a novice division to go along with their advanced and intermediate divisions.
The League offers both league play and open play in addition to traveling to tournaments around the country as part of the North American Gay Volleyball Association. Members also host three tournaments of their own — Spring Fling, President’s Pride Cup and the Rehoboth Beach Open.
The week in the continuing All Star series in the Washington Blade, we meet two gay players who have immersed themselves in the sport.
After getting hurt playing football in junior high school in Bethlehem, Pa., George Atiyeh switched over to volleyball and immediately fell in love. He began playing year-round on both high school and club teams. While attending college at Lehigh University, he played club volleyball for four years.
He came to Washington in 2016 to work for Deloitte as a tech consultant and after settling in, he began looking for volleyball options. Atiyeh started with the League’s open play and found a wide variety of skill levels. The organizers noticed his talent and asked if he was interested in their structured league play.
“My experience with (the League) has been amazing and I couldn’t have asked for more,” Atiyeh says. “I didn’t expect to play at this level post-college.”
Atiyeh, who plays as an outside hitter, was named the most valuable player of the league’s advanced division and has been attending tournaments including stops in Columbus, Atlanta, Minneapolis, New Orleans and Chicago.
“My favorite thing about volleyball is the six players on the court forming a team dynamic,” Atiyeh says. “You need all six players to be in sync for a good functioning dynamic. It’s very momentum driven.”
The opportunity to play in the League has been so enjoyable for Atiyeh that he ran for the board and is now the representative for the advanced division.
“If I am going to give my time back, why not give back to something I love,” Atiyeh says. “(The League) offers so many great things — playing at a competitive level, making great friends, inclusive space and giving back to nonprofits.”
Bill Klitz grew up in an athletic family in Markesan, Wis., where he was a three-sport athlete in football, basketball and track. His father was a former college athlete, his mother was a coach and his sister was also a three-sport athlete. When he wasn’t playing structured sports, he was playing pick-up sports.
While attending University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, he was a varsity high jumper competing in both the winter and spring seasons. Even though it wasn’t allowed by his coach, he managed to sneak in some intramural volleyball.
After college, he moved to Florida, came out and met someone. They moved to D.C. together in 2011 and Klitz works as a personal trainer, manages Corporate Fitness Works and is a program manager at Inter-American Development Bank.
“When I first came to D.C., I was too busy with work to be in sports leagues,” Klitz says. “Once I got started it was nice to be competitive again. I missed it after college.”
Klitz went into the LGBT sports community headfirst playing in the DC Gay Flag Football League, Stonewall Dodgeball, Stonewall Bocce and Chesapeake and Potomac Softball League. He was recruited to the volleyball league by League co-founder, Michael D’Zgoda, because of his 6’5” height.
“My first volleyball season was an eye-opener because of all the technical aspects of the sport,” Klitz says. “It was fun learning together and growing together with my teammates.”
His position is middle blocker and Klitz has played in every season of the League. He upgraded to the advanced division this past season. He has also traveled to tournaments in cities such as New York, Boston, Houston, Baltimore and Minneapolis.
In his spare time, he volunteers each spring as an assistant track coach at St. Albans School. It’s all part of the sports mindset that has been with him since his youth in Wisconsin.
“I have found a home in the LGBT sports community with these like-minded, supportive athletes,” Klitz says. “Once an athlete, always an athlete. You have to live by that motto. It’s a state of mind.”