Team D.C., Washington’s gay sports connection, recently announced six scholarship awards to local openly gay student athletes ranging from $500-$2,000. The Blade caught up with three of the recipients to pose a few questions: Luis Vasquez is attending Montgomery College, Ilana Kapit is attending Barnard College and Colin Ward is attending the University of North Carolina.
Washington Blade: What kind of sports did you play growing up?
Vasquez: I have been in the United States for three years and played varsity soccer at Bowie High School. In my senior year, we won the Maryland state championships. I was also on the modeling team of my school since I love fashion and participated in some dance recitals.
Kapit: I’ve played soccer since I was very young. My parents wanted me to have an athletic outlet and I picked that one. I played on several different classic and rec teams throughout school, as well as on my JV team for two years of high school, one of which I was the captain. It’s an incredible sport and has definitely had a huge positive impact on my life.
Ward: I did not play for any team at my high school. Growing up I played basketball, baseball and tennis. However, I didn’t continue these at the high school level. At college I row for the UNC Men’s Crew team.
Blade: Any positive or negative stories to tell about your teammates finding out that you were gay?
Vasquez: Most of my teammates here in the United States never paid attention to my preferences and they were always super cool to me. When I was living in El Salvador, my teammates made fun of me and I was bullied for being gay. At one point, I stopped playing soccer, which was very frustrating.
Kapit: I was on a rec team with people I had known since kindergarten and on my classic team since it started, so with both teams I had a family and no one really seemed to care when I came out. Most of them had already guessed. With my school soccer team, unfortunately, it was a little bit different. My teammates didn’t have much of a negative reaction, but my coach really didn’t appreciate the way that I dressed or wore my hair. He was only openly rude about it a few times and those times hurt. Once he wouldn’t put me in the goal simply because I had my hair gelled into a Mohawk for a school spirit day. That sucked.
Ward: I originally was anxious about how my teammates would perceive me, but these guys surprised me I think as much as I surprised them. I didn’t fit into preconceived notions of what it means to be gay. By doing workouts with the team, as we push each other to be faster and stronger, the idea of me as a “gay athlete” falls away and I become just another teammate. When I started with crew, I wouldn’t have thought my future teammates would also become my closest friends.
Blade: In what way did playing sports contribute to the person you are today?
Vasquez: Sports helped me to be free to be who I am. I am not afraid of anyone. I know what I want in life and I am motivated to continue playing soccer and pursue a career in fashion. I am currently recovering from a soccer injury, but sometimes I play with the Federal Triangles Soccer Club to keep myself in the sport.
Kapit: Playing soccer definitely shaped my ability to work with other people. Soccer isn’t one of those sports in which a team can be successful while relying on one person; it really does take everyone’s contributions. I learned to really work with my friends in a much different way than I was used to from school. I learned when I needed to step up and take action, and when I needed to step back and let someone else take the ball up the field. The concepts I learned in soccer are way more applicable to real life than I realized when I started playing back when I was four.
Ward: Because of crew, I’m healthier, happier and am able to push myself farther in all aspects of my life.
More information on the Team D.C. Scholarship program is at teamdc.org.