This week in the continuing spotlight series on the LGBT sports community in Washington, we visit with two gay rugby players from the Washington Scandals.
The Scandals were formed in 2013 and have carved out a niche playing in weekend matches along with traveling to tournaments along the Eastern Seaboard. Next year they will attend their first match overseas when they journey to Bingham Cup 2018 in Amsterdam.
After graduating from Georgetown University, Joshua Street found himself settling into the routine of life after college. Work, gym and then home. It was a pattern he was looking to change.
He had heard good things about the Washington Scandals and signed up to play when he saw them at Capital Pride in 2016. He went through their conditioning first and then had an eye-opening visual at his first practice.
“I saw this really big guy tackle a small guy and I immediately wondered if a theater major should be attempting to fit into this culture,” Street says. “The team was super supportive and assured me that when I was ready, they would get me there.”
Street, who works in insurance and risk management, was born in Texas and grew up in Surinam, and Antigua and Barbuda with his Southern Baptist missionary parents. His athletic endeavors consisted of intramural soccer and volleyball.
His first rugby match with the Scandals was in Toronto and he says that it was a good learning experience and crash course into the sport of rugby.
“I tested everything that the Scandals had taught me, especially that you have to push through obstacles whether they are mental or physical,” Street says. “It was very satisfying to be able to put what I had learned in practice into a game situation and amazing to think that I was a rugby player.”
Since that first match in Toronto, Street has settled into the rugby community and has traveled with his teammates to Charleston, Philadelphia, Charlotte and Baltimore. He’s social chair for the Scandals and loves the way the gay rugby community pushes each other in a game then gets together socially afterwards.
“There is always trepidation before a game because you know you are going to take some hits. All the nerves end up falling away because all these cogs are in motion and working as a team,” Street says. “I have found what I was looking for with the Scandals by getting out of that daily routine and finding an incredible support system.”
As a young kid in Liverpool, N.Y., Shane Hickey tried multiple sports including cross-country running but never found one that he fell in love with. He took a break from sports activities while attending Georgetown University where he was active on the school newspaper.
His path changed after a Scandals player told him he looked like someone who could play rugby. He signed up to play in September of 2013 and found himself smitten.
“My first practice was on a Thursday and my first match was two days later. It was trial by fire and I fell in love immediately,” Hickey says. “Realizing that I had so much more to learn was both a thrill and a rush.”
Hickey, who works in interlibrary services at American University, wasn’t sure if he could handle the sport at first but after years of playing, he has found happiness in being part of the rugby community. He’s a co-captain and is in his third year as a Scandals board member.
“This environment creates a space that allows people to learn about themselves which is one of the reasons I continue to be involved,” Hickey says. “Playing other teams who are just like us is amazing and our tournaments and matches become weekend events.”
Hickey has also traveled extensively with the Scandals and says he will continue with the team even if he ever gets to a point where he can’t play anymore. He’s taking courses to become certified as a referee.
“I love rugby and I love the brotherhood. It has made me a lot more confident as a person and has become a huge focus in my life. All rugby, all the time,” Hickey says. “Another plus has been that the team has exposed me to the LGBT community.”