The fourth annual Stonewall Sports National Tournament will be held this weekend at locations throughout D.C. including the National Mall. Along with sports tournaments in kickball, dodgeball and volleyball, a full schedule is planned with social activities, leadership meetings, Stonewall Yoga, Stonewall Bocce pick-up games and pool parties.
The Stonewall Sports model has spread to 11 cities in the United States and close to 1,000 competitors from those cities will be in attendance for the tournaments. Non-participant passes are also available for those who want to join in on the festivities.
Since its inception in 2010, D.C.–based Stonewall Sports has provided sports leagues that are managed as a nonprofit with a philanthropic heart by creating organized communities that have the ability and responsibility to support others in need.
“In addition to the sports competitions, the National Tournament brings together our Stonewall community from across the country to address issues in person,” says James O’Leary, vice president of Stonewall Sports. “We will hold our annual meeting with workshops on the technical aspects of community building and programming along with having conversations about safe spaces, diversity, public health and inclusion.”
The safe spaces that once existed within the LGBT community have evolved and Stonewall Sports has established a national network that allows for like-minded people to connect.
“The National Tournament is a chance for all of the Stonewall cities to get together and talk about our vision and the avenues to reach our community,” O’Leary says. “We have established a network of people that have a similar path.”
Stonewall Philadelphia joined the Stonewall community in 2014 and its members have seen incredible expansion in their sports and numbers. Currently boasting over 1,200 participants, they offer kickball, dodgeball, volleyball, sand volleyball, billiards, yoga and bowling. They have donated about $100,000 to local charities since their inception.
“When I first started playing, I immediately began meeting a lot people who I wouldn’t have met otherwise,” says Stonewall Philadelphia Commissioner Joe Peltzer. “It’s a great opportunity to have fun, establish connections and raise money for charities. I love watching our players jumping into different friend groups.”
Peltzer says that the Philadelphia players are really looking forward to building new connections from other cities and that the teams are melding together to come to the tournament. They will be sending about eight teams to compete in kickball and dodgeball.
“The tournament is about competitive play, but we also look forward to the camaraderie and learning about what other cities are doing,” Peltzer says. “It elevates it above what is going on in your own little bubble.”
In the fall of 2015, Stonewall Cleveland launched its kickball league, which was immediately followed by the addition of dodgeball. The two leagues have about 465 players and in two weeks they will be joined by an additional 165 players in their inaugural bocce season.
“After launching, we were plugged in instantly to several hundred people of varying age groups,” says Taylor Henschel, co-commissioner of Stonewall Cleveland. “This is more than an LGBT community. It’s place making; creating intentional communities by drawing in your own people along with other people.”
Cleveland is a sprawling city and Henschel says it is easy to get stuck in your local sector. The Stonewall model has helped to connect people from the widespread areas. They will be sending five teams to the National Tournament.
“The value of this network is something larger than yourself. It gives life purpose,” Henschel says. “Meeting people from all over the country is a reminder that we are part of this enormous community of queer people. It’s pretty profound.”