August 25, 2017 at 10:58 am EST | by Kevin Majoros
Meet D.C.’s multi-sport athletes
multi-sport, gay news, Washington Blade

Tony Mace, Kevin Smiffy and Michael D’Zgoda play multiple sports in D.C.’s LGBT leagues. (Photos courtesy Mace, Smiffy, D’Zgoda)

D.C. is home to one of the largest LGBT sports communities in the world. For decades, the various LGBT sports teams operated within their own realms, traveling to tournaments around the United States as well as internationally.

The onset of multiple LGBT sports leagues and the cohesion provided by Team DC, the local information clearinghouse for gay sports, has fostered a thriving sports community that plays year-round.

Events like Team DC SportsFest, multi-sport mixers and teams volunteering at other team’s sports functions has led to many athletes crossing over into multiple sports. The days of not having a safe space to compete are gone and members of the LGBT community are able to flourish on multiple teams. Along with loving sports, these athletes are also masters of time management.

Tony Mace knew there had to be a community out there that was just like him. Growing up in Indianapolis, he was a three-sport athlete in high school in tennis, basketball and baseball. He played intramural sports while attending Indiana State University and eventually transferred to George Mason.

While he was fulfilling an internship at Walt Disney World in 2007 in Orlando, he came across a gay softball league. He joined and was at his first gay tournament in San Jose, Calif., within two weeks. He was immediately smitten and at a tournament in Milwaukee he met one of his future partners.

“At first, he didn’t tell me he had a partner, but 10 years later the three of us are still together,” says Mace. “I moved that year to D.C. because of them and the tie I already had to the gay softball community.”

Mace, who manages a hair salon for Urban Adventures, now plays in all the Chesapeake and Potomac Softball Leagues along with playing in straight leagues. In the spring, he plays softball four days a week and travels to six to nine gay tournaments per year.

“Finding the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance (NAGAA Softball) and this community was like finding my brothers and sisters,” Mace says. “Sports is my everyday life and it’s who I am as a person. If I could get a sports job, I would be in heaven.”

Both of his partners were bowling with the Capital Area Rainbowlers Association so he started bowling and found that it also kept him connected with the other softball players who were bowling in the league.

His best friend in the softball league was playing basketball with the DC Sentinels, so Mace joined the Washington DC Gay Basketball League and has traveled with them to tournaments winning a title at the Coady Roundball Classic in Chicago.

“I love sports and would play even more if time allowed,” says Mace. “The only television I watch is ESPN and I study sports constantly. You could say I am hooked.”

The list of sports that Kevin Smiffy has played in the LGBT sports community reflects a man that likes to compete. His past sports have included Chesapeake and Potomac Softball, Capital Area Rainbowlers, DC Front Runners, Washington DC Gay Basketball, Stonewall Kickball, Stonewall Darts, Stonewall Billiards and the DC Gay Flag Football League.

“It’s true, I love competition and I have met a lot of lifelong friends, especially through traveling, that are like-minded,” says Smiffy. “People you can talk about sports with and not just about who has the coolest uniform.”

When he was a kid in D.C., Smiffy played football, basketball, baseball and ran track. He would continue in intramurals while finishing his degrees at Florida State, Howard University and the University of the District of Columbia. His first sport in the LGBT community was CAPS softball in 1994 and from there he continued to add new ones to his list.

“It’s been a great ride so far and it keeps me active and in shape,” Smiffy says. “As I have gotten older, it also keeps me young running around with all these kids.”

Smiffy, who works for the Internal Revenue Service, says his main sport has always been the DC Gay Flag Football League and he has been with it since its inception in 2010, along with playing on one of the travel teams. Anyone who knows Smiffy, knows about his sense of style and has probably seen some of his 250 pairs of shoes.

“You know you have to coordinate your uniform, and I do love a new set of cleats,” says Smiffy, laughing. “I’m thinking Capital Tennis might be up next, and of course I will need new shoes.”

Michael D’Zgoda recites many reasons for playing multiple sports; his competitive urges, trying new things, having fun with friends, having other people depending on him, and a strong dislike for working out.

“Sports are a big part of my life and it is great that we have such a robust gay sports community in D.C.,” says D’Zgoda. “I really wanted to play softball recently but my husband said I cannot play one more sport.”

D’Zgoda’s first love growing up was soccer and he played volleyball and ran track in high school. After attending Syracuse University, he played club and intramural sports while attending the Air Force Academy. He discovered rowing while at Cambridge for graduate school and the DC Strokes Rowing Club would be his first LGBT sport in D.C. in 2005.

He followed that up by starting an LGBT team in a straight kickball league and then found his primary sport in the DC Gay Flag Football League. He made the travel team after his first season and has been mentoring other players in defense.

For several years he squeezed in soccer with the Federal Triangles Soccer Club and the Summer of Freedom league along with Stonewall Kickball.

It was while attending pick-up volleyball at a struggling LGBT club, that his leadership skills kicked in and he co-founded the successful DC Pride Volleyball League in 2015. Until that point, it was one of the sports that was lacking cohesion in the gay D.C. sports community.

“There are a lot of people who play sports that don’t realize the amount of time it takes to cultivate a league,” D’Zgoda says. “We learned from the trials and tribulations that the other leagues went through how to make this one a success.”

D’Zgoda works for the U.S. Department of State and just last week his job moved him to Recife, Brazil. He says his time in the LGBT sports community of D.C. was filled with camaraderie and the cherry on top was that he was playing with friends.

“I have been getting all the league sign-up emails and I still want to play so bad,” says D’Zgoda. “I will probably get back into tennis while I am in Brazil, but it won’t be the same as playing in the LGBT sports community in D.C. I am really going to miss what I had here.”

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