Tampa Bay LGBTQ sports leagues hold inaugural winter event

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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LGBTQ athletes and supporters from across Tampa Bay will hold the inaugural winter Tampa Bay LGBTQ+ Sports Day at Enigma Jan. 13.

Presented in partnership with Tampa and St Pete Pride, the gathering seeks to raise awareness about LGBTQ athletic opportunities throughout Tampa Bay. It follows the creation of an area marketing group focused on LGBTQ sports, spearheaded by Suncoast Softball League (SSL) Producer and Tampa Pride LGBTQ+ Sports Liaison Gerre Reynolds as well as fellow SSL Hall of Fame player Andrew Cohen.“This past spring we had the idea of getting the leagues together,” Reynolds says of the duo’s Aug. 2018 event, a gathering of nearly 100 attendees that celebrated the area’s diverse sports scene. “We realized when we got together that there was some crossover between leagues.

“We thought it would be interesting to get all of the athletes together, just for a fun social experience,” he continues, “and when we got to talking about it we realized there was actually synergy. We’re hoping this event will have new people and existing athletes come out.”

The winter event will highlight five existing Tampa Bay LGBTQ sports leagues. Included are the area’s oldest, Monday Mixed Classic Bowling; the area’s largest, the SSL; the area’s newest, GayKickball; Advantage Tampa Bay Tennis and Friday Night Playmates Bowling. It will also introduce an incoming sixth league, volleyball, which is in the process of forming.

“LGBTQ+ sports have a rich history here,” Reynolds says. “The Monday Mixed Classic has sponsored their national bowling championships here before, the SSL just hosted the Gay Softball World Series, and three of the leagues host annual national tournaments: the Citrus Classic Tennis Tournament, the GAGME Bowling Tournament and the Gasparilla Softball Classic—one of Tampa’s largest, gay or straight.”

Reynolds says that having LGBTQ sports leagues, which are primarily composed of LGBTQ players but include community allies, breaks down barriers. “As long as everyone gets along, everyone’s welcome to play,” he says. “It shows people who otherwise might not interact with LGBTQ people that we’re just like everybody else.”

The leagues “enable us to reach out to the community as a whole,” he continues. “One of the things that sports can do is bring people together.”

For more information about the featured LGBTQ sports leagues or the inaugural winter Tampa Bay LGBTQ+ Sports Day, email Sports@TampaPride.org or click here.

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