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Finding Community Through Team Sport
Othen times we hear about the value of being physically active for both our mind and body but often times forget that being physically active can also bring us together and connect us with like minded individuals (Check out this article on the value of team sport). As a young gay kid growing up in rural Ontario, sport was my outlet to feel the same as everyone. As I grew, sport took on a different role in my life, helped me find a voice, a sense of belonging and community.
From a very young age I can remember spending countless hours watching my parents play baseball, my dad referee or coach, or my sister play basketball, and it was just natural for me to want to get involved with team sports. For most closet gay men this might sounds like a nightmare, but for me it gave me a chance to be like every other boy. It also was a challenge when trying to sort of my identity, and I used it as a cover to hide my true self. I would think to myself “you can’t be gay if you are good at sports.”
As I transitioned to university and came out, I found a way to keep sport in my life. Through playing pickup basketball and volleyball between classes, participating in intramurals and working with the women’s basketball as an athletic therapist, I began to see that sport started to take on a different role for me and became a way to feel included and part of a family. Sport became more social and about building relationships instead of having to always win.
When I graduated from university and moved back to my small rural town, I looked for ways to connect my athletic past to my new identity. Fortunately for me, as soon as I moved home I got connected with in the London Beefeater Men’s Volleyball League here in London, Ontario. This is a pick up volleyball league that allows men in the London community to get together weekly for a social night of volleyball. Through this league I have met some of my closest friends, and have also been able to play in LGBTQ tournament in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. These tournaments bring together hundreds of players from across the country and even internationally to have a competitive and fun weekend of volleyball.
Fast forward 20 years later and I’m still playing volleyball and basketball, but sport has given me so much more! Through coaching girls basketball I have had the opportunity to travel, make meaningful connections with parents and players! More importantly, I have joined a family and network of other like minded folks who don’t define me by my sexuality. For me sport has had has such a positive impact on my life and I want to encourage anyone who is interested in being more active, regardless of your skill level or experience, to give team sports a try.
Many communities have social sports leagues and ways for people of all genders, races, sexualities and ages to get involved and get connect. Check out the links below for more information on some of the LGBTQ leagues available in different cities across the country and around the world.
Nathan is an energetic and passionate youth advocate who has spent over two decades supporting youth with mental health and wellness. Through his work in public health, youth program development and coaching, Nathan brings a wide range of experiences in supporting youth to achieve their personal goals and to make positive change in their community. When not in the office Nathan spends most of his time taking care of his fur baby, playing volleyball or coaching basketball.
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