Reprinted from the 5 July 2012 issue of the Bay Area Reporter
By Roger Brigham
There was plenty of competition on hand the weekend of 30 June - 1 July when the "Red, White, and Blue Ball" volleyball tournament returned to San Francisco, but the collective focus on the players was much more on being rights than bragging rights.
Thirty-two teams with a total of 235 players squared off at City College of San Francisco for the two-day tournament. The experience level ranged from veterans who have been playing almost their entire lives to folks just venturing out into the world of sports.
A year ago, Travis Teeters was cooling his heels in the closet while finishing his service in the U.S. Air Force in Colorado. Saturday, he was coming up with key blocks and spikes at the net to help his Chika Lange go on a late 7-1 run to rally for a round-robin victory.
Not bad for a first-year player.
"I found a group of guys who were playing, and I just really enjoy everything about playing the game," Teeters, 25, said. "I've only been competing for one year."
Teeters said he and his teammates compete in other tournaments in cities such as Sacramento, Las Vegas, San Jose, and Santa Barbara, but appreciated the return last season of the San Francisco tournament, which had stopped being played about a decade ago.
"I just wanted to bring it back to San Francisco, since we have so many gay volleyball players here," said tournament director Jonny Sloan. "Once I found the gym space, it came together pretty easily."
Sloan, 30, said he has been playing since he was 19 years old. The gymnasium at CCSF resonated with the steady tap-tap-thwack, tap-tap-thwack of players digging out the ball, then setting it up for kill shots. He said there was something about the dynamic of the six-player sides that made it psychologically addictive.
"You're working with five other people all of the time," he said. "You have to do it together as one unit. I think of it as being like fighter pilots: if one player's in trouble, the others close in to help out. If they don't, the other side will take them apart."
Teeters started playing softball last year as a left center outfielder and enjoys that as well, but said he liked the continuous athletic engagement in volleyball even more.
"Sometimes in softball in the outfield, if the ball's not hit to you, you don't have a lot to do," Teeters said. "In volleyball, you're always moving and rotating on every play."
The sense of family and community is clear even with the most cursory of looks around the tournament courts. High-fives and congrats are exchanged on every try, and players laugh off their mistakes with looks of chagrin and determination to do better next time.
That community bonding is an important aspect for Michael Streby, who said he was kicked out of his Indiana home when he came out of the closet at the age of 18. He's patched things up with his family since then, but doesn't take the on-court family for granted.
"You really depend on each other," he said. "You do well as a team or badly as a team. You don't do it all on your own."
Streby, 32, who moved to the Bay Area last October, spent his time at the tournament officiating when he wasn't playing for his Balls of Fire squad. He said he's played volleyball almost all of his life and having gay leagues in San Francisco was invaluable.
"I think gay sports are very important for gay people," Streby said. "It's a great way to meet friends outside of the Castro bars. It's an activity that isn't based on alcohol or sex. Nobody is judging you."
The tournament was the North American Gay Volleyball season opener and offered three competition divisions based on skill level. San Francisco Thai Ice Tea won the A Division, followed by Bay Area For The Ladies and Just Bring Mixers. In the BB Division, Cal-Me Gazelas was first, Los Angeles Rough Riders second, and Sacramento Black Sheep third. San Jose Maniguis was first in the B Division, San Francisco China Lang! second, and USA Spikeaholics third.
For anyone interested in getting involved in local gay volleyball, playdrop intermediate to advanced drop-in volleyball is played at Eureka Valley Recreation Center on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon.
|7-9 September 2012|
Brussels Gay Sports will offer a weekend of fun and fairplay in the capital of Europe, with volleyball, swimming, badminton, and tennis, as well as fitness and hiking.
Learn more HERE.
|26-28 October 2012|
The success of the first edition of the QueergamesBern proved the need for an LGBT multisport event in Switzerland. This year will be even bigger, with badminton, bowling, running, walking, floorball.
Learn more HERE.
|17-20 January 2013|
Sin City Shootout
The 7th Sin City Shootout will feature softball, ice hockey, tennis, wrestling, basketball, dodgeball, bodybuilding and basketball.
Learn more HERE.
|13-16 June 2013|
IGLFA Euro Cup
After this year's edition in Budapest at the EuroGames, the IGLFA Euro Cup heads to Dublin for 2013, hosted by the Dublin Devils and the Dublin Phoenix Tigers.
Learn more HERE.