The word “community” is synonymous with so many things. It can mean the neighborhood one lives, the group of friends to which one belongs, or the subculture that one is associated. Often, it is a blend of all of these, and Pride is truly that.
As Aurora Pride is quickly approaching on August 3, (only three weeks away, eek!) we are exploring all aspects of queer community, and it goes without saying that LGBTQ folks are a group of extremely diverse individuals.
OUT FRONT recently caught up with the Colorado Gay Volleyball Association‘s (CGVA) new president, Joshua Snyder, as the group is inviting the community to experience what they are all about. Snyder shared about his own experience with queer sports, why the camaraderie within the league is unlike anything else, and what the CGVA has planned for Aurora Pride!
You were just elected president of CGVA; how are you feeling about the position?
I’ve been working really closely with our current president and taking on a bunch of the presidential duties in the last few months, so I feel like I’m ready.
What got you into volleyball to begin with?
I went to college at Arizona State in Tempe, and my dorm room was right next to a sand volleyball court. I went down every once in a while and played with some people and made some friends playing volleyball, and from there my interest in it sort of took off like crazy. Then, in my last year of college, I played with the Arizona Gay Volleyball League, and that made me aware that there were organizations and leagues out there specifically geared towards LGBT individuals.
Why is it important to have designated queer sports leagues?
Traditionally, sports like baseball or football seem to be dominated by masculine, strength, and tough type qualities. I feel like a lot of queer people can feel out of place in these environments, and so I think it’s important to create these special environments for queer people to be able to express themselves, really be themselves, and have a good time. Having an outlet like volleyball or other gay sports is a great way to bring the community together, even if they don’t see themselves as athletes.
What if someone feels intimidated because they have never played before; can they join a league?
Even if they’ve never played sports before in their lives, we have a bunch of people who this is the first organized sport they’ve ever played. Come out and meet other people that are on the same level; we have a beginners league that can fit them well. Come out, meet new people, and have a good time. When people ask me what’s the best way to make new friends in Denver for queer people, I highly suggest gay sports leagues, whether it be our own CGVA, flag football, or a lot of the other sports leagues.
Is there more to the league’s camaraderie than just on the court?
We also have social events; we put on things like an annual drag show where all of the performers are CGVA players. We, together with local drag queens, put on a show, so that’s always a great time. We have picnic events on Labor Day every year where we set up five or six nets and people just have a good time. It’s not necessarily a focus on just the sports and competitiveness, necessarily. My boyfriend just joined the league this last season, and he had never really played volleyball before. He has such a good time, and he said he wants to come back and play in the fall, because he has met a bunch of good friends.
Can you talk about inclusivity within CGVA?
We invite anyone who wants to come participate, all genders and sexualities are welcome. We have a fair amount of women who play with us, a fair amount of straight allies that come and play with us, we’re open to everybody. Anyone who wants to come and make friends in the community and play volleyball and just have some fun.
How about accessibility for different abilities and fitness levels?
Our facilities are at Dive Volleyball, and they are in the process of renovations right now that would allow wheelchair access and differently abled people to come in. We have a brand-new beginner’s league for people who maybe don’t see themselves as athletic, and we run a coaching and mentorship program as well. That consists of one or two skill clinics if people are interested in really getting better at this sport. We’re definitely available for anyone that wants to come in and just have a good time and be social with their friends, but there are people who are really interested in getting better at volleyball and moving up their skills, so we offer those skills clinics for those people that want to get better.
What are CGVA’s plans for Aurora Pride?
We’re going to set up to have a little tournament of beach volleyball; we’ll have some good, good competition going. We will have one net for more advanced players who have played before and want a higher level of competition. Then we’ll have a separate thing going on for people who haven’t played much more than a beginner’s level.
Why do you think it’s important to include sports at an event like Pride?
Pride is a great celebration of who you are, and I think it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that queer people have multiple aspects of their lives. They aren’t just gay or lesbian; they have other aspects of who they are, and that might mean they’re athletic, or that might mean they’re a very social person who likes to go out with friends and hang out at the beach. Involving these other events in Pride shows that you can be very proud of who you are, and who you are might include these other aspects of your life as well. By showing that there are groups for gay athletes, I think it’s very important to combat the stereotypes that might exist around the fact that some people might think that queer people aren’t as athletic or as skilled at sports.