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Gay sporting leagues have been popular all across the United States for many decades now, and gay Floridians are a very active people, each year competing in tournaments in the U.S. and internationally. One important thing that gay sports leagues accomplish, apart from allowing people to play the sport they love, is that they give people a sense of community and camaraderie they may not have had otherwise. In short, sports leagues bring people together.

I’ve taken the time to profile the state of gay sports leagues in Florida, specifically focusing on four different sports: softball, flag football, bowling and tennis.

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GAY SOFTBALL

Softball was at the forefront of organized gay sports in the United States. In 1977, the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance (NAGAAA) was created, giving many people the first chance to compete on gay-friendly sports teams and to play with and against like-minded people.

There are three local leagues that are daughter organizations of NAGAAA. The Suncoast Softball League, serving Tampa Bay and its environs, has been playing ball since 1993 and fields 25 different softball teams in three divisions. They also host the Gasparilla Softball Classic, held every February, which brings in teams from as far away as Canada. More information is available at suncoastsoftball.org.

In Orlando, they are represented by the Central Florida Softball League, which formed in 1997 and included three dozen teams in its last full season. Team and player registration is going on right now for the 2014 season; to learn more, call John at (407) 590-6836. The Central Florida Softball League also hosts the Orlando Meltdown tournament every January; the tournament celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2015.

South Florida is represented in softball by the South Florida Amateur Athletic Association (SFAAA). Over three dozen teams competed in three different division levels this past year. The SFAAA plays gay softball in spring sessions and fall sessions, and welcomes any new players or teams to sign up via their website at sfaaa.net. The SFAAA can trace its roots back to 1994, when the first gay softball league in South Florida (the South Florida Softball League) was founded. The SFAAA hosts the Hurricane Showdown tournament every November. Keep track of Hurricane Showdown updates by liking them on facebook at facebook.com/HurricaneShowdown.

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GAY FLAG FOOTBALL

Florida has one team that plays in the National Gay Flag Football League, and that is the South Florida Gay Flag Football League (SFGFFL). Teams from this league play an NFL-style schedule, in which the teams amass a win-loss record over six weeks, then proceed to a playoff round to determine the “winner” of the season. The team fronted by Village Pub beat the team from Rumors to win the 2014 SFGFFL title. South Florida also hosts a tournament in which teams from around the country are welcome to participate. It’s called the Sunshine Cup and the next one will be held February 13-15, 2015. For more information on both the SFGFFL and the Sunshine Cup, visit sfgffa.com.

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GAY BOWLING

Gay bowling is represented nationally by the International Gay Bowling Organization (IGBO), which started with leagues in six cities in 1980 and has since grown worldwide. Currently there are nine gay bowling leagues in South and Central Florida, based out of Tampa, Orlando, Wilton Manors and Miami. These bowling leagues don’t host local tournaments but they do participate in nationwide conferences and tournaments twice a year. The next one will be held here in Florida, in Jacksonville between November 5-10. For more information on how you can attend, visit igbomidyear2014.com. To find a gay bowling league near you, visit igbo.org/leagues.

GAY TENNIS

The Gay and Lesbian Tennis Alliance (GLTA) has been the international organization promoting gay tennis and presenting international tennis tournaments for nearly 25 years. In Florida, there are four gay tennis clubs: Advantage Tampa Bay, the Orange Blossom Tennis Association, the South Florida Tennis Club, and the Miami Mavericks. Advantage Tampa Bay will be hosting the Citrus Classic Clay Court Championships, which will be happening in just three months’ time. Other tournaments include the Miami Art Deco Open in January, the Fort Lauderdale Clay Court Classic in February, the Orange Blossom Tennis Championships in April, and the Fort Lauderdale Spring Fling Doubles Tournament in May. Players are welcomed from every age and skill set, both young and old and beginner to open-level. For more information on these teams and tournaments, visit glta.net.

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Mike Halterman
Mike Halterman has been the editor of Hotspots Central since its launch in July 2016. He joined the Hotspots Media Group family as editor of Hotspots' South Florida magazine in June 2013. A former "40 Under 40" honoree in The Advocate magazine, Mike lives in the Tampa Bay area.