We Give You the Lowdown on How You Can Play!

Gay sports leagues have served to unite people in Florida and around the world for decades, and many Floridians have competed at the international level in the sports that they love. In addition to allowing gay athletes, professional or amateur, to practice their favorite sports, gay sports leagues bring like-minded people together and creates a sense of camaraderie, teamwork, and loyalty.

In this year’s sports issue, I’ve taken the time to profile five gay sports leagues in Florida: softball, flag football, bowling, tennis, and polo. You can sit and watch sports at Sidelines Sports Bar, which is definitely enjoyable, but you can also get out there and participate yourself! You can find out how to do just that in the sections for each sport below.

GAY SOFTBALLFiveGaySports_softball

Softball was one of the first sports to field organized gay and lesbian teams 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, has been playing ball since 1993. 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. The Orlando Voltage team won the annual NAGAAA Cup in the B Division and earned the right to play at the Gay Softball World Series in Columbus, Ohio this month. The Central Florida Softball League also hosts the Orlando Meltdown charity tournament every January and is very focused on hosting the ASANA Softball World Series in October. For more information, visit asanaorlando2015.com.

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, which will be held this year from November 27-29. Registration is open now; go to hurricaneshowdown.net for more information.

FiveGaySports_FlagFootballGAY FLAG FOOTBALL

Florida has one team that plays in the National Gay Flag Football League, and that is the Florida Amateur Flag Football League (FAFFL), based in South Florida. South Florida also plays host to a tournament in which teams from around the country are welcome to participate. It’s called the Florida Sunshine Cup, and the next one will have the theme of “Winter Oasis.” It will take place across two days, February 13-14, 2016, at Central Broward Regional Parks and Stadium (3700 NW 11th Pl., Lauderhill). For more information on both the FAFFL and the Sunshine Cup, visit faffl.leagueapps.com. Want to sign up for the spring 2016 season? E-mail joinus@faffl.org for more information.

FiveGaySports_bowlingGAY 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 twelve gay bowling leagues in Florida, based out of Tampa, Orlando, Wilton Manors, Ocala and Jacksonville. Some of the major gay bowling tournaments in Florida are the Fort Lauderdale Invitational Regional Tournament (FLIRT), held every January; the Gasparilla Annual Games Mixed Event in Tampa, held every February; the Sunshine Invitational Tournament in Orlando, held every May; and the River City Invitational Open Tournament (RIOT) in Jacksonville, coming up this October. For more information on how you can attend RIOT and FLIRT, visit riotrivercity.com and flirtbowl.com, respectively. To find a gay bowling league near you, visit igbo.org/leagues.

FiveGaySports_tennisGAY 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 at the end of November in Harbour Island. Other tournaments include the Miami Art Deco Open in January, the Florida Sunshine Cup in February, the Orange Blossom Tennis Championships in April, and the Miami Flamingo Open 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.

FiveGaySports_poloGAY POLO

Polo enthusiasts from across Florida are welcomed to join the Gay Polo League, which organizes a Gay Polo Week every April at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington. The event has been going on for six years now and is very popular with locals and tourists alike. The Gay Polo Week coincides with the US Open qualifiers. If you’d like to join the Gay Polo League, visit gaypolo.net/membership.