Whether it’s the change in acceptance and openness, what is now being taught in gym classes and after-school sports or just the desire to be a team player versus an individual competitor, sports organizations in Philadelphia are reaching new, and frequently difficult, crossroads.
The Philadelphia Fins Aquatics Club, for instance, is currently comprised of only about 30 percent LGBT members, according to one of the recently elected officers. While the Fins have always been an all-inclusive group for many reasons, recent years have seen a decline in the number of new LGBT swimmers. As previous LGBT members move on, the ranks contract, as the total number of new members in a year often does not match the number of those leaving.
The Spartans Wrestling Club has been facing similar obstacles for the past few years also. While still a viable organization with annual tournaments and weekly sessions, the group is actively working to strengthen its ranks by courting new wrestlers and encouraging those who have relapsed from competition into returning.
One problem for groups that face declining participation can be dwindling rosters, which means reduced membership and members’ fees while costs for rental spaces remain the same or even increase. It also makes it more difficult to recruit with less resources and exposure.
On the other end of the spectrum, organizations like Stonewall Sports, Greater Philadelphia Flag Football League and the City of Brotherly Love Softball League have hundreds of members spanning almost all demographics and, in the case of GPFFL at least, have to turn away potential players due to limited field availability and time constraints.
It’s an almost certainty that, as in the case of LGBT bookstores worldwide, we are once again victims of our own rights-garnering success. The need or even desire to be part of an elite LGBTs-only club is becoming less necessary or even desired as we gain mainstream acceptance in many facets of daily life. Still, there are as many personal reasons as there are people for wanting to be part of an all-gay team or at least a majorly gay group for camaraderie and commonality.
If you know of any LGBT person interested in sports in any capacity, encourage them to join your, or another, sports group. Strength in numbers isn’t just a thing of the past; it’s still as viable and relevant to many as it was when these groups formed.
And, at the very least this spring, get out and play.
• Philadelphia Falcons (falcons-soccer.org) indoor pickup schedule began Feb. 1 at Guerin Rec Center, 2201 S. 16th St. Your first time is free, so get out and play!
• City of Brotherly Love Softball League announced the 2016 spring skills day for March 19 at Palumbo Softball Fields, 10th and Fitzwater streets. Co-ed Division is at 10 a.m. and Women’s Division at 11:30 a.m., followed by the annual pub crawl. Rain, shine or snow. Register at cblsl.org.
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