These 3 LGBTQ+ sports leagues are taking off in Arizona

(Photo courtesy of Cactus City Softball League)

By Robert Gundran

May 30, 2024

“I love that it’s something that I can do with other queer people that doesn’t involve alcohol. It’s positive.” — Jimmy Davis

Spending time with family and friends can help mental and physical health … and it’s just plain fun. So where can adults connect outside of a typical bar scene? For many in Arizona, the answer is a “third place.”

“Third places” are familiar spots where people can meet and connect with others in their community. Think malls in the 1990s, or a coffee shop. And more and more these days, adults are finding their third places through sports.

Arizona is home to several sports leagues that were specifically created for LGBTQ+ communities to gather and socialize in a competitive or recreational environment.

We took a look at three organizations that serve as safe and fun “third places” for Arizona’s LGBTQ+ residents and their straight and cis allies.

 

Cactus Cities Softball League

The Cactus Cities Softball League was founded in 1994 as a way for gay men and lesbian women to get together and play slow pitch softball.

Jason Blake, outreach coordinator for the league, said Cactus Cities has over 400 members across 24 teams.

The league has two seasons—one in the spring and another in the fall. Every spring the teams compete for a chance to place in the International Pride Softball Gay Softball World Series.

Cactus Cities Softball League is part of the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance (NAGAAA), which has leagues all across the US. The World Series is in Las Vegas this October.

Blake said the league is a positive part of Arizona’s state culture.

“There’s strong ties to the community at large beyond just participation in our league … and it seems to be a pretty welcoming environment,” he said.

Cactus Cities’ fall season starts this September, and as their more laid-back season, it’s a chance to get together with the league and just enjoy relaxation and softball. The teams play at Cesar Chavez Park in Phoenix.

The league is open to adults 18 and up. Learn more here.

 

OutLoud Sports Phoenix

These 3 LGBTQ+ sports leagues are taking off in Arizona

(Photo courtesy of OutLoud Sports)

OutLoud Sports has leagues in 25 cities across the US. It’s a multi-sport organization that has hundreds of athletes playing four sports: pickleball, dodgeball, kickball, and tennis.

“It’s about creating a space for us that maybe wasn’t comfortable growing up in,” said OutLoud spokesperson Travis Craddock. “I didn’t enjoy playing team sports growing up because I didn’t feel like I belonged.”

OutLoud is starting its summer season for pickleball in mid-June, and like Cactus Cities, the league is open to all adult members of the LGBTQ+ community, as well as straight and cis allies.

Craddock said the LGBTQ+ community so often gathers in bars. Creating alternate places to get together, he added, is important.

“It’s cool to be able to do this and to see what comes of it,” Craddock said. “The relationships, the fun, and the memories. It’s awesome.”

Learn more here.

 

Arizona Gay Volleyball Association

These 3 LGBTQ+ sports leagues are taking off in Arizona

(Photo courtesy of Arizona Gay Volleyball Association)

The Arizona Gay Volleyball Association has been around since 2010. Despite the name, it’s welcoming to all members of the LGBTQ+ community, as well as straight and cis allies.

Jimmy Davis is the commissioner for the league, and he echoed what Craddock had to say about sports leagues being a place for people to safely gather.

“These leagues give us another opportunity to be around other queer people in a totally different environment,” Davis said. “It’s really great for people who are sober, but even people who aren’t sober like me, I love that it’s something that I can do with other queer people that doesn’t involve alcohol.”

AZGV has 42 teams playing beach volleyball in two, four, and six-person teams. The league has various divisions, too, so people who are ultra-competitive have a place to play as well as those who want to just be active.

AZGV plays at Steele Indian School Park and Margaret T. Hance Parks in Phoenix. Learn more here.

 

READ MORE: Celebrate inclusivity with these 7 LGBTQ+ welcoming establishments in the Phoenix area

Author

  • Robert Gundran

    Robert Gundran grew up in the Southwest, spending equal time in the Valley and Southern California throughout his life. He graduated from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism in 2018 and wrote for The Arizona Republic and The Orange County Register.

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