Playing kickball with Kansas City’s Stonewall Sports group is a great equalizer, one organizer says, because everyone plays on the same teams. The participants’ gender orientation doesn’t matter.
“It’s all coed,” said Ryan Fortney, director of visibility for Stonewall Sports, “which, you know, is important in the LGBT community because there’s a lot of non-binary individuals out there.”
When he’s not involved as a volunteer with Stonewall Sports, Fortney, 35, is the director of business and marketing for the Forge Repertory Theatre. He lives in Midtown Kansas City.
The group is now looking for kickball players for the spring season, Fortney said. Registration is underway, and participation is open to all.
“It’s a diverse group of people, not just in orientation or gender, but also in age,” he said. “So there are some really competitive teams out there, but there’s some people, like my team, that are just doing it for fun.”
Kansas City’s group was formed in July 2019, and it was the 19th chapter to join the national nonprofit organization called Stonewall Sports, as we reported in the September 2019 issue of Camp (bit.ly/38iQKhA). The national group began in 2010 in Washington, D.C.
Fortney explained the intramural sports seasons that Stonewall Sports has followed: Teams play kickball outdoors in the fall, then dodgeball indoors during the winter months, then kickball outside again in the spring. The dodgeball season will wrap up at the end of March.
For that first kickball season in the fall, the Kansas City group set a national enrollment record, Fortney said, with 222 players across 14 teams. Their goal had been 192 players.
“We set the record of all Stonewalls for largest enrollment for an initial season,” he said. “Out of all the cities that are involved with Stonewall Sports, all the affiliates, we blew that record out of the water, which is absolutely amazing.”
During that kickball season, he said, they had themes each week. One was Family Week, and another was Wig Week, when players wore wigs.
“Stonewall’s main mission is to bring the community together around LGBTQ+ individuals, and it wasn’t just those people on the field, it was the people around the neighborhood,” he said. “We played at Westport High School [called Westport Commons – Plexpod Field]. And we got people who normally walk on the track on Sundays and they would come over and just talk to us and tell us how glad they were that we were in their neighborhood. And it was absolutely amazing to see.”
Although the group loved playing at that field and the Plexpod people were wonderful to work with, Fortney said, the location for this season’s games changed because the area where they played is being turned into a parking lot.
“But we have secured Gillham Park for the spring, which is incredible,” he said. “The fact that the city was willing to work with us on that and was supportive of our mission is really, really great. And that’s one reason we’re going for 300 players and 20 teams because we can expand from having two fields. … Now we can have three or four fields, which cuts down the time that we have to be there and just allows for more to go on.”
Stonewall Sports raises money through sponsorships from businesses, and registration fees. After initial expenses such as dodgeball and kickball equipment, the money raised goes to charity. Fortney said they gave $2,500 to the Kansas City AIDS Service Foundation and $500 to the Kansas City Center for Inclusion last year.
To join a team
Fortney said that enrollment for the first 2020 season will end on March 19. The season begins on March 12 and runs through June 14. Each team has 12-18 players. The registration cost is $40 per player
Fortney said that only occasionally have they needed to cancel a game due to rain or the fields being too muddy. He said that the group usually heads over to Woody’s, the LGBTQ sports bar, in Midtown, which is one of the sponsors of their teams.
Quotes from Stonewall Sports players:
“I was looking for a place to meet new people. I found a team that I’ve made true friendships [with] while having a great time playing our games.”– Mike Smith
“Perkins and I joined originally as just a way to get us new parents out and active again. With a 5-month-old, that is a hard thing to accomplish. However, we ended up loving how fun and energetic everyone was. Every week, not only was our team happy to see us there, but other teams were friendly and welcoming to us as well. We were able to get out every week and enjoy the weather, friendship, laughs and sportsmanship of everyone playing. Even though we may not have won a single game, we had a great time giving it our all!” – Becca Perkins
“I joined Stonewall Sports because I was looking for ways to be active and ways to meet more people in the queer community. I couldn’t have found a more inclusive space to accomplish both of these goals!” – Madeline Cox
“I joined Stonewall Sports because I’ve only lived in KC for a year and it seemed like a great opportunity to get involved and meet more people within the community. Also, I played sports my whole life, so it would allow me to continue being active and competitive. My experience with Stonewall Sports was a lot of fun. I’m so glad to have been a part of the inaugural season in KC and that I got to share this experience with old and new friends.” – Chris Lara