A league of their own

The new Dallas Gay Basketball Association fills a need in sports community

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HOOP DREAMS | DGBA board members Steven Coleman, Matt De La Rosa, Patrick Cornelius and Robbie Baker keep their eyes on the ball while building their basketball association. (Rich Lopez/Dallas Voice)

 

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

The unmistakable quick snikt of rubber-soled shoes squeaking against the Reverchon court is abundant on a Saturday afternoon. Several men — and one woman — run up and down the floor, vying for three-pointers, steals and rebounds as a small crowd cheers in a way only sassy gay men can.

It is just their second week of summer play, but within three hours, the six teams of the new Dallas Gay Basketball Association are getting their sweat on — and they love it.

The DGBA is still the new kid on the sports block in a community already flush with sports and teams, but it’s filling a need this sports-crazed city has needed — even among the gays.

“Several players have been so emotional and rejoice in the fact that they now have a basketball community,” says Robbie Baker, president of the league. “That’s the fruits of our labor in this: Seeing their excitement, raving about the games. It’s really a rich feeling and our main focus was to create a community.”

In short time, the DGBA has put down quick roots. Its board capped the league at 42 players; for the inaugural season in January, six teams (of seven spots) signed up — a healthy start, which both thrilled and flabbergasted Baker.

“Initially we decided to make a traveling team,” he says, meaning one crew would travel to nearby cities for interleague play. “But then we started working on the league. What started out as a Facebook group grew into all these people itching to play.”

That was a year ago and now the DGBA joins the ranks of other queer sports initialisms: DIVA (volleyball), PSSA (softball), OLBA (bowling), OLTA (tennis) and others. DIVA was especially crucial to DGBA’s genesis. Their board imparted organizational skills and helped them navigate the paperwork to establish nonprofit status. (Baker’s former group, the Seattle Basketball League, was also the basis for structuring DGBA.)

“Well, it’s a shit-ton of work,” he laughs, “but it’s been a huge success on most standpoints: Perfect budget, number of teams, website. We’re doing everything we needed to.”

Once the nine weeks of summer play conclude, the DGBA will be in a position to increase its membership. The goal now is to jump from six teams to 10 or 12 — an achievable goal, according to marketing director Steven Coleman.

“Word grew really fast for us and there continues to be a lot of excitement,” he says. “We’re looking to increase our membership and then break into levels much like DIVA with competitive and rec divisions. That should get more players involved. And then we’re looking to clinics.”

Baker says the level of play is pretty high. Lay-ups and dunks are frequent and intense player contact is the norm. It can be intimidating to newcomers. This day, players fell and ran into walls and each other, but as sportsmen, and games were exciting. Hoops fans know it’s a physical sport, but the league wants to stress the camaraderie of it all. To keep it social, DGBA host monthly happy hours at Woody’s both for the players and to introduce the league to the community. Baker is especially hopeful more women will jump on board.

“I miss my lesbians!” he exclaims. “You can always rely on a lesbian — women tend to be more committed. We want to increase all of our demographics, but more women players would be great.”

Membership is wide-ranging already. Players span ages 18 to 55, and include business professionals and students from diverse backgrounds. You don’t need to be gay to join, though it is of course gay-targeted.

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COURT DATE | The Hawks get out on the fast break during play at Reverchon Park Rec Center during the second week of the season for the newly minted DGBA. (Rich Lopez/Dallas Voice)

To expand their presence, two traveling teams — Dallas Hotshots and the Dallas Ballers — will head to Austin next month to represent the DGBA at the National Gay Basketball Association tourney. That may lend itself to another of Baker’s goals: Eventually hosting a national gay basketball tournament in Dallas.

But the DGBA can’t get too ahead of itself. For now, they just want to play basketball. A year ago, Baker, Coleman, vice president Matt De La Rosa and finance man Patrick Cornelius were just four guys shooting hoops at the YMCA; they never imagined they would be heading a league of their own creation that’s fulfilling a need not just for them, but for many Dallas athletes as passional about b-ball as they are.

“I would do anything for this league,” Baker says. “I don’t think our job is done yet.”

For more information, visit DallasGBA.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 29, 2012.

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