Senior Sports in the LGBTQ Community: A Real Home Run
It might seem like a daunting thing: keeping up an active lifestyle as you age, but the truth is, nothing is better for your body and mind than staying active! It also helps when your exercise is found within a close-knit, loving community like the Master’s division of the Twin Cities Goodtime Softball League, a long running LGBTQ sports league. Three players for the TCGSL, Dennis Cunningham, Bruce Lorentz, and John Hansen, spoke about their experiences with softball, their identities, playing sports as you age, and community.
Cunningham, pitcher and first base, says that the Twin Cities Goodtime Softball League influenced his life because “the league is about people playing softball with their friends, no matter the skill level… I feel being an older LGBTQ athlete is really fun. We still are competitive and having fun. That is what is most important to me.” Having fun while exercising can make a world of difference. Showing up for your teammates makes showing up for yourself easier, and can make it more rewarding to keep you moving your body. Hansen, who plays mostly infield, says “Being 50 and playing softball brings a very different lens. It has moved from a focus on winning to [a focus on] camaraderie, community, and fun. I used to be so focused on winning, and while that hasn’t gone completely away, age has shown that the ability to be my true self and help others be the same is far more important.”
Shifting your perspective from one of solely competition to one of solidarity and friendship is a beautiful insight that comes with experience and age: and one that people of all ages can learn from. Community can be hard to find, and, like Hansen says, “Community is a large part of the human experience. Some have church, clubs, or family gatherings. I have softball. They are my community.”
Community is crucial to humanity. Lorentz, who plays left field and usually leads off for batting, says “Our softball league, Twin Cities Goodtime Softball League, is AMAZING! We are one of the biggest leagues in the nation and have some great athletes in the league… I’m not sure where I’d be if I didn’t have my softball friends.” Lorentz has an amazing track record of supporting his teammates, and knows that dedication and community go hand-in-hand. He casually notes that he has “been in the league for over 10 years and [has] only missed one game due to a family obligation.”
Softball itself creates a great sense of community, but importantly, the Twin Cities Goodtime Softball League was created by and for LGBTQ athletes, always with an open door to allies. Hansen says “Being a gay man and competing with other LGBTQ athletes has been and continues to be incredibly empowering. As many of us did, I grew up being told people like me weren’t capable of numerous things including sports. Time has proved nothing could be further from the truth, and each of us are capable of things far greater than we believe.”
Harmful stereotypes about queerness and sports have often kept LGBTQ people, especially gay men, off of the field, which is why leagues like the TCGSL are so essential. Cunningham says “It is really important to have these leagues because it supplies a safe place for LGBTQIA people to enjoy sports and meet new people.” Especially for older athletes, growing up gay on a mostly straight, cisgender sports team might have been mentally challenging, or in some cases, an impossibility, and while we are making strides as a society to create a world that is more inclusive, having these safe spaces is still so necessary to the health, both physical and emotional, of LGBTQ athletes.
Hansen shares a beautiful beginning to his softball journey: “I started playing in 1999 as a shy closeted young man searching for myself. When I joined, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had built up all of these crazy images and was terrified. Luckily, I took that chance. The team I joined was a group of older players that were kind, welcoming and had been on that same journey for many years. I had found my tribe and found myself. It filled a large void in my life.” Lorentz says it best: having this experience on the TCGSL for as long as he has, “means growth in the gay community, and it gives others the sense of belonging when they are on a team.”
Aside from the importance of community, playing sports at an older age is imperative for your physical health. Numerous studies have shown that aging adults who engage in sports or regular physical activity lead healthier lives, contract fewer illnesses, have fewer heart and lung issues, and are even less likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Lorentz comments that playing softball, “helps in keeping [his] ‘older’ joints mobile and flexible.” Cunningham also says that in addition to softball, he does “some type of exercise, from weights to yoga, at least 6-7 times a week,” and adds “My fitness journey has been lifelong. I have had hip replacement, so it is important for me to stay active.” It’s never too late to join a sports team and stay active. Being able to find community and a healthy way to move your body are two of the most important parts of aging happily, and thankfully for queer community in the Twin Cities, both can be found in the Twin Cities Goodtime Softball League.