The sun is out, the D.C. area is getting vaccinated and locals are emerging like cicadas from a year-and-change slumber. Sports leagues around the DMV are ready to give our bodies a place to socialize and remember what it’s like to be part of a community.
For the three organizations we interviewed, Stonewall Sports, FXA Sports and DC Fray, taking a break during the pandemic gave them each an opportunity to pause and think about the future of sports in the region.
As Brittany Rheault, senior director of sports at Fray, puts it, “Our mission is to bring people together, and Covid’s was to tear people apart.”
Here is what the three different organizations have to say about the return of sports.
District Fray’s parent company, DC Fray, is excited to reopen this summer. During the pandemic, the organization pivoted to virtual events such as cocktail hours, speed dating and trivia nights in order to keep its community together, and staff members hope that community returns to the fields and courts as soon as they feel safe enough to do so.
“It goes back to our mission,” Rheault says. “We’re here to make fun possible, and to bring people together.”
Rheault has worked for DC Fray for eight years and knows the community well.
“I merge and create teams, where the process of bringing players together starts. The excitement of potentially linking them to their next roommate, best friend or partner is still the highlight for me each season.”
DC Fray is excited to regain what was missing during the pandemic and it seems residents are, too, as there have been more never-before-seen names signing up for different leagues.
“We’re rebuilding that sense of community so many of our players have been missing,” she adds.
DC Fray plans to keep up with virtual events as well as in-person sports in order to support the D.C. community on all comfort levels.
“Any way we can continue to make fun possible and link up with the community, that’s what we’re going to keep doing.”
You can find registration for summer sports — everything from bingo to cornhole to soccer — at www.dcfray.com. Registration is open through mid-June, and games are held all over D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
Launched in 2007 as a three-sport league, FXA now hosts 19 different sports with roughly 2,000 teams. The organization paused activity during the pandemic but worked hard to follow CDC and local guidelines to find ways to keep the leagues going. They opened a few outdoor sports in the summer of 2020 and were able to supply Fairfax County with data that that the organization’s outdoor leagues involved zero in-game transmissions.
Yet FXA president and founder Jeremy Purcell says, despite their results, “The big challenge for all the clubs around the country is rebuilding confidence.”
Director of customer success, Tyler McKee, echoes that sentiment.
“We all have different situations [such as] living with our parents or grandparents,” he says. “There’s people to think about other than ourselves. But more and more people are starting to get back out there.”
As more people get vaccinated, FXA is seeing an uptick in registrations — especially in outdoor sports.
“One of the things we really work for is to provide a place for everybody,” Purcell says. “We have all levels. We have leagues where we have four or five divisions in the same league, and one of the reasons we do that is so that anybody can come out and have fun.”
With levels ranging from beginner to advanced, FXA also helps decide which team is a good fit based on the position the athlete feels most comfortable playing. In such a fast-paced society, McKee stresses the importance of giving yourself a break.
“It’s a place where you can narrow the focus a little bit. You’re not worried about high-pressure work. It’s just, ‘Let me hit this shot. Let me complete this pass.’ There’s almost some relaxation in having your cares be so small in that moment.”
FXA has added four sports — including pickleball and Spikeball — in the past year, and they expect to add more in the future. Registration is open until June 2 and leagues are held in Northern Virginia. Check out www.fxasports.com to see what new and classic sports are available this summer.
Established in 2010, Stonewall Sports is a community-based nonprofit now active in nearly two dozen cities in the nation, including D.C. Aptly named for the famous demonstrations by the gay community in 1969, the Stonewall riots, the organization is specifically geared toward creating a community for LGBTQ+ individuals and their allies.
Viet Tran, Stonewall’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion, says, “During the pandemic, it was especially tough for a lot of LGBTQ+ people who really found community within Stonewall Sports. This was their core group, their family. This is how they engaged with their D.C. community.”
Stonewall went virtual to help bridge that gap. It hosted online happy hours, mixers and movie nights, as well as engaged in community fundraising for people who were disproportionately affected by Covid. And while Stonewall adhered to CDC and local guidelines, Tran says league staff are excited to welcome the community face-to-face, especially as they’ve had more time to focus on fostering an inclusive environment.
“One of the things we’re excited about as we head toward our soft reopening this summer or fall is the incorporation of a player name and pronoun on our T-shirts,” he says.
Stonewall will also launch a social media campaign with training and resources to help educate people on why these changes are important. When asked how to help those hesitant to reengage in person, Tran says Stonewall is focused on not only local guidance, but participants’ comfort levels.
“It’s important for us to find ways to safely engage and stay active. We want players to engage in a way that’s most comfortable for them, to know they’re not alone in these feelings: excitement, fear, concern and joy. They’re all valid.”
As for the future of Stonewall in D.C., Tran says it will take time to get back to normalcy. In the meantime, the league will continue to implement new diversity and inclusion practices, as well as continue to build their community.
Keep up with http://stonewallsports.leagueapps.com to see which leagues —billiards, bocce, climbing, dodgeball, kickball and yoga —are reopening in the coming months in the District.
Other Local Leagues to Check Out
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