It’s been a promising year for the Lambda Softball Association of Eastern Iowa (LSA).
After a two-year process, LSA and Iowa City became the 48th member of the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance (NAGAAA). To become a member city, the LSA was required to meet twice a year with the NAGAAA Board of Directors and delegates from each member city, maintain at least four teams in the league, and send at least one team to compete in the Gay Softball World Series.
There are currently 52 member cities in NAGAAA after four new cities were elected last August. LSA has been pursuing this goal since the organization was founded in 2018.
NAGAAA is the first LGBTQ sports organization to have partnership deals with major sports leagues such as MLB, NBA, WWE and Impact Wrestling. NAGAAA membership provides more resources and support to LSA and Iowa City. Receive discounts on gear from NAGAAA’s partners like Monsta Athletics and AD Starr. Member cities are also automatically eligible to participate in tournaments that run throughout the year.
One tournament was the Saguaro Cup in Phoenix, Arizona. In April, The Dirty Divas, the LSA’s traveling team of around eight players, went undefeated against the other 33 teams in the division and won the tournament.
In October, The Dirtier Divas traveled to Kansas City, Missouri to compete in the Amateur Sports Alliance of North America (ASANA). This was the first time Iowa City and LSA had represented each other in a women’s tournament, and although the team did not place at the tournament, it was a “wonderful experience,” said Steven Holter, LSA chairman.
At the end of August, The Dirty Divas traveled to Dallas for the Gay Softball World Series. LSA had never competed in the tournament before and The Dirty Divas made a good impression, finishing third out of 79 teams in the division.
“The GSWS experience was incredible,” said Holter. “Our league umpire, Mike O’Neill, was able to visit and represent the LSA and officiate games at all levels throughout the week.”
O’Neill is the former executive director of Cedar Rapids’ athletics program. He happened to become an umpire for the LSA after Holter tried to find a replacement umpire. O’Neill agreed to officiate their Sunday game and help find a permanent replacement.
“Mike came out this Sunday and was refereeing and he’s still sane,” Holter said.
The players and members like O’Neill are the reason Holter devotes his time and effort to the LSA. Holter, a Wisconsin native, hopes the league will increase LGBTQ participation in sports and help them find a community.
“I wasn’t often bullied or teased as a kid, and I played sports growing up. But I know so many individuals in the LGBTQ community who don’t do this, either because they will be attacked or just because they are afraid of being attacked,” said Holter, who played with his father growing up.
“Some of the most marginalized are transgender, non-binary and gender biased people who can just come out. And as soon as they step onto the field, there are just a few ballers out there, which is amazing,” he continued. “I’ve seen so many firsthand stories of LGBTQIA people playing in NAGAAA softball leagues, people who never felt they had a place in youth or high school sports.”
While LSA is designed for LGBTQ people, the league is open to everyone. Holter estimates that 85 percent of LSA members are queer and 15 percent are straight allies, friends, and family who want to gamble.
LSA had four teams in its spring and summer leagues and three teams in its fall league. LSA hopes to grow by one or two teams each year. Fifty-eight players competed with LSA last season, ranging from 18-year-old players to people in their early 60s. Anyone can join – all you need is a glove.
“We had several members who joined the LSA for the first time. It’s always exciting to have fresh faces join our fun,” said Holter. “We just always welcome new members, from the novice to the most experienced.”
In the future, LSA plans to form three to four teams in the Quad Cities. Eventually, LSAs will have a rotating schedule, with teams traveling from Iowa City to the Quad Cities and vice versa every two weeks. Holter said they are looking for local leaders to coordinate the Quad Cities teams alongside the LSA board.
LSA has also started starting a pickleball club to keep people active over the winter. As with the softball teams, everyone is welcome to join. They start with some introductory events in January, followed by open-play games throughout the season. Interested pickleballers can email [email protected] to connect.