LGBTQ Atlanta sports make COVID-aware comeback plays

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Just like the rest of the world, Atlanta’s LGBTQ leagues, teams and fan groups are ready for a post-COVID spring and summer. Some are tentative about returning to the fields of play, and others are diving in with necessary precautions.

“The NFFLA is excited to open our doors to our community and start a new season as safely as possible,” said Justin Spears of the National Flag Football League of Atlanta.

NFFLA hosts a mini camp on Saturday, April 10, its One Atlanta Draft on April 17, and day of preseason play on April 24. Regular games take place May 1 through July 31.

“Masks on, cleats on, game on,” Spears said.

Action starts this weekend for the teams of Hotlanta Softball League as well. They even formed two new teams with people interested in becoming more active after a sedentary 2020, HSL Commissioner Kyler Miller told Project Q.

“While it’s going to look a little different being in a national pandemic, we are still one of the top leagues in the country based on team participation,” Miller said. “I’m excited to lead one of the best softball leagues in the country during these challenging times.”

The teams of Hotlanta Softball League return to the field on April 11. (Photo by Russ Bowen-Youngblood)

Running, kicking, riding

The enthusiasm is also palpable among members of Front Runners Atlanta, the organizers of the annual Pride Run and several other annual events that were changed or sidelined during COVID-19 lockdown and restrictions.

Front Runners is already back to distanced weekly group runs on Wednesdays and Saturdays in Virginia Highland. Last week, the group announced more plans for 2021 that welcome all comers.

“We welcome all running abilities and levels,” said Thomas Barker, Front Runners president. “In that spirit, we are doing a couch to 5K beginning in May and ending with the Pride Run June 19 for anyone wanting to run their first 5K.”

HSL and NFFLA also welcome players from beginners to advanced. The softball league boasts multiple teams in multiple divisions, and the flag football league supports new players with clinics and individual support.

“We welcome all skill levels, all genders, and all allies interested in building friendships through sport and fellowship,” Spears said.

Other local gay sports leagues are a bit more tentative, with a close watch on COVID trends and official recommendations.

Hotlanta Soccer holds weekly outdoor practices on Saturdays, but no matches just yet. As more vaccines roll out and go into arms, more activity will be considered in May, said the league’s David D’Onofrio.

On the pro soccer front, Atlanta United allows limited capacity during its new season at Mercedes Benz Stadium. The LGBTQ fan group All Stripes is ready, according to founder David Prophitt.

“We are planning a watch party at CODA at 5th Street for the first match on April 17,” Prophitt said. “We’re talking about a tailgate and watch party for the April 24 home opener since it will have limited attendance.”

Also in the sports mix, the annual AIDS Vaccine 200 hosts a “do your own” bike ride event for 2021. Online registration is open now to benefit the Emory Vaccine Center.

All Stripes, Hotlanta Soccer and the AV200 will post developments on their Facebook pages as plans take shape.

Front Runners Atlanta is back in action, including weekly group runs and plans leading up to the annual Pride Run on June 19. (Photo by Russ Bowen-Youngblood)

Ready and waiting

Facebook is also where you’ll find the latest plans for the Hotlanta Volleyball Association. HVA takes place indoors, and the association is holding off for now, Hotlanta Volleyball Commissioner Todd Swink said.

The board wants to “ensure we can steward responsible sportsmanship,” he said. “It is our hope that we can welcome players of all levels back to the courts in a safe environment soon.”

“I spend a lot of the time saying ‘wait’ and ‘No, it’s not safe,’” Swink told his members in a Facebook post on April 1. “I want to make sure that everyone knows I want to return as soon as we can.”

“When we do return, you better get yourself ready! We gonna volleyball, beer bust and party until we drop,” he added.

The AIDS Vaccine Ride is different amidst COVID changes for 2021, but riders can still get in on it. (Photo by Russ Bowen-Youngblood)

Post-lockdown lowdown

NFFLA Flag Football
Mini Camp April 10
One Atlanta Draft April 17
Preseason April 24
Games Saturdays May 1 – July 31
nffla.com

Hotlanta Softball League
Sundays April 11 – June 27
hotlantasoftball.org

Front Runners Atlanta
Weekly runs
Wednesdays, 6:30 p.m., Saturdays, 9 a.m.
Pride Run set for June 19
frontrunnersatlanta.org

AIDS Vaccine Ride
COVID-Safe ‘Ride Your Own’
Benefiting Emory Vaccine Center
Ride and donate through May 31
actioncyclingatl.org

Hotlanta Volleyball Association
Still considering when to return
Facebook Page & Members Group
facebook.com/HotlantaVolleyball

Hotlanta Soccer
Practicing Weekly, No Matches Yet
Saturdays @ Central Park, 10 a.m.
facebook.com/groups/34244209984

All Stripes
(LGBTQ Atlanta United Fan Group)
Outdoor Watch Party @ CODA, April 17
Limited Attendance Home Opener Tailgate, April 24
facebook.com/groups/allstripesatl

A version of this article also appeared in Q ATLus magazine. Read the latest issue of Q ATLus here:

Pick it up each week at LGBTQ and allied venues, and find new content here every day.

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