Lindsey Dietzler may not seem to be the most likely person to start one of Chicago’s newest sports organizations for the LGBT community.
“I was one of the kids who was really lazy in high school and hated gym class,” he said.
But a couple years ago, Dietzler started biking in a serious way. Now it’s his main way of getting around the city, and it kick-started his interest in keeping fit.
“It’s really good for the body, the soul,” he said.
Dietzler is hoping the same can be said of CAMP: A Queer Sports League, which he launched last year. The goal, he said, was “to offer a space within the queer community that was separate from the bar culture.”
So began a kickball league that was geared toward the trans community and its allies. About 15 people per week showed up to play on Sunday evenings at Humboldt Park on the West Side.
The emphasis is very much on participation and very little on competition.
“When we play, the teams change every week,” Dietzler said. “Sometimes, we’ll draw numbers from a hat. There’s no team captain. … It’s meant to keep things lighthearted. I don’t want anybody who comes into that space to feel uncomfortable, to feel they’re not good at it.”
Toward that end, the league is as welcoming of spectators as it is of players. “If they want to come and hang out, they’re welcome to do that,” Dietzler said.
Like the games themselves, the league is long on improvisation and short on structure. Dietzler would have kept the games going through October last year, but earlier sunsets torpedoed that plan.
This year, the league got off to a slow start. “May was a hard month to start with, with Mother’s Day and NATO and Memorial Day,” he said.
Still, numbers are about where they were last year and Dietzler is hoping participation will pick up as summer goes on. He’s also looking to expand CAMP beyond the Sunday evening kickball games.
The focus, again, is not on the usual range of competitive sports like volleyball or softball. There was a Capture the Flag game last October, but another planned activity was scuttled because of uncooperative weather.
“This winter I wanted to get a snowball right together, but there was never any snow,” Dietzler said.
This year, if Chicago has a more typical winter, he’s considering a sledding expedition. Indoor dodgeball is another possibility.
The ultimate goal is simply to provide a reason for people to come together and enjoy Chicago’s often glorious summer weather. And also to goof off.
“I’ve been doing a lot of activism over the last several years,” said Dietzler, who’s heard from others that this low-stress summer diversion “has probably been one of the most rewarding things they’ve done.
“This has helped them get through some hard things to have a sense of community.”
For more information on CAMP: A Queer Sports League, go to its Facebook page.