This month’s community hero is Eric Gonzales who serves as the full-time executive vice president of the Los Angeles Volleyball Organization, Inc., better known as LAVO. We recently spoke with him about his involvement in the sports diversity movement.
Compete: What sports have you played in the past, Eric? Have you always been a volleyball player?
Eric Gonzales: I never was really into sports in high school. I was mainly into academics and extracurricular activities such as journalism and holding class office. But when I moved to Los Angeles I didn’t know anyone and I needed to find something to do. That’s when I found volleyball! I didn’t realize then that it would become my passion.
C: Please tell us your role with the upcoming WeHo Sports Festival and what you consider the best thing about working with it.
EG: I’m the executive director. The buck stops with me, so to speak. My job is to make sure that we organize the best WeHo Sports Festival (WSF) each year and that our participants enjoy themselves. I absolutely love it. I love the fact that several different organizations can come together and put on an event that our community can be proud of. I love to see that participating numbers of the different sports are growing. I hope this becomes a permanent tradition.
C: Is there a special involvement with the LGBT sports community?
EG: The fact that most of the sports participating in WSF are LGBT-focused organizations is the best part! It’s a space where you can be yourself, show your athletic abilities and make friends outside of the traditional bar scenes. The people you are playing with share your passion for that sport and those friendships tend to last a very long time.
LAVO is heavily involved with the LGBT community. Our headquarters are here in West Hollywood and our membership is well over 50 percent LGBT volleyball players. LAVO is the largest organizer of volleyball tournaments on behalf of the North American Gay Volleyball Association (NAGVA). Our tournaments draw hundreds of gay volleyball players. We always sell out; we never have enough space to accommodate the demand. It’s a good problem to have, I suppose.
C: Dare we ask you your favorite sport?
EG: Volleyball, of course. But dodgeball is fun, too.
C: Tell us about your favorite professional and/or college sports teams.
EG: Although my university is not a D1 school [the University of California, Santa Cruz], I support my sister school – I’m team UCLA! I root for all the sports but of course, volleyball is close to my heart.
C: How about sharing some of your favorite past times with our readers, Eric.
EG: I used to love buying and selling homes when I was in real estate. I’m kind of getting the itch again to go back and dabble here and there. We’ll see.
C: With all your hard work, have you received any special awards honoring your achievements?
EG: It’s nice to win awards, but I’m most proud of the work I have accomplished. My significant achievements have been the creation of LAVO and all the milestones that have come with it. It has grown so big, so fast that it has surpassed my expectations.
Now, the WSF is my latest achievement. What we have talked about doing for so long finally has come true – we’re actually doing it. The work comes with a lot of stress but it makes me really happy. In the end, watching everyone having a great time is my reward.
C: Have you had a role model, someone who has positively influenced you along the way?
EG: Growing up, my uncle was my role model. I wanted to grow up and be successful and smart like he was. He was an engineer so I wanted to be an engineer. But I realized engineering wasn’t for me. These days, I draw inspiration from special people in my life and sometimes from people I read about.
C: Thanks for letting us get to know you better and the role you play in the LGBT sports community, Eric. Is there anything else you’d like to share with Compete’s readers?
EG: Yes — I hope to see many new faces at WSF 2016!
The 2016 WeHo Sports Festival is being held on the UCLA campus over Labor Day weekend, September 2-4.
Do you know a community hero? Community Heroes is a regular feature in Compete Magazine. Nominate deserving individuals by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org and include a brief biography of or a link to your nominee
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