Compete Network Feature Stories

From the Catbird Seat: Paying it Forward

This month we celebrate the 40th birthday of NAGAAA’s Gay Softball World Series. We also celebrate a number of other sports and the amazing people who are paying it forward by creating new and inspiring organizations as well as expanding the reach of already established organizations. This is sports diversity at its finest!

I want to share with you a message from NAGAAA’s current commissioner Chris Bolton. It is perhaps one of the best and most touching explanations of the vital meaning gay sports has for many. I’m sure some of you will see your own experience mirrored by his. It is also why the sports diversity movement is so important – it is offering a safe and welcoming environment for everyone who wants to play a sport.

What does NAGAAA mean to me?

I am known for wearing my heart on my sleeve. I am so passionate about promoting softball in the LGBT community because I have witnessed players saying, “I was always teased for throwing the ball like a sissy,” and then I watch them blossom as player. Nothing is more exciting than watching someone make their first catch or get their first base hit.  As commissioner, I wanted to promote NAGAAA’s mission to provide a safe space for our LGBT community to play together in a healthy environment.

As young kid, I was always afraid of the locker room and any athletic competition. I was teased and called sissy boy. There was a strong masculinity that pervaded sports and I was afraid to compete because I wasn’t man enough. Because of this fear, I kept a part of myself secret for a long time. In 2001 at the age of 40, I joined the gay softball league in Memphis, Tennessee. I immediately felt at home and I was accepted even though I wasn’t that good an athlete.

It’s ironic that the thought of playing any sport was a nightmare for me. But after discovering gay softball, sports competition became one of the most beautiful discoveries I’ve ever had in my life. I am grateful that I allowed myself to be open to this life-changing experience. I felt that it was the beginning of a new chapter in my life.

So now I feel I must pay it forward! NAGAAA can provide people who are struggling to accept themselves a place to discover their true selves in a safe environment. I hope by getting involved with gay softball that I can help to provide a source of inspiration and hope for others searching to find themselves. I hate to think of where I would be today without gay softball.

Chris Bolton, NAGAAA commissioner – 2012-Present


Keep Smiling,

Connie Wardman, Editor-in-Chief


Photo courtesy of NAGAAA archives.


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