Photography by Dave Barfield
Team sports promote socialization. It’s on a field or court or rink where individuals blend into one group for the shared intent of playing a game. Sports also foster health, regardless of skill level or competitive drive. In Tallahassee, a newly established club has coupled the social and healthful benefits of team athletics to create a supportive, all-inclusive playing field. They are known as TGAA.
The Tallahassee Gay Athletic Association became a domestic, nonprofit organization in May 2017. Their mission is to support and connect the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) community and friends of the community by showing up every Sunday to play sports.
Founder and President Mark Barr describes TGAA as a service organization, which promotes positivity, communication, and healthy living through athletics. Barr, who moved to Tallahassee with his husband Scott McCoy only a year ago, is a sports enthusiast. He grew up playing football, baseball, and basketball and has continued group athletics throughout his adulthood. While living in his prior residence of Salt Lake City, Barr started a pickup group of flag football in the gay community. Within three years, the group amassed 70 members, became a nonprofit organization, participated in the National Gay Flag Football League, and hosted the eighth annual Gay Bowl.
Barr is an experienced athlete and organization leader, but he is not beyond the wants and needs of his current community. He has a heart for service—not to mention a graduate degree in social work. Upon getting to know more people in Tallahassee, he found many men between the ages of 20 to 60 within the LGBTQ community who were looking for a healthy, communal outlet. Barr placed his competitive nature aside and began cultivating a different kind of athletic environment.
It started with kickball. The expansive greens at Southwood hosted TGAA’s first official season last fall. Men showed up each Sunday morning at 10:45 to participate, and spectators were always welcome. From the get-go, TGAA’s vibe was laid-back and light-hearted. The players bantered, laughed, and got to know each other through numerous rounds of organized games. This summer, beach volleyball was the sport of choice at Tom Brown Park. Membership increased to around 50, women joined the club, and matches always ended with high-fives and other good shows of sportsmanship.
While TGAA is still in the process of creating an official calendar, the plan is to alternate sports seasonally and offer a variety of fitness options. Bowling is the tentative selection for next season. Barr hopes that a rotating schedule will help TGAA reach a broader population. “Ultimately, the goal is to connect as many people as possible. We are stronger as a community if we all know each other.”
TGAA has no membership fees and funnels loads of information about local (and usually free) athletic and LGBTQ events via their Facebook page, which Barr refers to as a community bulletin board. The future of the organization is to focus on health and athletics in various forms. A mud run is in the works, as are football and flag football clinics, and there has been discussion about starting a tennis group. Barr foresees many different offshoots, such as the small groups of TGAA members who already meet sporadically to go hiking or practice yoga.
Ultimately, TGAA wants to be a positive force for Tallahassee in more ways than sports. They have started accepting donations and raising funds, which will flow back into the community through various organizations, such as Equality Florida. This mission to gather and give back is sportsmanship in its truest form. The members of TGAA prove that fair and generous treatment of all individuals can and should extend far beyond the playing field.
For more information about TGAA, find them on Facebook.