Following the US Women’s National Basketball Association’s visit to Manchester earlier this year, the Manchester Area Basketball League decided to host the first women-only tournament for the Greater Manchester area. The local Manchester LBGT team, the Slam Dunkin’ Divas, took part in this event, taking home a bronze medal.
So So Gay caught up with the team to find out what they have to say. The head couch and co-founder, Anna Verges, noted: ‘Our bronze medal shows that LGBT women’s basketball in Manchester is on the rise.’ The competition, which took place at Wright Robinson Sports College, was hosted in association with Greater Sport and England Basketball. Co-founder Louise Englefield said: ‘Sport in the gay community is really important because we still face a level of discrimination and exclusion from sport in this country – a country which has some of the best LGBT human rights legislation in the world.’ She added that sport is important because of the high levels of mental health issues in the gay community. ‘Sport is brilliant for mental health as well, and we all know that there are higher levels of mental health problems in the LGBT community because of the exclusion that many of us still face on an individual basis.’
The Divas took wins in the competition against the Rossendale Raptors and Cardinal Langley, but lost their first game against local rivals Rebel Eurostars and Stockport Falcons, who ended up winning the tournament. Despite their loss, the team are positive about their future and about encouraging the growth of the LBGT sports community. Englefield added that team spirit was important: ‘Sport gives us a chance to meet other LGBT people, and the feeling of being part of a team or club can be amazing!’
The team are committed to training players from all backgrounds and of varying levels of talent, with some members never having played basketball before. ‘We emphasise player development and growth in the club, so there is more emphasis on achieving personal best and playing as part of a team,’ said Englefield. Lorraine Mooney, one of their newest players, said she was surprised at how physical basketball was as a sport. ‘I joined the divas in March 2011,’ she said. ‘After playing competitive football for a number of years I fancied a change of pace. I wondered how hard it could be; after all, I played netball at school when I was 16. I was very wrong!’ Englefield added that the Divas were especially important for gay women, as most of the provision for gay sports was directed at men, and sport for women was underfunded. ‘Teams like the Divas are important at grass-roots level to encourage sport in the lesbian community, and thus further promote women’s sports,’ she said.
The Divas will be playing at the Eurogames 2011 in Rotterdam on 21-24 July. They told us they were looking forward to going, and had at least six games over the three days. The Divas will also be heading to Barcelona in September for the tournament at LBGT Sports Club Panteres Grogues, and then to Frankfurt for their Christmas Tournament in December. The team will then be heading to Antwerp for the World OutGames in 2013. The Divas, like London’s gay-friendly rugby union team the King’s Cross Steelers, and countless other LGBT sports clubs around the UK, are keen to provide a space where gay and lesbian people can enjoy the social and physical benefits that go with being sportspeople. With the London Olympic Games now less than a year away, there’s never been a better time to get involved.
If you would like to join the Divas, check out their website here.