Tourney journey

Over 20 years, DIVA has turned its Fall Classic into a sports destination

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

COURTING DIVA | For 20 years, DIVA has hosted the Fall Classic tournament which attracts teams from all over the country. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

DALLAS FALL CLASSIC XX
Texas Advantage Sports, 4302 Buckingham Rd., Fort Worth.
Oct. 8–10. DivaDallas.org.
……………………..

Dallas is a sports town: Cowboys, Mavericks, Stars, Rangers — they’re all part of the city’s life. That translates even into a strong gay sports community as well, with softball, tennis and rugby leagues holding strong interest for LGBT jocks.

But volleyball might be the most obsessive. The Dallas Independent Volleyball Association (DIVA) has not only grown internally over the years, but has expanded its Fall Classic tournament into a major event.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the popular tournament, which hosts teams from all over the country. But DIVA president and tournament director Hayden Mitchell says it’s just business as usual. “We’re not really doing anything different for this one,” he says.

But really, this is a good thing.

Over the years, DIVA has swelled into a sports organization of more than 300 members — that is about double its average membership from the last few years. With that many members in all divisions, Mitchell and the DIVA board take the obvious approach when setting up the tourney.

“From some of the feedback we’ve gotten from teams and NAGVA [North American Gay Volleyball Association], this is a well-run tournament,” he says. “With our kind of membership, we have to be and stay very organized. So we just translate that into the tournament.”

That has garnered DIVA’s fall tournament some major props by traveling teams. In the gay volleyball circuit, traveling teams spread the word that the Fall Classic is a key event, and it shows. This year, 41 teams will play; up to 50 teams have competed in other years. These are good numbers, says Mitchell.

“With the Columbus Day weekend, we usually do compete with the Portland or Indianapolis tourneys,” he says. “But people talk and teams ask where the competition is gonna be and then teams end up coming here.”

But “business as usual” doesn’t mean DIVA runs a bland ship. Over his six years as president, Mitchell has tried to put a personal stamp on the Fall Classic, not only to entice teams to come, but to build on its own identity.

“We have a buffet so traveling teams will get at least one meal and that means something,” he says. “Plus, we have a giveaway or T-shirt at each tournament. What I like to do is have the captains of the teams get me the sizes of the players, I think instead of just an oversize tee, that really adds a personal touch. I think the Dallas tournament has something special to offer.”

Getting the planning stages down to an art may be secondhand now, but that doesn’t mean it has become any less gratifying for the board. Mitchell says that pride in the event comes from two sources. And that makes this all worthwhile.

“We’ve increased the number of teams coming to Dallas,” he says. “What really stood out for me were two teams from Hawaii that came out to play. They were blown away by the fact that we all played in same facility. And they even want to do a tourney of their own.”

On the other end, Mitchell and the rest of DIVA do their part to give to the LGBT community. According to NAGVA rules on tournaments, a large portion of monies earned from the event has to go to a charity. That has given DIVA the opportunity to contribute thousands to local nonprofits such as Youth First Texas, Resource Center of Dallas and this year, the AIDS Interfaith Network.

“That is the one big thing with the Fall Classic,” he says. “ We do a lot of research on the different LGBT associations we select. We’ve been giving back to the community for 20 years and that is the most rewarding thing.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 8, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Dallas Pride: Sports Pride mixer at Woody’s

Get some play with these ballers

For all the jocks who haven’t been so jock-ish lately, Woody’s is the place to be. Organizers from various LGBT sports associations will all be convening at the bar for some drinks, fun and recruitment. For the newbie to the athlete, all of the likely have divisions for you to fit in. And it’s seriously one of the best ways to make new friends.

DEETS: Woody’s, 4011 Cedar Springs Road. 7 p.m. DallasWoody’s.com.

—  Rich Lopez

Gay North Texas cowboy Wade Earp wins yet another all-around title; TGRA Dallas plans 2 big events this weekend


Wade Earp wins another all-around title
TGRA member Wade Earp competes in bull riding in a past IGRA rodeo.

North Texas cowboy Wade Earp won the title of All-Around Cowboy during the Greater Mowtown International Rodeo held last weekend, June 25-27. It is, I think, the third time this season that Earp has won all-around honors.

In other gay rodeo news, the Dallas Chapter of the Texas Gay Rodeo Association has two big events planned over the holiday weekend.  The “Cowboys, Jocks and Leather” underwear auction is on Saturday, July 3, at Dallas Eagle, 5740 Maple Ave., with a cocktail mixer at 7 p.m., hosted by GayCowboyCentral.com and with hot dogs and chips provided by the Eagle Bears. The main event starts at 8 p.m.

Then on Sunday, July 4, the Dallas TGRA chapter presents the 22nd annual Miss Firecracker Pageant, starting at 9 p.m. at Illusions Bar, 4100 Maple Ave.

Check the Dallas chapter’s schedule here.

And don’t forget that the Big D Rodeo is coming up Sept. 10-12 at the Diamond W. Arena Complex in Aledo. Go here for more info.

—  admin