South Florida’s Flag Football team, Cat 5, prepares for Pride Bowl in Chicago
Football typically conjures up images of big burly guys tackling each other and that may be why many gay folks are hesitant to give South Florida’s Flag Football team, Cat 5, a chance.
"People think it’s going to be too rough or they’re going to get hurt. But people who have never played a sport in their life come out and love it, and become really good," said David Donohue, 34, of Wilton Manors. "There’s no tackling, so there isn’t the need for helmets and pads and stuff. You get bruised, but you’re not going to end up with concussion after concussion."
Yet just because it’s safer than regular football doesn’t mean injuries still don’t occur.
"In five years the worst thing that has happened to me is I’ve sprained my ankle and dislocated my finger a couple times," he said. "But you can trip while walking down the street or stumbling drunk out of a bar."
Donohue, a consultant for a software company by day, is the commissioner of the team and one of its founding members. The team played its first season in 2006. In January they hosted their first tournament with 7 teams from around the country attending.
"We had a great turn out and had a lot of community support," he said. "We’re getting bigger, but I still meet people every day that have no idea there’s flag football team."
In January the team also got its first official coach.
"We’ve gotten a lot better over the past few years," he said. "This past year we finished third in our division in Phoenix."
Donohue said the team is very inclusive of all skill levels and welcomes anyone to come out and give the sport a try.
Ly Nguyen, 39, of Wilton Manors, played sports before, but it had been a long time when he joined Cat 5 about a year ago.
"I started off very rusty because I hadn’t played in a long time, but the guys were encouraging," he said.
Nguyen said he was attracted to the team because of its diversity and pressure free competitiveness.
"Anyone on any level can play and still feel like they’re contributing. Some people have never caught a football before," he said. "I also like it because it’s competitive, but not frenzied or crazy competitive."
Currently there are about 30 members on the team with 20 each week at the practices.
The team belongs to the National Gay Flag Football League, which formed in 2002, and held the first "Gay Superbowl" that year. The next Gay Bowl, as it’s called now, takes place October 6-9 in Houston, Texas.
Donohue hopes the team continues to grow so they’re able to start their own league with multiple teams someday.
The team practices Saturdays at 11 a.m. at Mills Pond Park, 2201 NW 9th Avenue. Visit SFGFFA.com or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.