By Keaton Hills
David Muddiman started playing volleyball at the age of 12, but there were moments when he felt he didn’t fully belong.
That’s why Muddiman is helping build a volleyball community where he and others can feel safe. He’s the president of Gay Ottawa Volleyball, a program that aims to build community for 2SLGBTQ+ members and allies through physical activity.
The organization is currently geared towards adults but has now received a $2,000 community opportunity grant from the Ottawa Sport Council Foundation to begin youth programming. They will use the money to host monthly volleyball events where 2SLGBTQ+ youth can play and have access to coaching, Muddiman indicated.
“We recognize the opportunity to increase safe and inclusive sports spaces in Ottawa for youth and want to be a part of the solution to foster new ones,” Muddiman said.
The Gay Ottawa Volleyball program began in the late 1980s, providing an opportunity for people from the 2SLGBTQ+ community to engage in recreational activity and to build friendships.
“It also was created out of a recognition that a lot of gay people growing up might have had more negative experiences in sport,” Muddiman added. “[There are] stereotypes around gay people and whether or not they can be athletic, and being bullied and being picked last in gym class.”
The program runs year-round, with beach volleyball in the summer and indoor volleyball the rest of the year. It features a league, where teams play once a week, as well as a drop-in program. Muddiman said the turnout for the program is very high.
“Every year we get more and more players signing up to play and every year we try to find more space to try and accommodate the incredible demand we get for our programming,” Muddiman outlined.
Their Wednesday night league last year had a record 39 teams, while their drop-in program is consistently selling out — forcing them to find more gymnasium space.
Gay Ottawa Volleyball also hosts off-court activities such as social events at the Royal Oak and an annual gala at the Canadian Museum of Nature on the weekend of their annual tournament.
The program’s success is important to Muddiman, noting that it is run by volunteers and always looking for more help. He played volleyball for his high school and for a club as a teen, as well as one year in university.
“That’s informed what I’ve wanted to do with Gay Ottawa Volleyball at this stage in my life,” he highlighted. “[I want] to help make volleyball more accessible to more people and also emphasize that you don’t need to be someone who’s played sports all your life to start playing a sport later on in life.”
Gay Ottawa Volleyball was one of two recipients of the Ottawa Sport Council Foundation’s 2023 Community Opportunity Grant, facilitated alongside Their Opportunity and the Ottawa Community Foundation. The Nepean Nighthawks received the other grant to help them continue their Stick Together program.
“While the Ottawa Sport Council believes that community sport should be available to everyone, we recognize that many people face barriers to participation,” Ottawa Sport Council executive director Marci Morris said in a news release. “The Ottawa Sport Council Foundation 2023 Community Opportunity Grant supports programs which provide inclusivity and breaks down these barriers.
“We are delighted to support the programs offered by the Nepean Nighthawks Field Hockey Club and Gay Ottawa Volleyball, which offer inclusive programming for underrepresented and marginalized populations.”
This article is part of the Ottawa Sports Pages’ Inclusion in Sport series. Read more about local sport inclusion initiatives at: OttawaSportsPages.ca/Ottawa-Sports-Pages-Inclusion-In-Sport-Series/.
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