History

The Story of LGBTQ+ Inclusive Volleyball in the National Capital Region

 


LGBTQ+ folks in Ottawa and Gatineau have been organizing volleyball and other sports since the 1980s. It has been an important way to make friends, stay active and build community. The first formal organization came about from a conversation at a house party, when a discussion about organizing a gay men’s volleyball group led to the founding of Club Moustache in 1986.
The group came to organize bowling, square dancing, line dancing, swimming, curling, hiking, self-defense classes, movie nights, stitch & bitch, badminton and tennis. They chose the name because nearly all of the original members had a moustache. It operated under the motto, “Friendship through sports and recreation.”

Club Moustache Executive (1987)
Le comité exécutif du Club Moustache (1987)
Photo credit/ Crédit photo: Paul Sereda

At its height, Club Moustache had over 300 members and played indoor volleyball at locations in Hull, Vanier, Lowertown and Wellington Village. Outdoor volleyball took place behind the Plant Recreation Centre, at the old Ottawa Technical High School downtown, and at annual summer jamborees. Club Moustache also sponsored teams to train and compete in the city’s competitive volleyball league, with teams winning the C Division Championship in 1988 and the D Division Championship in 1991.

In 1988 the club hosted its first volleyball tournaments: a competitive tournament in April at Algonquin College, and a recreational tournament in September at the CÉGEP de l’Outaouais. Teams came from Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Syracuse, New York, and Buffalo. In 1990 Club Moustache sent a volleyball squad with Team-Équipe Ottawa to compete at the Vancouver Gay Games, where they earned a bronze medal in the C Division.

Ottawa Powerline at the Vancouver Gay Games (1990)
L’équipe Powerline d’Ottawa aux Gay Games de Vancouver (1990)
Photo credit/ Crédit Photo: Paul Sereda

In 1994 Club Moustache officially became the Time Out / Temps libres Sports & Recreation Club, to have a name that is more inclusive and reflective of all its participants, “where gay, lesbian and bisexual people can participate in sports and recreational activities that will encourage the development of friendship, promote personal growth, and foster a greater sense of community.” 

During the Time Out era, there was grass volleyball at Strathcona Park, and recreational volleyball continued on Monday nights with as many as 50 players showing up. 

Volleyball offerings also expanded during this time, when Time Out secured more gym space to run a league of its own on Wednesday nights for intermediate and competitive players. The Wednesday league held tryouts facilitated by coordinators and coaches, who also began offering skills development training on both Monday and Wednesday nights.

 

Safe Sets at Les Panthères Roses
Photo credit: Marshall Rowat

The local tournament circuit also found its stride in the 1990s. The annual recreational and competitive tournaments that began in 1988 became known as Capital Network (hosted by Club Moustache, then Time Out) and Les Panthères Roses (hosted by the team of the same name), respectively. They both took place at the CÉGEP de l’Outaouais in Hull and regularly sold out to 20+ teams from Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and elsewhere due to their popularity. These eventually merged as the annual Gay Ottawa Volleyball Tournament and Gala which continues to this day, having moved to the uOttawa Montpetit gym in 2005.

In 2000, the name Gay Ottawa Volleyball appeared, continuing the weekly programs and annual tournament of the many preceding groups and organizations. GOV continued to expand on all sides over the next twenty seasons. In some years, Monday Rec volleyball had 50-70 regular members. Over time, the Wednesday League expanded from a dozen teams to over two dozen.

Logo from 2000

Logo from 2005

In 2019 GOV incorporated as a not-for-profit. We hosted our largest ever tournament with 45 teams, we had a record-setting 34 teams compete in the 2018-19 Wednesday league, and the Monday Drop-in program doubled in size to 4 courts in the 2019-20 season. In Summer 2021, we launched an outdoor Beach 4s league and hosted our 4th annual beach volleyball tournament.   

As LGBTQ+ volleyball in the National Capital Region continues to grow, we feel a deep sense of pride in the dedication and enthusiasm from volunteers and players since its beginnings at that house party so many years ago. We are so excited for what the future will bring as we continue to expand the inclusive volleyball community!

 

Juicy Fruits at the annual GOV Tournament (2016)
Photo credit: Emily MacDuff 

 

Team Balls Deep at the annual GOV Tournament (2016)
Photo credit: Emily MacDuff