In 1985, a bunch of ballsy women marched on to the soccer field, defiantly out and proud. Twenty-five years later, that love of all things sapphic and soccer-related continues among the Flying Bats.
Growing from a single team to five hard-hitting teams of all skill levels, the Flying Bats have big plans for their next quarter of a century, including their first international tour to the Cologne Gay Games this year, and a possible expansion into an under-18s league.
“The Bats are a very supportive bunch of women. There’s a real sense of community and belonging to something,” club president Danielle Warby told Sydney Star Observer.
“People can be quite fiercely passionate about the club because it’s a space that’s ours.
“We try to make it really easy to get involved, and we’ve made a conscious effort to ensure that we’re always positive about our volunteers — thank them, respond to them and always make sure they know how appreciative we are of the work they do.”
Warby took up sport again six years ago, after a prolonged time away from the field.
“I joined to get out of the pubs and clubs scene to meet people,” she recalled.
“My group of friends now is very diverse, and made up of people I probably would not have met — and I think that’s such an amazing thing that comes out of being involved with this club.
“Most people join because it is a lesbian club. Few people join because they’re so in love with soccer.
“We can’t offer what a lot of the other clubs can in terms of really proper coaching … but we are still very competitive.” She shyly admitted that the team has developed a slight reputation for being ‘those pushy lesbians’ on the field.
“The idea that soccer is a non-contact sport is a myth … like saying that netball is for ladies,” she said with a laugh.
“It does get a bit argy-bargy, but on the whole it’s quite friendly. It’s healthy competitiveness and it stays on the pitch.
“When our founding members started, there was a hell of a lot of homophobia and crap to deal with, but they fought hard for us not to have to deal with that, and it’s good now.
“We get the occasional bit of rubbish — mostly from the boyfriends of university girls — but it’s seriously nothing, and if anything does happen we just report it.”
Off the field, the women are one of the most social sporting groups around, holding regular weekends away for members and post-game drinks at the Golden Barley in Enmore each week.
“It’s essential to balance the crazy party life with exercise and sport,” Warby was quick to point out.
“There’s quite a problem in the gay and lesbian community with drugs and alcohol. Young women in particular don’t play a lot of sport, but there’s absolutely no denying the benefit to our health.
“It may seem trite, but team sport also teaches you about leadership. Being able to work with people cooperatively is an important skill, and it’s good for your confidence.”
For that reason, the Bats, who are currently open only to women over 18 years old, are considering establishing a team for lesbian youths.
“It’s a long-range plan. We would obviously need to figure out how to do it appropriately. We go to the pub after games quite a bit, so we’d need to consider how to do this right, and what sort of environment we were bringing people into.
“We’d want to do it in conjunction with Twenty10 or ACON’s Young Women’s Project perhaps, to ensure that there’s a capacity to deal with any issues with counselling that might arise, but that all said, I think there’s a real need for it in the community.”
In the immediate future, the women are focused on preparing for the club’s first international competition in Cologne, and trying to build up the club’s capacity to train future generations of soccer starlets.
“The area we’re trying to focus on is getting coaches,” Warby said. “We can’t afford to pay people all that much, so we’re trying to encourage ex-players or experienced soccer players to come and help out.”
If you have a knack for soccer tricks, or think you could aptly fill the role of drill master to some keen soccer students, get in touch.
If you would like to get involved with the league, the next round of recruitments will begin around the end of July, for people keen to take part in the summer soccer sessions.
info: Visit www.theflyingbats.com