What I have always loved about softball is that it is a team sport and I was good at it. I remember when I was in sixth class and we won against the other team who always won. That really fired me on, as I saw sport as something I could be successful at.
I played sport a lot when I was in primary school, and then I didn’t play for a long time because of problems with my back. It turned out my tailbone was out by 70 percent and, at age 11, I either took the risk of having an operation or spending life in a wheelchair. I had the operation and then spent six months in hospital. After that, the doctor said I could do whatever I wanted.
At high school, I continued to play, and then I studied to become a nurse and became an ambulance officer. At that time, I also started up a softball team, the Ambulance Sirens. Basically, it was just a number of the female ambos, not all of them dykes, who wanted to play softball. For me, it was again being part of a team sport. In that first year, we had about 22 players -“ both dykes and straight girls -“ and we went on to win the championships in the city competition.
We had lots of players coming and going, so we eventually called on the lesbian community for players. We also became known as The Sirens. At one stage, we had four teams and it was very busy. Some of the women came along because they were single and wanted to meet a partner, so lots of love affairs happened out of the club. There are also a few long-term relationships which have endured from this.
I have been with my partner Fran for 10 years and, while we didn’t actually meet through softball, she did come along for one season before hanging up her boots. She is still involved -“ these days as team scorer.
It was a huge challenge at the time to keep four teams on the go, and eventually we decided to downsize and it became one team. It is so much easier to manage, but we remain strong.
In those early days, we were playing out of Auburn, and there was some homophobia going on. We would hear sniggers and comments along the sidelines, and there were some calls by the refs against us, which were pretty questionable. Eventually we went to the club president and said we would not accept it. Fortunately for us, she was a dyke too and it was taken care of.
Back in 1997, I had an accident at work and had to stop playing. I picked up a big patient, and my back just gave way. I had to change careers, so I went to university to study Health Studies HIV Science, and then got a job in HIV prevention. I am still there and am acting manager of a resource and education program. It keeps me busy.
Because I couldn’t play softball any more, I became the coach. It was frustrating at first, as I would stand on the sidelines and watch people out on the field, thinking that I could do better. I just wanted to still be out there. But I couldn’t. So I made it my job to help make our players as good as they could be.
We are all of different levels and there are no expectations within the team, except to be part of the team. We like to win but, if you drop the ball, no one is going to yell and tell you off. Everyone supports each other and has a good time.
The season runs from August to December. The core group of people keep coming back every year, and you see them developing those skills. We had one player who wasn’t too good when she started. Now, after five years of hard work, she is a great player and hitting home runs. That is so satisfying to watch.
A couple of seasons ago, the girls gave me a shirt which has the word Giddyup on it. When people are on first base and have to run, I call out to them to giddyup and get moving. I think we rattle the other teams when we start talking -“ our voices are much louder than the straight girls’. They know never to try to shut me up -“ that’s my job.
These days, we are at Georges River down at Panania and there are about 15 of us in the group. We have about only one straight girl playing with us at present. Sometimes when I tell new players we are a lesbian team, they bring their husband along to keep their eye on everything. But when everyone realises it is just a group of women playing a game, we just get on with it. Last year, we played so well we won the Grand Final, and we’re aiming to do the same this year.
Interview by John Burfitt
The Sirens can be contacted on 9810 1773.