October 31, 2020 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

WeHo Dodgeball Makes a Difference

When I spoke with Ahn Phan, the manager of West Hollywood’s dodgeball league for LGBTQ+ players and allies, he’s wiped out from a grueling day of playoffs. “My body is broken!” he said, “I’m all disheveled!” For the past six years, Phan hasn’t just been a crucial part of West Hollywood’s LGBTQ+ competitive dodgeball league, he’s been held up as a pillar of the WeHo community, especially for newcomers looking to find their place in the city.  The team, which meets every Tuesday to “put on short shorts and knee pads, rock out to loud music, and throw balls at people,” meets outside the West Hollywood library and takes the party to Gym Bar after every match, fostering a new kind of community for LGBTQ+ adults. Phan himself plays with a herniated disk and partial hearing loss, and found in WeHo dodgeball a way to prove that the sport isn’t just about throwing balls around, it’s a way to throw down, get competitive, and build a lasting, tight-knit community in the heart of L.A. We spoke with Phan about how WeHo dodgeball is changing the way WeHoans think about sports for the better.

The Pride: How long has WeHo Dodgeball been around?

Ahn Phan (AP): Since 2012, I believe. WeHo Dodgeball was started by my friend Jake Mason, but he recruited me to be a league manager of WeHo Dodgeball. I’ve been with them for nearly five years now. I have a night dedicated that I manage every Tuesday. We have about 260 members of the LGBTQ+ community and our allies. We divide into 12 teams of about 20 people each, and we play right outside the West Hollywood Library.

What does the competition look like? Do you face off against other all-queer teams?

We don’t face off against other LGBTQ+ organizations at all, but there is a tournament that we participate in every January in Las Vegas. It’s called the Sin City Shootout. It’s athletes from all around the world and all different skill levels, and there’s an LGBTQ+ tournament with maybe 1,000 players from around the country and the world. Jake organizes it and I help out with logistics. It’s amazing, and I think the idea with us is that we want to foster a relationship between us and our allies and create a welcoming space for everybody. Especially with dodgeball, which is notorious for being a sport played by people who were non-athletes growing up.  So to be able to bring a more competitive side to it and to use it to bring people together is amazing.

Photo: Instagram.
Phan (in yellow) with his WeHo Dodgeball league during this year’s Sin City Shootout in Las Vegas.
WeHo Dodgeball Team has been around since 2012.

Did the WeHo community take to the idea immediately?

I think most people in the beginning are fearful about the concept of dodgeball. You know, “oh, I don’t want to get hit in the face, I don’t want people throwing balls at me.” But I think we’ve done such a great job at fostering this community, because it’s not just about the dodgeball itself. It’s about going to the bars afterward on the strip, and getting to know one another. For example, yesterday was the marriage of two dodgeballers who met on the court. We’ve had a couple of those. The friendships that I’ve developed over the last few years have stemmed from meeting people on the court.  And that’s been the hesitation for a lot of people joining, a lot of people join not being sure about it, and they end up leaving with lots of friendships and even marriage.

What’s your personal relationship to dodgeball?

Growing up, dodgeball was one of my favorite sports. I’ve always had a knack for it. I grew up in Boston, but I didn’t really do dodgeball as an adult until I moved out here nine years ago. I came here with no friends, essentially, so I knew I wanted to put myself into the community a little bit more. So I joined a straight dodgeball league, and I met Jake Mason there. About a year later, he recruited me to join another dodgeball organization and help run the league. I did that for two years, and then Jake started WeHo dodgeball and brought me on to help. I’ve been with them ever since. We have a ton of people who have been with us since the beginning.

I also play dodgeball with a hearing loss, so I think that’s a different element. I’m not just a gay dodgeballer, I’m someone who’s partially deaf in one side and trying to blend in and compete with everyone else.

Do you guys do anything special for Pride?

We walk in the parade, and we built a float surrounded by nets. We throw balls at each other and actually bring the crowd in. We throw balls at the audience and make it a more interactive event. We also have a lot of events through the year like charity tournaments and a huge Halloween tournament which people love and get all dressed up for. This year we held a charity for a women’s shelter downtown.

So you’re super involved in the community.

I would say so! WeHo dodgeball has elevated me to a position where I’m viewed as this role model to people who want to get introduced to the WeHo community in general.  And I try to bring people in as much as I can.  I know what it’s like to be an outcast, so I just try to do my best to alleviate any anxiety that comes from people joining the league for the first time, or people who don’t know how to socialize as much as they’d like. I kind of bridge that gap.

Related Posts

WeHo Carnaval 2020 Cancelled

October 29, 2020

October 29, 2020

One of the year’s biggest events in West Hollywood, The Halloween Carnaval, has been cancelled.  The massive Halloween party has...

WeHo Launches “Masks Are…” PSA

October 25, 2020

October 25, 2020

The City of West Hollywood has had a mandatory face-covering requirement in effect since late May 2020 and has been...

Gays For Donald Trump March In WeHo

October 25, 2020

October 25, 2020

On Oct. 23 2020 a march, organized by the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay Republicans, rallied to proclaim...

WeHo Announces Virtual Drag Queen Story Hour

October 15, 2020

October 15, 2020

The City of West Hollywood brings to life an online hour like no other via Virtual Drag Queen Story Hour....

City Of WeHo Celebrates Disabilities Awareness Month

October 4, 2020

October 4, 2020

The City of West Hollywood and its Disabilities Advisory Board are hosting two events to recognize Disabilities Awareness Month, which...

WeHo Bar Gold Coast Closing Permanently

September 27, 2020

September 27, 2020

Gold Coast, one of the oldest gay bars in West Hollywood, is closing permanently after 39 years.  The Gold Coast...

Helen Albert Farmers’ Market To Reopen

September 20, 2020

September 20, 2020

The City of West Hollywood will reopen the Helen Albert Certified Farmers’ Market at Plummer Park from 9 a.m. to...

WeHo Cooling Center At Plummer Park

September 17, 2020

September 17, 2020

With temperatures expected to rise to more than 90 degrees over the next week, the City of West Hollywood will...

Rage Nightclub Permanently Closing

September 10, 2020

September 10, 2020

After 37 years Rage nightclub located at the northwest corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and San Vicente in West Hollywood...

Gay Felon Ed Buck Requests Release Ahead Of Criminal Trial

September 3, 2020

September 3, 2020

A federal grand jury added four felony charges to the Justice Department’s case against Ed Buck, the one-time political activist...

Liberation Coffee Shop Opens

August 20, 2020

August 20, 2020

Located at the Los Angeles LGBTQ Center’s flagship Anita May Rosenstein Campus, the 1,600-square-foot café and community space is operated...

WeHo Bar Flaming Saddles Closes Permanently

August 20, 2020

August 20, 2020

Flaming Saddles, the West Hollywood gay country western bar, has closed permanently.  Owners Jacqui Squatriglia and Chris Barnes, who also...

WeHo Reopens West Hollywood Park and Plummer Park

August 13, 2020

August 13, 2020

The City of West Hollywood is making every effort to respond to community needs during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) public health...

WeHo DJ Music Series Continues Through September

August 4, 2020

August 4, 2020

In the middle of a pandemic, people can’t help but feel disheartened, frustrated and melancholy. In an attempt to lift...

WeHo Closes West Hollywood Park and Plummer Park

July 29, 2020

July 29, 2020

The City of West Hollywood is making every effort to respond to community needs during the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health...