'Play soccer for soccer': Out for Kicks, Vancouver’s LGBTQ2+ friendly soccer society

The story of the Out for Kicks society is a unique one.

This tale of the Vancouver-based LGBTQ2+ friendly soccer league that boasts of a membership of over 200 people, is one that spans past the field of play. 

“The league is designed to make a safe space for soccer players. You do not necessarily have to be from the LGBTQ2+ community. It is based around friendly soccer and a lot around socializing and events as well,” says Director at Large (Veterans) Angus Shaw.

With the league celebrating its 30th anniversary, its history dates back to its earliest days as a casual kick-around league that has now grown extensively into an established competitive outfit that accommodates players of all skill levels.

“We do a bit of a draft at the beginning just to make sure we know everybody’s different soccer level. So we have people who have literally never kicked a soccer ball starting off to people who have really high level of soccer skill. We mix up all the teams; so there is a big draft at the beginning of each year. We try and make the soccer level equal. There are really skilled players on the same team as players who have never kicked a ball, so if the team wants to do well in the league they have to uplift players who have never played before,” said Shaw.

However, the pandemic has brought a halt to an otherwise celebratory season. With the need to stick to active guidelines, Shaw spoke on the decision of the league to cancel the season in order to prioritize the health and safety of players and officials.

“With all the guidelines, we didn’t really think it would be possible to do all that social distancing and still have a fun and social soccer season. So in the last few weeks we made the plan to cancel the season,” said Shaw.

Prior to the league’s forced cancellation, matches were played on Wednesdays at the Andy Livingston Park with start times of 6 pm, 7:10 pm, 8:20 pm and 9:30 pm (each team had an alternating start time each week). Shaw explained that this tight scheduling was made to foster socializing among these weekly players and participants.

“Out of 240 people, you have all got something in common at least because of soccer. It is kind of a normal venue where you meet people. I have made all of my best friends through soccer and I am pretty sure most of our membership would say that. We have a bunch of trans members as well, who are hindered usually in other types of sports, they wouldn’t be able to be as expressive as they normally are. Even most gay and lesbian people have had some trouble with sports down the road, it's pretty rife with homophobia. So it’s pretty exciting to be on a pitch and play not worrying about anything of that macho stuff or anything like that,” said Shaw.  

Speaking on the totality of the group as a family-like community, Shaw emphasized the league’s commitment to showing welcoming arms to all members of the society, fans and casual watchers alike.

“We got lots of people joining in just to be fans, they don’t necessarily become voting members or soccer players. We usually have quite a few friends come and watch soccer games standing on the sidelines. Usually, they end up coming and playing on one of our Friday night kick-arounds or like a practice and that is usually how they get convinced to play even if they have never played soccer before. We welcome lots of people to come watch,” emphasized Shaw.

With the city's Pride celebrations coming up, Shaw stressed the need for our society to embrace our inherent love and passion for sports, allowing for inclusive and diverse environments.

“Just play soccer for soccer. There are so many people in our league that just want to play sports but haven’t had the chance due to a number of different reasons. Focus on the soccer if you wanted to help out as an ally.”

‘Caps fans interested in participating are encouraged to subscribe to the OFK mailing list. Once play resumes, all are welcome to catch a game at Andy Livingston Park.

Learn more about Out For Kicks by visiting outforkicks.ca.