Coventry's first LGBTQI+ rugby team marks landmark this pride month

Coventry’s first rugby club for the LGBTQI+ community is marking five years this June - coinciding with pride month. Members and coaches alike said the club has gone from strength to strength.

The club was set up in June 2019 and is open to men, women, gay, straight, bisexual and trans players. It was founded by Diego Dominquez and Carl Edwards who identified a need to create a team that was open to everyone regardless of age, gender or sexual orientation.

The club now has over 45 members and ranges from people who’ve never played rugby to those who had wanted a more open and accepting environment away from mainstream clubs. Director of rugby Connor Woolaston said they’d been in the contact league for two seasons and finished second.

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Praising the strong showing the club had made as a newcomer to the competition he said: “It’s quite challenging because we get a lot of players who either played years ago in school or have not really played properly. So we have to teach them how to pass, how to tackle, and how to turn that into a competitive structure as well.”

Connor said that one of the benefits of the Corsairs was a different culture around the club compared to others. “[Other clubs] are very masculine and probably slightly stuck in the past with that kind of culture," he said. "Especially if you’re starting out for the first time, there can be initiations where you have to do stuff that is probably more inclined to straight people.

“We’ve had players come to us as a chance to have a place that wasn’t as intimidating, but that was really casual. But it’s much more about having a unity where people can talk and share their common experiences, which is really nice”

The clubs players literally wear their identity as a Pride club on their sleeves. Their jerseys are bright with the colours of the pride flag and multiple players chip in to keep the club’s main functions running. The novelty of the club also works to its advantage.

Forwards coach Lloyd Williams said it allows for a lot of fresh thinking. “It’s only five years old, so we’re really still in the stage of building that culture, because we also had a turnover of people and COVID right in the middle. So in terms of culture, we’re still establishing what we want that to be."

The club gathers at the Coventrarians RFC ground in Holbrooks regularly for practice. With fitness warm-ups at the beginning, they move into ball-handling exercises and a few matches.

It’s a cross section of ages and body types and the banter is broadly the same as any other rugby club. Players turn up and the banter and jokes immediately start. Were it not for the jerseys, there’d be few clues that it was any different to any other club.

The club’s website also emphasises its inclusiveness. The point is the culture - to provide an alternative away from a stereotypical and traditional rugby environment.

James Brown joined the club in 2021 and said his time at the club had been “really really special.” He said: “We have a really close bond as a team. Everyone is from all different backgrounds and ages. We’re all looking for community and we’re like a band of brothers now.

“I know members of the team who’ve played for other clubs and have found here that they really feel they can fully be themselves at this club. So it’s really great to see them thrive and succeed.”

James said Pride Month meant a huge amount to the team and said the Corsairs were an example of the importance of having inclusive community spaces.

“It’s all about creating safe spaces for people to be their authentic selves. We see people who join who might be quite shy or nervous at first but they fund themselves and its nice to see people come out of their shells.

“I think a lot of queer people perhaps live in a bit of a shell when we’re younger and there’s a lot of unpicking that in adulthood, discovering your true self, and feeling comfortable. From my perspective, having places like this is fantastic.”

There was a lot of enthusiasm, optimism, and passion for the club and none more so than Connor Woolaston. He said he hoped to see the team place two teams consistently in local tournaments.

“There are plenty of rugby clubs through Coventry but I think what the Corsairs approach says to us is that its a really nice way for those players who don’t feel 100% comfortable attending ‘straight clubs’, or whatever you refer to them as.”