July 2, 2015 at 1:02 pm EDT | by Kevin MajorosRookies and vets: D.C. Sentinels
In the continuing Blade series on the rookies and veterans of the Washington-area LGBT sports teams, we look at the path of three gay athletes from the D.C. Sentinels basketball team.
While many find it hard to fit gym workouts into their schedule, it’s even harder to work designated team practices, league nights and tournaments into an already busy life.
For some it’s easier to play their way into the lifestyle by just going to practices with the hope that someday they will be able to join a league or play in a tournament.
Daniel Brewer grew up in Fayetteville, N.C., and played whatever sports were available to him but gravitated toward basketball, baseball and soccer. He moved to Fairfax in 2012 after he randomly took a nursing job at Inova Fairfax.
Brewer eventually moved to D.C. in 2013 and a friend asked him to come to the Thursday night open pick-up games with the Sentinels.
“There is a ‘come as you are’ feel to the pick-up games,” Brewer says. “It’s a place where first time players or even the best players can co-exist.”
A career move to Georgetown University Hospital and graduate school has delayed his plans to go further with the team.
“I haven’t played in the league or at any tournaments yet because of my work and school schedule,” Brewer says. “The more you play, the more you want to commit to all of it. But for now I am happy with the pick-up games and developing new friendships.”
Robert Perkins traveled to a basketball tournament in Chicago to play on a friend’s team from another city and when he returned to D.C., a player from the Sentinels who had also been in Chicago recognized him at the Fireplace and invited him to play with the team.
Growing up in South Carolina, Perkins played recreational baseball but found that he was better at basketball. He moved to D.C. in 2011 to take a position as store manager at Walgreens.
“When I first joined the Sentinels, the other players were trying to size me up so I had to prove myself,” Perkins says. “It was good for me because it brought me out of my shell and made me more social.”
Now that Perkins has played in four tournaments and the D.C. Gay Basketball League that is run by the Sentinels, he feels a responsibility to work with the rookie players.
“Everyone has good days and bad days at practice.” Perkins says. “It’s important to encourage them to keep playing and to keep coming back.”
This past January, Perkins was on a travel team that played at a National Gay Basketball Association tournament in San Diego and he was not pleased with their outcome.
“I felt even more responsibility after that tournament in San Diego,” Perkins says. “I might be relocating soon, but I will continue to play with the Sentinels travel team because I want more for them.”
Opelousas, La., is home to Paul Prince and he grew up playing recreational baseball and tennis. In high school he focused on band and cheerleading and later he was a walk-on to the tennis team at Grambling State University.
He had some interaction with the Sentinels in 2006 during a brief living arrangement in D.C. when a tennis friend suggested he come with him to play basketball. Prince’s career in public affairs for the Army uprooted him to cities around the country until he settled back in D.C. in 2011 and again joined the Sentinels.
“I found myself pretty gung-ho about the mission of the Sentinels and I wanted to further their cause by being on the board.” Prince says. “There is a big need to build organizations like the Sentinels which offer the chance to play sports and to meet people outside of the bar scene.”
Even though Prince has played in three tournaments and has captained a team in the league, he still finds comfort in the big brother mentality of the more veteran players.
“There are times when I am very competitive and try to play beyond my abilities,” Prince says. “It’s nice to have the veterans there to help you fulfill your capabilities.”
The Sentinels have some new faces, both straight and gay from a recent four-on-four tournament they hosted during Pride and are hoping to send travel teams to upcoming tournaments in Philadelphia and Dallas.
“The bottom line is that it is not just basketball,” Prince says. “There are other things that come from this, like getting to know these guys.”