Jason Shervinski isn’t trying to tell you what to do. But if he had his way, you’d get up off the couch and come make some new friends.
And who doesn’t want to take some stress out on a big bouncy ball?
Shervinski is the general manager and founder of Varsity Gay League – Fort Lauderdale.
The Varsity Gay League, or VGL, is based in Los Angeles. Launched in 2007, it’s now one of the country’s largest LGBT recreational sports leagues. The idea is to offer year-round “outside-the-box” activities, games and sporting events to city residents, with a focus on socializing and building community relationships. There is no required level of experience to participate.
And while “gay” is in the name prominently, it’s an “inclusive space for all LGBTQ people and allies,” said Shervinski, who has been athletic since high school, when he competed in track and field, cross-country running and swimming.
Fort Lauderdale is one of 13 cities from coast to coast (and counting) in the VGL family. Shervinski brought kickball to the table first, and later introduced dodgeball. He’s got beach volleyball and soccer in the pipeline as well.
“The founder of VGL [Will Hackner] and I have been friends for six years,” said Shervinski. “We met in Las Vegas at a [kickball] tournament, clicked and stayed in touch.”
At the tournament, Shervinski said he made a slew of new friends. And when Hackner found out Shervinski was moving to Fort Lauderdale, he suggested the new resident could start a chapter.
Kicks and politics
Shervinski, 33, and his partner Michael Toumayan, also 33, moved to Wilton Manors about a year ago.
Shervinski is a high-level information technology specialist. He’s been in the IT industry for almost half of his life. Toumayan works remotely for the Human Rights Campaign, based in D.C.
It was in D.C. that the duo met, and also ended up coming to South Florida. Part of the motivation to move was so Toumayan could be closer to his parents who live in nearby Boynton Beach.
Part of the reason was politics.
“Being someone who works in politics on the tech side, I was working 80-hour weeks and needed to get away from the constant talk about politics,” Shervinski said. “You can’t fault people in D.C. for that — it’s their life and blood.”
Shervinski said while D.C. is an “amazing city,” it’s also a transitional one.
“It can be cold to start off in. But I met like-minded people and gravitated to those I had things in common with, like sports,” he said.
Shervinski notes that it is in D.C. that Stonewall Kickball was founded, later evolving into Stonewall Sports — a VGL-like group with similar missions.
“The organization is one of a kind,” he said. “I have nothing but good things to say about them.”
Shervinski grew up in small town Shamokin, Pennsylvania, about two and a half hours northwest of Philadelphia. He would later attend Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, which was fairly close to home, to study computer science.
It was at Bloomsburg that Shervinski pledged a fraternity — Delta Kappa Epsilon.
“I’d been out since I was 15 years old to family and close friends,” Shervinski said. “[But] it was a struggle [to be out at college]."
Shervinski said he’d always wanted to join a fraternity and gathered the nerve to speak to the person who ran Greek life.
“I went to rush parties and talked to [the fraternity] brothers. The frat didn’t know I was gay. However, the night before they gave out invites to join, I said: ‘Can we talk?’ I explained the situation and they accepted me,” he said.
Shervinski said his fraternity experience was “extremely positive” and that he talks to his fraternity brothers to this day.
Out of college, Shervinski said he got his first “real job” in Philadelphia, and it was there that he had his first real experience in “gay life.”
“Philly has its own enclave that’s nicknamed ‘The Gayborhood.’ You have Woody’s, one of the oldest gay bars in the U.S., and you basically have whatever you want — there are chill places, or dancing … ,” Shervinski said. “It opened my eyes to what the [gay] community was, and to be around other individuals from other colors and races was amazing.”
While his first relationship was at Bloomsburg, he said it was short-lived. His second relationship was in Philadelphia, but Shervinski recalls being “young and stupid.”
He spent six and a half years in Philadelphia before heading to D.C., where he also spent six and a half years. Shervinski said he made a lot of friends in Philadelphia through sports activities as well.
VGL side hustle
Busy with IT work, Shervinski said managing VGL – Fort Lauderdale is his “side hustle.”
“Rather than starting something from the ground up, [VGL] has already gone through those pains of the initial start up,” he said.
Almost like running a franchise, Shervinski said while the group is for-profit, it has a “philanthropic backbone.” It’s something he’s already brought to the Fort Lauderdale chapter, and intends to expand upon.
For example on May 4 he hosted players for a kick-off barbeque to support Broward House — a nonprofit helping those with HIV and other conditions. The group assembled “dignity baskets,” containing items like shampoo, soap, razors, shaving cream, and so on.
“Later on down the road we will have some other fundraisers — an ugly sweater Christmas party for Toys for Tots, and in January or February a bachelor/bachelorette auction for SunServe,” Shervinski said.
That ‘one rule’
Shervinski admits the league is heavy on gay men, but that he’s “doing everything in his power to get more women involved.” He said he’s also reached out to the transgender community.
On April 14 Shervinski teamed up with the South Florida Amateur Athletics Association of Fort Lauderdale for a Drag Kickball game, complete with area drag queen and “mistress of ceremonies” Anna Rexia.
On April 29 he joined with Ignite Women South Florida for an event to benefit SunServe at the Gym Sports Bar in Wilton Manors.
“Bisexuals and straight allies are also welcome,” Shervinski said. “I have one rule for the league, and you sign it in the waiver: don’t be a douchebag. We want everyone to come out and have fun. It doesn’t matter who you are.”
To participate in kickball the cost is $57.50. The current season began April 28, but there are two more seasons remaining in 2018.
It’s the midseason for dodgeball (which has four seasons). A new dodgeball season begins this summer.
There are discounts for special events. Kickball games are generally played at Mickel Park in Wilton Manors.