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Real Athlete: Volleyball player Marcus Dodd

By Gay Games VII Staff

Real Athlete is an ongoing series of interviews with inspirational, out gay athletes from around the world. Are you a Real Athlete? Take our Real Athlete Survey.

Marcus Dodd is no stranger to the games people play. As a fraud risk consultant with PriceWaterhouseCoopers, he knows all the rules and all the tricks. Out of the office, he enjoys games as well, particularly volleyball. His team, Chicago Untouchables, plan to smack down the opposition at the Gay Games.

What’s your team like?
The Chicago Untouchables formed before the 2004-2005 Chicago MSA season with the intention of playing together regularly until the Gay Games.

We won the playoffs for the Chicago MSA A/AA division in 2005.

Although a few of our players changed between last season and this season, the core of the team remained the same.

We just took first place in the Chicago MSA A/AA regular season and expect to win the playoffs again this year.

What is your goal for Gay Games Chicago 2006? Going for the gold?
Our goal has not changed from when we formed the team: Play the best volleyball we are able. It would be really great to medal, but it's hard to have that as a goal because we have no information about the other team we will be playing. However, we know that, if we play to the best of our ability, there are few teams of our level who can beat us.

What impact has participating in the Gay Games had on your life?
This is my first Gay Games, but I have found that it has created a new sense of community for me. For example, I went to Cologne, Germany, a few weeks ago for Carnival. I was able to taLK about my participation in the Gay Games and people were interested in talking because they are hosting the next Gay Games. People didn’t really care what sport I was playing or what level I was playing. They just cared that I was going to be participating in this great cultural event.

How long have you been playing your sport?
I have been playing organized volleyball since my freshman year of college at Harvard University. Harvard has a Division I volleyball program.

Ironically, my only girlfriend, Amy, was and still is a great volleyball player. She encouraged me to try out for the team as a walk-on, even though I had never played organized volleyball in the past. It turned out that I made the team, although I didn’t play very much. I was able to learn a lot about the game and develop my skills. That has really helped me to be a strong player today. In addition, I met some great people on the volleyball team. The captain of my team is still one of my best friends and lives in Chicago, even though we were both “straight” when we played volleyball. To be honest, I knew I was gay but I was in the closet, my friend really thought he was straight at the time.

What role has sports played in your life?
I love sports. They are a very big part of my life. It is hard to say how many hours a week because it depends on the time of the year. During marathon training last summer, I was running at probably 4-5 hours a week plus biking and playing some volleyball.

What do you consider your main achievements or accomplishments, whether in your sport or otherwise?
I earned my varsity letter while playing Division I volleyball at Harvard. I completed the Chicago marathon and raised $4,000 to help the fight against HIV/AIDS. I was named most improved played one year when I played in the Boston Gay Basketball League.

Has someone served as an inspiration or as a mentor to you? If so, who?
I have been fortunate in that I have had many mentors, but from an athletic perspective my mentor was Bob Burnham. He lives in Boston and has been involved in Boston gay sports for many, many years. In addition to introducing me to gay sports, he coached me in basketball for two years. We used to play racquetball together every week for at least two years. We watched countless NBA and NCAA basketball games over the years. He is a tremendous person.

What other sports have you've played or play? How did you chose the sport you will compete in at Gay Games VII.
I don’t play sports recreationally. If I am going to do it, then I only like to do it in a competitive fashion. The exception to this is the Chicago marathon because I hate long-distance running. There is one reason why I ran the marathon. I am on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. We are the beneficiary of the National AIDS Marathon training program. I figured that if I am going to try to get other people to participate in the program, then I needed to do the program at least once myself.

I am playing volleyball in the Gay Games because it is my best sport. It is likely that after the Gay Games I will begin playing a lot of basketball, so I can play basketball in the 2010 Gay Games in Cologne.

Have you been out in your sport? What prompted you to come out of the closet?

Have you personally experienced anti-gay bias in the pursuit of your sport?

Interview courtesy of the Gay Games VII organizers. For more information about this year's Gay Games and how you can participate, visit www.chicagogaygames.org.