Rainbow flags hung all around War Memorial Gym as Thunder and DJ Nasri mixes greeted fans at UBC Volleyball’s fifth annual Pride Night on Friday. The event started in 2018 as a partnership between UBC Volleyball and the Vancouver Gay Volleyball Association and has been going strong ever since.
This year’s Pride Night, supporting the non-profit organization Qmunity, was hosted in collaboration with UBC’s Pride Collective.
“The Pride Collective is an organization that represents all Queer students on campus,” explained member Isabelle Rowe-Codner. Standing at her booth in the lobby along with other members of the group, she welcomed attendees with assorted pronoun buttons and a tri-fold display detailing how to get connected to the organization.
“I think events like this are really good for visibility of queerness on campus … it’s very important that every person on campus is aware of the fact that queerness exists all around them and Queer people feel safe in their day-to-day lives,” she added.
Puffy jackets and toques were the outfits of choice for the people pouring into the building as the night kicked off. The cold November weather didn’t dampen creativity, as fans worked the Pride theme into their outfits with rainbow flower necklaces, wigs and even suspenders.
“We used dry erase markers, face paint, anything,” said Marley Hearn, a student in the stands.
Inside the gym, there was no shortage of excitement. The stellar play by the women’s volleyball team as they shut out the University of Alberta Golden Bears 3–0, and the thrilling, hard-fought men’s match up that resulted in a 3–1 loss for the T-Birds was only the beginning of the story.
The Thunderbird Marching Band supplied tunes to increase the energy, the dance team showed off some moves, and there were plenty of goodies to go around. Members of the crowd jockeyed for t-shirts thrown into the stands, and a select few competed in volleyball serving contests during the set breaks for a chance to win lululemon gift cards.
Though the event stood out in terms of entertainment value alone, there was a deeper reason behind some fans’ participation. Kate White, a mom, brought her family along to enjoy the festivities.
“Why we wanted to come tonight is, we actually brought our daughters … I think it’s nice for them to come out and see what’s going on and be exposed to different things.”
As the audience cheered them on, the women’s volleyball team put on a show, winning set after set. Lucy Borowski impressed with 14 digs and 15 kills in the victory, and Elise Petit made her mark with 5 aces and 9 kills. “[The game] was a lot of fun, big crowd, definitely,” said Borowski.
With the win, the T-Birds improved to 7–0 on the Canada West season.
Libero Kacey Jost elaborated on what Pride looks like within the context of the volleyball team. “As a team, we wanted to create a space that was super inclusive to everybody and anybody. I know sports sometimes can be a super intimidating place for anybody, but I also think that LGBTQIA2S+ community really needs to see that this is a place for them,” she said.
The men’s team, which took the floor after the women, fell short of success but had their own share of outstanding performances. Michael Dowhaniuk singlehandedly scored 20 kills on the night and topped it off with 6 digs, while Matt Neaves managed 13 kills, 9 digs and 3 aces.
As the evening wound down, men’s volleyball head coach Mike Hawkins reflected on how sports events like Pride Night can serve as a vehicle for good. “I think sport, in general, can be a catalyst for positivity or negativity. There are both ends of that spectrum. I think if done correctly, if pushed in the right direction, sports is the greatest catalyst for love, for positivity, for celebration, for uniting different cultures, uniting countries,” he said.
“Sport just brings people together, and if done positively, can really be a catalyst for change.”