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SPORTS Lindsay Frounfelkner takes over Chicago LGBTQ+ sports league
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times

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Lindsay Frounfelkner joined the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association ( CMSA ) in 2008 to play in the Open Sunday Softball League with one of her best friends, Brian Frazee, on the Just Us League team ( now the Sausage Kings of Chicago ) in the D2 division.

"I don't think we won a game that season. In fact, I'm pretty [sure that], if we did win a game, it was because another team had to forfeit," Frounfelkner told Windy City Times, laughing. "Despite never getting a win that summer, I had the best time. I hadn't played softball consistently since high school, so it was nice to get back out there and rekindle my love of the sport."

That first season, an opposing team, the Lucky Charmers, was sponsored by Bucks and they invited Frounfelkner's team to meet at their sponsor bar after the game. "A few of us started joining them every week, whether we had softball or not. Some of the people I met on that patio in the summer of 2008 remain by best friends today," she said.

Frounfelkner, 39, who lives in Andersonville and is the office/billing manager for Ganan & Shapiro, has been living in Chicago for the past 19 years—and CMSA is her true passion, win or lose.

Over the past year, she's played open Sunday softball, beach volleyball, indoor volleyball, fall kickball and women's fall softball. Her CMSA resume also has included Thursday fall softball, Thursday summer softball, women's summer softball, open dodgeball, women's fall football, badminton and fall kickball.

And now, Frounfelkner is the new CMSA president after the sports organization's July elections, replacing Matt Herek. She is the CMSA's fifth-ever female president and its first since 2010.

CMSA Hall of Famer Marcia Hill was the organization's president from 2007-2010. Before Hill, women presidents of CMSA included Lora Kirk, Judith Leavitt and Mel Ferrand.

"Her longtime experience as a CMSA member will come in handy as president during this time of transition; I wish her well," Hill said.

Frounfelkner was born and raised in Arizona, living all around the Phoenix area. She attended high school in Buckeye, Arizona a small town about 30 miles west of Phoenix. She moved to Illinois in 1999, about a year after high school and moved into the city of Chicago in August 2001.

"Being elected to the main board is certainly one of the highlights of my involvement with CMSA," she said. "Being nominated for, and then winning Open Sunday Softball's Brodie Award in 2018 is probably one of the highlights of my life, especially with Bobby Nicholson there cheering me on," she said. "We had some softball and volleyball teams over the years which did well enough to get trophies at the end of the season, and those are always nice. We worked hard for those. However, being recognized for sportsmanship has always been more important to me."

She certainly will carry that friendly, smiling, personal approach to the presidency.

"It's still new and overwhelming, [but] I'm excited. I hope I can make positive change. I hope I can live up to the expectations," said Frounfelkner, who noted that it's "important" that she is the first woman CMSA president in 10 years. "We need more diversity overall on the board of directors. Having a woman as president is certainly a step towards that."

Frounfelkner's term as president is one-year. She ran for the CMSA board, for a two-year term, in 2019 so that term will expire July 31, 2021. If she runs again in 2021, it's possible she could continue in the role of president, but it would be determined by the CMSA members in re-electing her and the elected board when deciding individual roles.

"My most memorable moments in CMSA are rarely because I had some amazing play or hard-fought win," she said. "It's always about fun times with my friends.

"The story I tell the most is probably when one of my softball players ran home from second base—literally ran from second base to the pitcher's mound when he heard me screaming and made a sharp turn to third base. Once he got to third, he did a hair flip and said, 'I just wasn't feeling third base today.'"

The late Carl Sharp was the umpire and he came over to Frounfelkner between inning, saying that he wasn't sure the player knew how to run the bases and that she should probably use a courtesy runner.

"We were all laughing so hard and just told [Sharp] it's a 9 a.m. game Market Days weekend in D2 [division]. … This is what happens sometimes," Frounfelkner said.

"Another time I remember looking out at the field to see one of my players in right field, taking a phone call and eating chips out of a bag in his glove. Play was live. Those first few years felt like the Bad News Bears. We won a few games here and there, but were never super competitive. It didn't matter because we had fun. Twelve years later and I still have some of the same people on my team."

In addition to the open Sunday softball league, open indoor volleyball and beach volleyball have been her other consistent sports since 2008.

Serving CMSA

Frounfelkner has had numerous leadership roles within the CMSA for both women's sports and open divisions.

"I didn't actually run for president," she explained. "In CMSA, one runs for a position of an elected board member and then the five elected board members decide who will hold each position. Brandon Knop and I were both elected in 2019. In 2020, CMSA members elected Drew Ladochi, Mike Richardson and Chris Rinere. It was humbling to know Brandon, Drew, Mike and Chris trusted me to hold the role of president.

"I initially ran for a board position in 2019 because I felt like it was the next step. I'd been an appointed member of the board for two years. I think the first year as an appointed member is tough. It takes some time to figure out your role and find a place for yourself. My second year I felt more comfortable on the board and started to find my voice. I thought I still had more time and energy to give and liked the idea of having an assigned role so I could take a little more ownership over my position and have clear direction with my duties. I'd been in CMSA leadership roles in one capacity or another for 10 years at that point."

Frounfelkner said that, when elected in 2019, one of her goals was to change the election procedure, so in-person voting was no longer required. "The limitations on in-person gatherings with COVID provided an opportunity for the board to spend time researching different options to determine what is most consistent with our previous election procedure while also trying to include as many members as possible," she said. "I am not sure of the typical election turnout. … I would guess it was under 100 people [voting]. Changing to the electronic election in 2020 resulted in 500 members casting a ballot.

"Anything we can do to encourage participation from as many voices as possible is a plus."

Frounfelkner said CMSA plans to change its communication platform to update and modernize their emails. "Hopefully by creating more welcoming, consistent communication we can keep people engaged with CMSA. This should also help improve transparency, so members know what is going on with each individual sport as well as with the board of directors," she said.

"Like a lot of organizations, we need to address diversity and inclusion to make sure CMSA is welcoming to all. CMSA was started as a safe space for LGBTQIA+ people and we need to ensure we are living up to the expectation of our founders.

"Most importantly, we are just focused on navigating the constantly changing world of COVID-19."

Frounfelkner said her long-term goals are to "focus on cultivating leadership," she said. "We struggle to find volunteers and commissioners in some sports. I was reading through newsletters dating back to the late-1990s and this appears to be an ongoing issue. It can be a big time commitment depending on the role. We need to reach out to people at a player-level to get people excited to be more involved with their sport( s ). I want the organization to be a place in which people feel some ownership. Better mentoring for new commissioners is a priority. I worked closely with a few of our new commissioners last year and want to make sure that continues."

She said that she also wants to create an archive of CMSA history. "One of the greatest things about CMSA is its history," Frounfelkner said. "We started from a few teams playing 16-inch softball in 1978 and have grown and changed so much over the years. We need to pay tribute to these people and stories. We are one of the oldest organizations of our kind and that's important. I started looking at all the old articles in the Windy City Times over the past year and came across some amazing stories I had never heard. I'd asked a few people whether we had any sort of archive over the past few years and was always directed to Marcia Hill. I reached out to her last month to see whether I could get copies of any articles or pictures she has so I'm working on that now."

The state of CMSA

The main strength of CMSA has always been the passion of its members, Frounfelkner said. "We are an all-volunteer organization. Our commissioners and their boards put in hours upon hours of time to ensure their sports are professionally managed. The same holds true for our board of directors. It can be a thankless job to be a sport leader, but our commissioners always manage to step up and take on more.

"This year, many were faced with the loss of space due to the lakefront not opening but dropped everything to adjust and try to move forward. Our women's softball league lost Waveland Park, their home of many years. Ultimate and football were set to begin their seasons at Cricket Hill and quickly adjusted to move to Clarendon Park. This on top of developing sport-specific COVID guidelines provided new challenges. Many of our sports are unable to take place right now for various reasons, but the commissioners have remained in constant contact with the board in the hopes we can find some alternative."

Sporting notes:

—Beach volleyball has had a tough two years, according to Frounfelkner: "We lost a lot of courts in 2019 due to the piping plovers nesting at Montrose Beach. We were able to add some courts at Hollywood Beach, but it resulted in more bye weeks. The lakefront has not been opened in 2020, so we have not been able to resume play.

"I'm really hoping we can get back to some semblance of normal in 2021. This has been in no way an issue with the leadership of that sport. Kevin Dietz has done a great job and continued to make plans this year with hopes we could have a smaller season or tournament, but it just hasn't been an option."

—Soccer and Ultimate are both sports in which the numbers seem to increase every year. "The leaders in those sports have done a great job managing sportsmanship and competition to make people want to return year after year," she said. "Kickball and Open volleyball had a huge resurgence last year. We are hopeful that continues."

—Open Sunday Softball was ready for a summer 2020 tournament, as CMSA had not hosted a softball tournament in Chicago in 10 years. As with most events this summer, the tournament was canceled, but they are already working on plans for 2021.

—The basketball leagues held a joint all-star event this past winter. The turnout was high, and people seemed to have a great time, she said. Noel Drain, women's basketball commissioner, and Mike Richardson, open basketball commissioner, put a lot of time and effort in to make the event successful, Frounfelkner said.

"I think everyone is trying the best they can" during the pandemic, Frounfelkner said. "Sports are just going to be different right now. I was at the softball field [in late July] and heard someone say being able to play softball was the best thing to happen to them this year.

"The governor issued new guidance for sports [in late July] so we're working to figure out our way forward with the new restrictions."

CMSA's Hardship Fund, launched at the beginning of the pandemic, was developed to make sure cost was not a barrier in returning to play for a CMSA member.

"During the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, CMSA created a fund to pay the membership fees of players facing financial hardship," Frounfelkner said. "Seeing the generosity of our members contributing and reaching out to help in any way has been inspiring. Knowing this is something which has been important to the organization for its entirety makes me really proud to be a CMSA member."

CMSA added E-sports last year and Frounfelkner is hopefully that this new league will continue to grow. "I don't know a lot of about that area, but I know we have a lot of members who are passionate about online gaming," she said. "Certainly, with the current restrictions on in-person gathering, finding other ways to engage membership is key."

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