Prideful Osmosis: Lessons From My Queer Adult Kickball League

How my 'outside life' informs my digital strategy

I had a teacher in high school who would wake up students found sleeping on a textbook in class with the phrase, "Wake up! You can't learn through osmosis!"

I always found the idea funny—that we could learn or absorb things, like osmosis, just by touching something or being in a particular environment. But the more I think about it, the more I believe it's somewhat possible. 

In my 9-to-5, I'm a digital strategist. I have to understand human behavior, reactions and beliefs in the social and digital space. And the internet is HUGE, if you haven't heard. All walks of life are on it. There are so many corners and bizarre necks of the woods that I'm constantly discovering. 

In my "outside" life, I manage a queer-based, adult recreational kickball league. Yup, you read that right, an LGBTQIA+ adult kickball league. Over 500 players gather every weekend in West Hollywood, through the Varsity Gay League (VGL), to kick, catch and score a game (or date) we all played back when we were in grade school.

Now in this league, there are also all walks of life. I've met people and had conversations with others in the queer community whom I might not have had before. It's been through kickball that I first met someone who was trans. It's also here that I have gained a deep respect for my fellow LGBTQIA+ POC members who have had hardships in life beyond what I thought was possible. 

Now, here comes my osmosis. There have been a ton of instances where my work with VGL and being in that environment has translated to a skillset I've developed or a knowledge base I've had in my work as a digital strategist: 

  • Pride campaigns. I've been fortunate enough to work on a few Pride social campaigns for our clients. Understanding that it's important for brands to actually move the needle—to make an impact in the community—versus developing work that appears to be rainbow washing, is something I've picked up from kickball.
  • Schedules. Scheduling 500+ players who have side gigs or personal needs in kickball weekly has taught me time is important to people. Working at a collaborative agency, finding the time to schedule meetings, or deciding when a meeting should be an email instead has been invaluable. 
  • Empathy and sympathy. As I mentioned, a huge part of my day-to-day is getting inside the head of our target audience. What will they or others think of this content? How does it add value to them or for our brand? I cannot stress how much interacting with others and hearing their experiences on a weekend of kickball has forced me to think about varying perspectives. 
  • Persuasion and team building. I also captain a team within the league I manage, and with that comes rallying the team weekly. It's helpful to understand why each person signed up to play. Is it to meet new people? Make new friends? Get a little competitive? Knowing what makes people tick helps me persuade them to do their best and bond with the overall team. This is another crucial skill as a strategist that I've taken to heart working with clients and internal teams.

I could go on and on. In the middle of the pandemic last year, my agency, RPA, started employee resource groups (ERGs), and I took the initiative alongside a few others to start the "Werk Fam," our LGBTQIA+ ERG. It's really been the intersection of my 9 to-5 and my outside life. The osmosis flows both ways here. I'm able to grasp the queer work experience and incorporate that into my recreational side, and vice versa. 

When I first started my career, it felt like there was always a church-and-state mindset when it came to work and life. You were supposed to "leave your emotions at the door," and "focus on the task at hand." But now, I think it's even more critical that we absorb, that we learn, that we go out and do things outside of the day-to-day. Things we're passionate, curious and proud to do. 

Have your inputs from the outside and your outputs from the inside. Break down the walls of work/life balance where it matters the most. Take pride in it. After all, we're human and not just cells learning through osmosis. 

Profile picture for user Tyler Sweeney
Tyler Sweeney
Tyler Sweeney is a manager on the digital strategy team at RPA, having worked across several clients, but his one true love has been Honda. In his free time you can find him hanging with his cat, attending a concert, or playing kickball.

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