Michael Richardson, a member of the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association
(CMSA) Hall of Fame and past winner of the prestigious James R. Brodie Award for exemplifying good sportsmanship, competition, and fair play in softball, has added a new honor: CMSA President.
He took over on August 1, becoming the first person of color in the role for the largest not-for-profit gay and lesbian sports organization in the Midwest.
“I had a lot of trepidation (being named president) and had an immediate understanding of how important good leadership is in this moment,” Richardson said. “We are still in the middle of a pandemic, (with) financial issues for the organization, along with a desire to focus on diversity equity and inclusion for our league. It was intimidating to immediately follow one of the strongest leaders, in my opinion, this league has had since I have been a part of it.”
Richardson, 50, replaced Lindsay Frounfelkner.
“Lindsay was adept at keeping us focused and on task as a board,” he said. “She was the person we needed with everything that went on over the last year. I hope I live up to her legacy of leadership with her thoughtfulness, wisdom. and discernment.”
Richardson, a senior data analyst with National Tax Search/Corelogic, lives in Edgewater Glen. He is originally from Philadelphia and proud to claim he always will be a Philadelphia, yet he has lived in Chicago for 25 years.
“The title of CMSA president is weighty and important to me,” Richardson said. “Initially there was a little panic (moving into the position), but I now have a sense of calm and determination. Our board has been hard at work, and they share my determination to do what is best for our league. I am excited for all of us and the foundation we will be laying for the league and its future. We are ready.”
Being the first CMSA POC president came with pressure, said Richardson, who admittedly sound advice from close friends. “The many words of encouragement I received helped me get through those feelings,” he said. “The thing that inspired me the most in those moments after the announcement was that the kindness directed my way spanned the breadth of my CMSA experience from first year to today.”
Richardson is a flag football and softball veteran, and he also has played basketball, dodgeball, indoor volleyball and more.
His CMSA journey started years ago in softball on a team called the Bulldogs.
“CMSA is the family that chose me,” Richardson said. “This organization has provided me with so much connection and joy with our community. I am hyper-protective of the organization and its members. This organization has not reached its potential yet; I value the path it is on.”
Richardson said his CMSA memory bank include the first time he walked onto the field for softball practice – when he didn't know anything about the sport. “I did not play sports growing up, but wanted to throw myself into trying at age 30, to do something different,” he said. “My first manager, Micah Stern, and first coach, Ron Brown, saw this tall athletic-looking guy and could not understand why he could not hit the ball past the pitcher or with any force.”
Thing was, he was told to do exactly what they were doing, which included batting and throwing right-handed.
Richardson is left-handed but was following instructions.
After softball, the team stuck together and played indoor volleyball. Richardson, too.
And that's when Stern saw that Richardson was left-handed.
Years, er, decades later, Stern and Brown, and Micah's husband, Chris, “are still a major part of my life,” he said. “They defined CMSA for me and created in my desire to develop players and make sure their CMSA experience is amazing.”The Fields of Play
Richardson said today's CMSA is “in a great place” coming out of the pandemic “with the energy and strength of our members who have shown patience and resilience throughout.”
The past 16 months have certainly been a very trying time for CMSA, on and off the fields of play – with league cancellations, a major financial scandal and more.
Richardson said CMSA continues to navigate the pandemic following science.
“Our medical partnership with Amita Health has been beneficial,” he said. “They have been invaluable in advising our leaders about best practices to keep all of the CMSA community as safe as possible.”
Richardson said CMSA is “energized” heading into the final months of 2021, anchored on flag football (open and women's), indoor volleyball, basketball and badminton, plus the expanding of eSports and tabletop league with chess and euchre.
“We developed a comprehensive strategic plan to help solidify our league for years to come,” he said. “Some of the positives I see (currently) are the volunteer leaders, including the commissioners and board members. I have observed an untiring amount of energy to make sure the league develops into its promise. That promise is to be an organization that serves all members of our community and make sure they feel welcome and comfortable.”
CMSA added eSports and its tabletop leagues in 2021, and the response to both has been amazing, he said,
“The leagues have been a way for members of our community to stay connected through the pandemic and introduced many people to the CMSA experience in a new way. The leagues also provide opportunities for people who are not interested in physical sports to share in our community experience,” he said.
Richardson confirmed that CMSA is always looking to expand its sports/games, and a Magic: The Gathering league has been rumored.
Richardson said no sports are in jeopardy of being dropped.
“Our short-term goals are to complete the establishment of our board. We will review our processes and make sure we are protecting the integrity of the league. We will soon be doing a call for members who are interested in assisting our board with executing our strategic plan,” he said. “Long-term, our financial security is a priority, along with making sure we are being inclusive and focused on increasing our diversity. The reach of our league beyond the three-mile radius of Lakeview is important. Another thing I want to continue to address is to make sure our members feel heard and have confidence that we are looking out for all of our league members.”