Pitching hard for change

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Sheila Keane (left), who oversees gay-friendly Lismore softball club Blues Siestas with co-coach Dee Greenland.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Sheila Keane (left), who oversees gay-friendly Lismore softball club Blues Siestas with co-coach Dee Greenland. Stuart Turner

SHEILA Keane has spent more than a decade proving that softball can conquer any prejudices.

The 56-year-old American is co-coach of FINK Softball's gay and gay-friendly club.

Over the years the club has helped scores of people attempting to cope with their sexuality.

Keane said she felt the club had helped transform players' lives.

"I think, for some people, it has made a big life change," she said.

"They have come to us, in some cases, afraid of their own shadow and we have helped them.

"They come here and realise it's OK to make mistakes and have fun."

Born in Connecticut in America's north-east, Keane was a keen softball player before meeting partner Valerie Tamblyn-Mills at a retreat in Philadelphia.

After moving to Valerie's home town of Lismore in 1999, Sheila decided to form the gay and gay-friendly club as part of a New South Wales Health initiative.

"It was an effort to get people together and feel proud of themselves," she said.

The club currently has two teams competing in the FINK Softball competition, Blues Siestas Divas and the Blues Siestas Sisters.

Keane said the club has tried to help people feel more comfortable about their sexuality or who felt at the margins of society.

"I think the club made a difference to people who didn't feel comfortable or safe to be 'out'," she said.

"It was a place where you could be accepted and valued."

Keane said the rest of the league had been very accepting of the Siestas.

"We were pleasantly surprised," she said.

"Lismore is really accepting place. I think it's the only place where you see someone on one side of the road dressed in ribbons and someone in a cowboy hat on the other side - and they say 'hi'. I think when schools cut things like sport and art and music out of curriculums they are missing a trick, because these things teach people things that you don't learn in maths classes."

Keane said she was delighted that softball could play an important role in people's lives.

"It's fabulous to be part of this competition."

"Everyone loves the game and makes an effort to give people a chance."

Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Debbie the second most costly cyclone in Australia's history

The Insurance Council of Australia says the cost of Debbie's damage is second only to Cyclone Tracy which devastated Darwin in December, 1974.

$1.71 billion to fix damage from Townsville to Lismore

How to stop Facebook from grabbing your data

How Facebook can grab your data, and what to do to stop it

Billie is back home for a Peepshow with Circa

SHOW: Circa will offer the world premiere of  Peepshow  in Lismore.

Mullumbimby performer is back with show's world premiere

Local Partners