Michael Erwin, a Chicago native who has participated in gay sports since 2006, was named July 22 as the new president of the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association ( CMSA ), one of the largest predominantly gay sports organizations in the world.
Erwin, 42, who works as the director-global corporate communications at CareerBuilder and lives in Lincoln Square, replaces Brian Kupersmit, who did not seek re-election to the CMSA main board and was president for the past three years.
Erwin has been partnered with Anthony Cozzi, 34, for almost five yearsand Cozzi also is a CMSA player.
Erwin, who said serving as CMSA president is a "huge honor," plays softball, volleyball ( indoor and beach ), golf, and billiards. He previously has played CMSA bowling and flag football. He has been on the CMSA main board for the last two yearsthe first year, he was appointed; the second year, he was elected and became secretary.
"I am president today because I watched Brian very closely," Erwin said. "He was a solid leader who listened to the masses and I plan to follow his lead. He should be very proud of what he did for CMSA and deserves a huge thank-you from the membership.
"As to what I learned as secretary … everything. I fielded questions from the membership, ran the social media accounts, helped promote new and old sports, and more. I feel like I got to touch every part of the organization and am ready to now lead it."
The CMSA board is made up of 11 positionsfive elected and six appointed. Also serving on the CMSA main board now are vice presidents Mark Sakalares and Jason Kallen, secretary Grete Hornstrom, and treasurer Michael O. Rice.
"I encourage every member who thinks that they can contribute to the success of the organization to apply for the appointed positions and/or just get involved," Erwin said. "We are a volunteer board, so there is a time commitment that is manageable, and I promise that whomever is appointed will leave after their year term feeling great about their work on behalf of the CMSA members."
Erwin said his favorite sport to play is softball, and his favorites to watch are hockey, tennis, golf, and football. Hockey is his favorite professional sport, with the Chicago Blackhawks his favorite team and team captain Jonathan Toews is Erwin's favorite.
Erwin, who graduated from American University, first joined CMSA in 2006 as a bowler. Friends introduced him to the league, and two years later, he was playing softball and other CMSA sports.
"In the early days of my CMSA career, I did not pay attention to the daily challenges of the organization. It was about four years ago that I started to see how hard the board worked and noticed some cracks in the foundation," he said. "Two years ago I attended my first CMSA election meeting and was shocked at the anger of some of the members. I, myself, had never experienced the issues that they were bringing up. I listened to Brian Kupersmit talk about how he planned to fix the organization and I immediately wanted to help. I was appointed to the board and focused my efforts on supporting Brian's goals. Brian and the board, I feel, were successful in turning CMSA around and strengthening our presence in the community.
"Today, CMSA is growing and is a solid organization. CMSA is the premier LGBTQA/straight-allies sports organization in Chicago. We offer the most sports and have the largest membership, which continues to grow year over year."
CMSA introduced three new sports over the last year: Ultimate, golf, and pool.
"Our strength is our members. Our weakness is communications," he said. "Over the next year, I plan to focus on improving the communications to all of our members and will work with the board to improve the overall quality of each sport, so that everyone has the best experience possible, no matter which sport they are playing."
Erwin has a one-year term.
"I have known Michael for several years and know he will continue to drive CMSA to continue to be not only the largest LGBTQ sports organization in the country, but the best LGBTQ sports organization in the country," Sakalares said. "His creativity, customer service mindset and shear passion for what he does will infect those around him causing CMSA to gain even higher heights in the years to come."
Kupersmit, 39, who lives in Uptown, is the president of Collective Wisdom LLC, and plays CMSA flag football and softball. He has been a CMSA member for 10 years.
"After seven years of service on the main board and numerous other CMSA roles, I needed to focus my time on growing my clients and building my future," Kupersmit said. "The decision to not pursue re-election was very difficult. I have an incredible amount of passion and love for this organization. We have done so many great things over the last few years and I want to continue to help this organization grow and build on our position as the best LGBT sport league in the country."
Kupersmit said his "proudest accomplishment" as CMSA president was launching the organization's new website and "bringing together this organization, men and women, after a tumultuous election and a divided organization in July 2012."
"I believe CMSA is in an incredibly strong place right now," Kupersmit said. "Our membership is up in back to back years for the first time in a while behind some great marketing and advertising. We've started several new sports and have the most talented and dedicated group of volunteers I've seen over my seven years. We've extended our presence to focus in social and charity within the community. We've made registration simpler than ever and given captains the tools to help manage the registration process. We've also entered into a long-term agreement with the Chicago Park District to ensure field access for years to come."