Championship weekend didn’t disappoint. Incredible lacrosse from both Division I and Division III, over 70 teams at the US Lacrosse Women’s Division National Tournament, the first-ever professional women’s lacrosse games (UWLX), and the 2nd annual Courage Game.
What’s the Courage Game, you ask? Well, I couldn’t be more proud to tell you. Here’s the short version. Braeden Lange, a lacrosse player from the Philadelphia area, came out to his family and friends last year at the age of 12 and was bullied to the point of contemplating suicide. Although Braeden had the support of his parents and family, he hit a low point as a result of the bullying he experienced. His parents reached out to Andrew Goldstein, an openly gay lacrosse player (Dartmouth ‘05, former MLL GK), and others in the lacrosse community. The desire to do more to help LGBT youth led Andrew and Nick Welton to organize the first Courage Game in 2015 to honor Braeden and other youth players who might be struggling with LGBT issues.
This year’s game included a girl’s division that was organized by Kate Henwood, Amanda Kammes and NXT Sports (Thank you for a great morning!). There was a strong turnout of Division I, II, and III coaches who worked with some little laxers and then coached a game involving 5th-8th graders. Chris Sailer, the head coach at Princeton, delivered a wonderful message to the crowd (a drop-the-mic-we-can’t-follow-that kind of message), talking about inclusion on our teams, the immense power that youth have to stand up against bullying, and celebrating diversity.
Coming out as an adult is hard enough. Fear grips you. Will your family still love you? Will your friends reject you? Coming out as a teenager…well, all I can think is that everything must be magnified 1,000 or more times. As we all know, middle school can be brutal if you’re different in any way. Could I have come out at age 12? Absolutely not. Feeling supported, safe, included, important, and normal are things all kids want, and we as coaches have the ability to make a huge impact in their lives. When we stand up and show our players that our teams are safe places and we celebrate everyone’s differences, then everybody wins.
The NCAA games were awesome and the crowds were impressive, but the absolute highlight of my weekend was attending the 2016 Courage Game. Having the chance to meet this incredibly brave young man, seeing so many youth players, parents and coaches supporting the cause, and learning there were eight kids playing (between the ages of 13-17) who had come out after hearing Braeden’s story was just inspiring. It really does give you hope.
Live your truth.