I really dislike it when people make statements as if they represent an entire race of people. However, in this case there are so few of us, who’s going to stop me? And frankly the perspective needs to be discussed. I would first like to start off by saying race is a very sensitive subject, especially today. The opinions that I express are my own experiences that have given me a small glimpse inside the complex world of institutional racism and social biases. It makes me cringe to think that there are people that don’t believe that these things exist but they do. It’s even more surprising that if you had asked me in High School I would have also vehemently denied the claim. I was in a bubble, a quaint little community called McDonogh, a college prep school where on weekends I went to Bar Mitzvahs and ate curry at birthday parties. How was I to know that this welcoming and diverse community was a unique experience? At this point in my life I had no idea that the world saw race. I was truly blind to the inequalities faced by others in terms of color, sexuality and gender. I was just a young athlete having fun exploring my world through eyes that had never really been exposed to the harsh nature of adulthood.
Fast forward to the University of Virginia. Not exactly “tobacco road” but southern enough for a young Baltimore woman. It was here I first heard the “N-word,” saw segregation, and felt different. I want to be sure to say that my lacrosse experience was amazing and I can’t thank my coaches and teammates enough for supporting me whether they realized my struggle or not. UVA is where I would constantly be in huge lecture halls and be the only brown face. In a dorm of hundreds of kids, I’m the only black woman I see and now I’m being asked about my hair. “Can I touch it; how long does it take to blow dry?” For the record, this is not cute or endearing. If you are intrigued by the kink or curl in a person of color’s hair, let’s all agree to figure out a better, less science experiment, way of doing it. I’m not the authority on this, but trust me it gets old.
So here is where I make my argument for diversifying the sport and to take a moment to give attention to these girls of color that are under our guidance as coaches. I’m not saying give anyone special treatment… I’m saying to be cognizant and respectful of what these athletes might be experiencing. It is our duty as coaches to nurture all young women to adulthood. Our goal should be to build confident, respectful mothers, sisters and wives. If you’re in this for anything different you should probably rethink your profession (seriously).
On to the real world I went… thinking I had it all figured out at the tender age of 22. Boy, was I wrong. Who would have thought that upon interviewing for coaching positions I would be told by the president of a university that there would be faculty members that would take issue with my appointment as head coach because of my race? I mean I just spent the last 4 years in the state of Virginia and had never heard anything so ridiculous. Who would have thought that an Athletic Director would question hiring me because I was a black coach in an elitist white sport? Who would have thought that there would be an entire online discussion about my race upon being named a new head coach? I have seen a lot during my career, I have felt the pressure of being the only brown face as far as the eye can see at a tournament, or being asked what sport I coach and watching the person’s jaw drop when I say lacrosse.
My job now is to work hard every day to change that. I must prove that a black woman from Baltimore can do this job and do it well. I must encourage other women of color to join the sport because frankly the sport needs the growth. I make sure that when I see a black athlete play that I correct coaches in describing them as just an athlete. “No, actually they’re a lacrosse player and a damn good one.”
The takeaway here is that I can’t do this alone. My hope is that other coaches are extending a hand to girls and young women of all colors to help expose them to this beautiful sport we love.