My Story

By Pamella Jenkins, Head Coach, Delaware State University  @DSUlax

I remember the first time I held a lacrosse stick and I was instantly in love. Lacrosse combined all the things that I loved about basketball and it allowed me to use my athleticism in a great way. From my years of recruiting, that instant love for lacrosse sounds very common. Basketball always felt like it was the right fit for me, and lacrosse took some getting used to. Although I was an instant fan, it was a hard adjustment playing a sport where most of the players didn’t look like me. Throughout my college career and even my early years of coaching finding the right fit for where I should be playing/coaching seemed to be a challenge. As time went on and I grew as a woman, wife, mother, coach and eventually an athletic administrator, I started to define my coaching style and what my core values are. The biggest questions I started to face was why I am doing this, and can I truly impact others playing the sport. When I became an athletic administrator, I felt like this is what my path should be. I had the opportunity to impact more than just one team and I thought I had found my calling. That was until I saw the opportunity available at Delaware State. I thought about the significance of a black woman coaching at an HBCU with the opportunity to develop and pour my love for lacrosse into that program. I was instantly drawn to the ramifications of doing something like that. The idea of being part of an institution that embraced diversity and supported their athletic staff spoke to me. When I came on campus, I knew this is where I was supposed to be, and coaching lacrosse was my ultimate career path. I was instantly in love and DSU felt like the right fit. Family, support, excellence and a commitment to diversity are some of my core values that strongly align with DSU. For the first time in my professional career, I felt that I belonged and had found my right fit. In short, I had found a culture in which my upbringing and background would prosper.

             Photo courtesy of Delaware State University.

Culture is that ubiquitous concept that coaches talk about but what is it?  The dictionary definition is “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization” (Merriam-Webster 2020). However, what does that mean as it pertains to a team or program? From my experience, culture is the value alignment between the institution, the coaching staff and the players. Creating culture means understanding the value system of the institution and then aligning the value system of the program with that of the institution. This is what brought me to Delaware State.

Delaware State was established as a land grant college in 1891 by the Delaware State General Assembly at a time when many colleges maintained a “separate but equal system” of educational institutions.  Over the course of its history, DSU served as an institution that provided opportunity for those that could not seek them elsewhere. However, over the course of the last century, while still serving its founding purpose as a historically black college and university, Delaware State’s population has developed into a rich, vibrant student population of varying backgrounds who are academically focused on teaching, research and student service.  The students and professors are passionate about their University and that passion permeates the entire campus. You can feel it all over campus, whether you are in the student union, in the classroom setting ,and most certainly it is felt at the sporting events. Everyone associated with DSU loves it and wants to be part of that culture.

As culture relates to your team, it is a continuous process. It is an everyday thread that permeates the soul of your program. It is the way that everyone associates, interacts and communicates. Culture is the tie that binds. It is a symbiotic relationship between a group of people that have mutually agreed to move in the same direction together. Culture can be positive or negative depending on the participants. Positive cultures produce positive results. Negative cultures produce negative results. Positive results are any actions that result in the culture moving towards completion of the goal or vision of the coach or institution. Negative results move away from that vision.

I love my team, and it seems as if that love is being reciprocated. Right now, we are working hard, getting a little better every day and reinforcing our culture. However, just like our university, we aspire to grow. One day, we will grow into a successful preeminent lacrosse program.  We will grow, persevere and continue on our path to becoming our best version of ourselves. That is the Delaware State University culture.

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