[Coming from Zimbabwe], I had never heard of lacrosse. My friend played and said “Hey, why don’t you play lacrosse?” She goes on and tells me about it and I said, “OK. I guess I’ll try it.”
I didn’t realize lacrosse had a diversity problem because, for the first couple weeks, it just was my team playing against each other. Our best player was African-American and we had players from different backgrounds. Once we started to play against other teams, that’s when I was like, “Oh, not every team is as diverse as mine. Interesting. Wow, that’s weird.”
When I joined club, that was the first time I had ever been the only black girl on the team, and I realized, “Oh OK. Other people go to private schools. Not everyone has the same hair as me or the same background or rides two buses to get to practice.” That’s when I realized the big difference in socioeconomic backgrounds and race in the sport.
I do wonder if I had started off in an environment that I felt isolated or realized my differences, if I would have kept up with the sport. That’s sad, because that’s what happens with a lot of young players. Once they feel like they’re different, even if they’re the same socioeconomic background, that can be a barrier.
“I WANT TO USE MY VOICE TO SPREAD A DIFFERENT IMAGE OF LACROSSE — A MORE INCLUSIVE ONE.”
I started Official Lax Girl sophomore year [of high school], when I was really starting to fall in love with the sport. I had about 5,000 followers, and my parents told me I should put my picture on my account. I was like, “No, it’s fine. I don’t want to put my face or my name.” Part of it was because I realized that I didn’t look like a lot of lacrosse players. The ads from companies and the magazine and the player of the year photos — there really weren’t many girls that looked like me, and I guess I felt if people knew that this was what I looked like, they would unfollow.
The community has shown that it isn’t relevant. I have players from across the country and the world, with different cultures. I do still see the image of a lacrosse player is not me or my skin tone or my hair texture of my braids. I want to show other women and girls out there that, “Hey, we’re here and we’re ballin’ out.”
I played at Sewanee (Tenn.) for my freshman and sophomore year, but I realized it wasn’t for me. I was socially diverse from my teammates. Other people had someone that was like them on the team, so it was easier to create a bond. If you feel like you’re on your own and no one understands your background, it can be a little difficult.
Part of the problem was the differences in social groups, and that can somewhat be attributed to color. I didn’t really have anyone I could relate to. I didn't have anyone I could share my hair tips with, like, “Dude, this coconut oil really held my hair when I sweat. Or, “Let’s listen to this artist that I really like.”
Realizing that you are different can lead you to some negative emotions, like being sad or thinking, “Oh, maybe I’m not good enough to be here.” That’s not my personality. I’m a very happy and positive person, so I wanted to channel my focus into something more positive for me.
I want other players that look like me to know that I’m black. In my quest to make my account more inclusive, I want people to be able to relate to me no matter what color they are. I know how important getting an understanding and connecting with someone is. I don’t want to miss out on a connection because people assume that I’m like them.
If you are unsure of what the best way is to create an opportunity for someone to play, then find an organization. There are so many organizations out there that are looking to add diversity. The effort is really never going to be something that you have to start on your own. Just go on the internet and go to the US Lacrosse site and you’ll see these organizations.
I want to use my voice to spread a different image of lacrosse — a more inclusive one. A lot of people will criticize that and say that’s not an accurate representation of the sport. How can we make the sport as diverse as we want if we don’t show reflections of what that could look like? Posting about black history month and posting about my favorite players, that’s how I can bring new people to the game.