by Meredith Carey
As the Texas Star looms in the background, the seventh and eighth grade girls of Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School practice on the barely grassy sports field across from their school. The girls aren’t playing soccer or doing drills in P.E.; they’re learning to play lacrosse, with help from local non-profit Bridge Lacrosse and its executive director, David Higbee.
With six teams at DISD schools across South and West Dallas, Higbee and his army of high school lacrosse players and volunteer coaches are working to change the all-white, upper class stereotype that has traditionally been associated with the sport.
“[Lacrosse players] don’t have dark skin. It’s just white, you know, white American kids, not African Americans, but we’re trying to change that,” said lacrosse mom Tiffanie Mattox, whose son plays for one of the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy teams.
From throw-arounds, where any neighborhood child is welcome to pick up a stick, no matter the age or experience level, to intense co-ed goalie clinics, the organization is serious about introducing lacrosse to new audiences.
Traditionally an East Coast sport, lacrosse has been making its way into Texas over the past 10 years.
“Because lacrosse is such… a small sport west of the Mississippi [River], kids like that sort of elite, exclusive mentality of the sport and that ‘I’m a lacrosse player and there’s one of maybe a couple at my school’, versus everyone who plays basketball, soccer, and so on,” Higbee said.
For Highland Park High School student and Bridge Lacrosse volunteer Christopher Marlow, being a role model both on and off the field is the most important lesson he can teach the new players he comes in contact with.
“I remember when I started playing and older guys taught me, I felt like that was… really good that they were good examples of how I should play.”
The program offers year-round opportunities for South and West Dallas players, with a skills camp in the summer, a short season to develop lacrosse fundamentals in the fall, and a competitive season in the spring.
Though Bridge Lacrosse provides equipment at throw-arounds and neighborhood events thanks to donations, it recently asked its competitive players to purchase their own equipment, even though lacrosse sticks alone can cost around $200.
Higbee said they found that players would continue practicing on their own, outside of team practice and Bridge Lacrosse events, if they had a stick that they were responsible for in their hands year-round. Bridge Lacrosse does offer scholarships for players who are financially unable to purchase equipment.
The non-profit only has two paid staff members, Higbee and program director Laura Weinman, and relies on volunteers to coach and instruct the young players who come to Bridge Lacrosse events.
“If you just threw out a bunch of sticks in a neighborhood, [kids] probably wouldn’t go touch them,” Higbee said. “You have to have really quality leaders and volunteers and coaches to help facilitate the kids loving the sport.”
For Irma Rangel player Meggie Hunt, the sport not only provides her with a chance to exercise, but the opportunity to be a part of a burgeoning community in Dallas.
“[Lacrosse] definitely has some street cred out in the real world, you know, ‘lacrosse’ it sounds more fancy than it really is,” said Hunt. “So I like saying that I , you know, play it, and it’s a pretty fun sport too.”