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PHOTO COURTESY OF RASHAD DEVOE

Blaxers Blog: Rashad Devoe Seeks to Groom Agents of Change


US Lacrosse Magazine has partnered with Blaxers Blog to produce a series of stories that illuminate the minority lacrosse experience and promote the accomplishments of those individuals who have defied stereotypes to succeed in the sport.

Read more about Blaxers Blog and the content partnership here.

Amherst men’s lacrosse experienced its lowest point in the spring of 2020 after a series of team-involved incidents came to light. Leadership changes ensued and a 2021 postseason probation was levied. 

Since May, when Rashad Devoe was hired to be the program’s next coach, he’s worked to redevelop the program’s culture. During the summer, a time when the country was grappling with the pandemic while simultaneously having conversations on social justice, Devoe has made moves to ensure Amherst’s commitment to being agents of change. 

Devoe described 2020 as a “rough year,” with moments when he took a step back to reflect on his own progress as a human being. 

“Just watching our people get murdered every week was painful,” he said. “You sit back and think, ‘Well, what do people think about me when they see me?’ Seeing people’s comments who associated with me was alarming, as I thought, ‘I’ve known you for 15 years. Is that how you feel about me? Do I know the real you? What do you say about me behind closed doors?’ 

“It was exhausting, broke me down slightly and hurt my heart. I had to take a couple months away from social media as a result of ingesting too much.” 

Internationally recognized mental performance coach Jeremy Boone, a friend of Devoe’s, gave him words of wisdom to help refocus. 

“Never start the day looking at social media because now you’re putting yourself in someone else’s story instead of your own,” Boone said. 

Devoe took that to heart, and he’s using it to motivate his players. He wants them to write their own stories. 

“I believe as a program, this unified movement is new, like the rest of the nation, and we haven’t seen the long-term effects of it yet,” Devoe said. “I’m looking to see action and action items be implemented soon.” 

Devoe acknowledged the uptick of positive programming that resulted from recent social justice movements. He also believes that Amherst will find strength in its unity in order to propel the team back to their championship pedigree while being a beacon of progress. 

“Diversity is about numbers and inclusion is about culture,” Devoe said. “We often talk about diversity and getting kids of color on rosters, but we don’t worry about what the program and school’s culture is like.”


“We often talk about diversity and getting kids of color on rosters, but we don’t worry about what the program and school’s culture is like.” — Rashad Devoe


*** 

Mentorship in lacrosse provides unlocked doors and guided avenues of self-progression. These unique relationships demonstrate the tight-knit bond the lacrosse community upholds while cultivating opportunities for the next generation of players and coaches. Devoe provided insights on his mentorship experiences and how others should follow. 

“Mentorship is extremely important for the same reasons as representation,” Devoe said. “The people who got me into the game were juggernauts who showed me the way.” 

Successful coaching requires thorough study of the game’s basics, Devoe explained. He mentioned how mentorship provides rules and guidelines from peers in order to win in life. Mentorship allows one to see how operations are run, consciousness on when to advance and what to do at the next level. 

After Devoe watched colleague Rick Sowell leave Navy, he began to analyze the process of national coaching searches at the collegiate level. He recognized that coaches of color were not being prepped to be in the running for any of these jobs. He then began to focus on helping coaches of color get these opportunities.  

“We don’t have enough high-profile figures vouching for coaches of color and athletic directors lobbying who understand the game,” Devoe said. “That became my push to get young coaches of color into those doors so they can start growing and be recognized for jobs.” 

Devoe credited the late Jack Sandler, the former Colby head coach who died in 2015 at 35 years old, for helping to open doors for him. 

“Jack Sandler took me to every meeting, as most head coaches don’t allow assistants to shadow financial aid, dean of student and faculty meetings,” Devoe said. “Jack was a member of the All-American committee and had me in the room with the phone on speaker so I knew how the process went.” 

Devoe spent three seasons as an assistant at Colby, and Sandler asked him what he wanted to do with his career. He had aspirations to one day lead a program. 

“I told him that Amherst was my dream school to coach at,” Devoe said. 

Sandler sat Devoe down in his office and mapped out the exact requirements needed to close in on his desired coaching job. “Everything Jack mapped out had worked,” Devoe said. 

During halftime of Hampton’s road game at Greensboro College last spring, Devoe received the call indicating that the contest would be the program’s last due to the pandemic. He thought about how to deliver the news to the seniors. 

“This was the last half of lacrosse you will ever play competitively,” Devoe told them. 

Weeks later, Devoe had an opportunity to interview for the Amherst position. It was a bittersweet moment for a coach committed to his program. 

“It was painful leaving Hampton because I loved coaching at the school,” he said. “The people there were amazing and the campus was beautiful. Hampton is a school that we need other HBCUs to be inspired by and for them to start playing lacrosse. I wanted to make history there, so leaving was a hard decision.” 

He got that chance at Beloit College in 2015. 

He said his experiences as an assistant at Colby were imperative to “understanding the nuances of operations and coaching.” 








*** 

According to the 2019 NCAA Demographic Database, Black head and assistant coaches comprise 3 percent (16 head coaches, 26 assistants) of the 1,273 coaches at 386 total men’s lacrosse programs.  

Devoe feels saddened by the lack of inclusion.  

“There should be more than what was featured in [Blaxers Blog’s] previous article on each Black head coach,” he said. “That’s 16 of us hired within nearly 400 job opportunities. That’s not a lot at all.” 

Devoe and Nat St. Laurent, the coach of Ohio Northern and the PLL’s Redwoods LC, used to play against each other biannually. Their relationship, Devoe said, is about more than just camaraderie between friends. 

“The need for visible representation is why coach St. Laurent and I schedule games against each other every other year,” Devoe said. “When have you seen two Black coaches on the sidelines coaching lacrosse against each other?” 

Devoe’s Beloit squad dueled against Ohio Northern in 2016 and 2018. He hopes to schedule future non-conference games versus St. Laurent’s team during his Amherst tenure. 

Later in his career, Devoe has maintained a strong relationship with St. Laurent and Sowell. 

“Occasionally as coaches, we feel alone and wonder who to talk to about our realities,” he said. “Thankfully, all of us coaches get together on a monthly to bi-monthly phone call to converse. That makes it better to know that we’re unified.” 

He credited attending gatherings and networking with other coaches at conventions as helping kickstart his career. He’s worked his way to a prestigious NESCAC school after a one-year stint at Hampton, and he said more coaches need the same opportunities he’s been afforded. 

“I’m happy where I’m at and enjoy my lacrosse experiences,” he said. “However, looking back, I thought there would be more coaches of color in the sport by now.” 

Devoe practices what he preaches when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion. He hired 2017 national champion and Maryland alum Dan Morris as an assistant on his Amherst staff. Morris was a goalie on the Philippine national team during the 2018 World Lacrosse Championship in Israel, as the Pinoys finished 10th internationally in their first FIL senior tournament. 




PHOTO COURTESY OF RASHAD DEVOE


*** 

Notre Dame assistant Ryan Wellner knows Devoe as a close friend and someone unquestionably devoted to his craft. 

“He’s someone who was always willing to work hard, grind through issues and knock down any door that was closed,” Wellner said. ”What really strikes me about Rashad is that he built strong relationships throughout his journey and is never afraid to ask for or offer help. 

“I’m excited to see Rashad lay a new path for lacrosse, one that we all want and need.” 

While he lays that new path, Devoe will also have to meet the high expectations of Amherst tradition. Always a NESCAC and Division III power, Amherst is a team constantly regarded as one of the nation’s best on the field. 

“There are expectations for Amherst’s brand of lacrosse,” said Ian Kadish, Amherst’s assistant in 2019. “There’s an expectation for student-athletes to be great, compete and give all you have to your brothers.” 

In recruiting the next generation of Amherst men’s lacrosse players, Devoe was successful in attaining an exciting class of 2021 commits that reflect the program’s values, emphasis on inclusion and its momentum toward success. 

Texas faceoff standout Mason Chandler comes to Amherst with a 3.77 GPA and 72 percent faceoff win percentage from Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas. Chandler’s explosiveness will ensure the Mammoths offense has up-tempo scoring opportunities.  

Chandler decided on Amherst because of its academic tradition and its proximity to where he’d like to start his professional career. Through the recruiting process, he felt the sense of brotherhood that Devoe has helped shape. 

“Having a diverse student body is imperative, as a college should be a representation of our own country. Diversity though, is just one step to what needs to happen,” Chandler said. “More importantly, students need an environment where they can be themselves, share ideas and learn from one another’s experiences and perspectives. I believe Amherst fosters an environment that appreciates diversity and continues to take action towards cultivating an inclusive campus.” 

Afro-Canadian showstopper Atkin Dwyer excelled at the Holderness School (N.H.) and Edge Lacrosse as a defenseman and short-stick defenseman. Dwyer is a 6-foot-3, 205-pound star who won two Ontario provincial championships and has a box background that helps him shut down opposing offenses while posing as a transitional leader who can facilitate Amherst’s scoring chances. 

He said Devoe helped ease his transition to college. 

“Amherst means the world to me. It has always been a dream of mine to play a collegiate sport at a school with a reputation such as Amherst,” Dwyer said. “Coach Devoe has been amazing and supportive in my process. Every time I ask him a question, he responds. Even if he misses my call, he calls back 10 minutes later to follow up.” 

Another 2021 freshman addition for Amherst is Manhasset (N.Y.) long-stick midfielder and defenseman Jordan Gangaram. The Long Island product is a ground ball extraordinaire who comes from a storied program. 

The 2018-19 NYSPHSAA Scholar Athlete Award winner chose Amherst because “it’s a top lacrosse program with high academics.”  

“To me Amherst lacrosse means tenacity, discipline and focus,” Gangaram said. 

Gangaram is prideful of his Indian heritage and looks to help the diaspora embrace lacrosse further. 

Lastly, Georgetown Prep (Md.) attackman Dylan Hsu has a level-headed plan to excel academically and help the Mammoths pursue another championship. Hsu played for China’s U19 national team and played club lacrosse with Madlax Capital alongside his brother Damon, a freshman at Lehigh. 

Hsu watched the 2019 Division III title game and visualized himself competing on that stage some day. 

“Amherst Lacrosse is a historically great team, as they played in the 2019 national championship,” Hsu said. “I chose Amherst over a couple of Division I and III offers. Amherst was the best fit for me academically and athletically.” 

RASHAD DEVOE 

Hometown: Fairport, N.Y.  
College: SUNY Buffalo (BS), West Chester University (MS) 
Coaching History: 

  • 2020-Present: Amherst College (head coach) 

  • 2019-20: Hampton University (head coach) 

  • 2018-19: Naval Academy Preparatory School (head coach) 

  • 2015-18: Beloit College (head coach) 

  • 2013-15: Colby College (assistant coach) 

  • 2011-13: Southwestern University (assistant coach) 

  • 2009-11: Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas (assistant coach) 

  • 1996-98: Rochester Knighthawks (strength & conditioning/assistant coach) 

Notable Accolades: 

  • 2017 Midwest Lacrosse Conference Coach of the Year 

  • Mentored 3 All-Americans, 29 All-Conference selections and the 2015 NESCAC Rookie of the Year 

  • 2012 US Lacrosse Keeper of Lacrosse Award 

  • Owls Lacrosse Executive Board Member