Blaxers Blog: Goalie Talk With Britt Brown, Mira Shane and Imani West

PHOTO BY BENJI BEAR


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.

Being a successful goalie takes courage and leadership. Black goaltending representation in women’s lacrosse is a rare sight. Brian Simpkins of Blaxers Blog spoke with a few recent college graduates on their love for the position and what wisdom they want to pass onto others.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the Black goalies who have made an impact on college programs. Each has a unique story and each is looking to stay involved in the sport.

Britt Brown
Hometown: Bronx, N.Y.
Colleges: Virginia (2014-15), Penn (2016-17)

In 2017, Brown was named an IWLCA first team All-Region selection and a second team All-Ivy selection. Also during her senior season, Brown was ranked third nationally in save percentage (.540) and fourth in goals allowed average (8.40). Brown currently serves as a CityLax board member. Brown will join the newly formed Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse league in Summer 2021.

Mira Shane
Hometown: Princeton, N.J.
College: Michigan (2016-19)

In 2019, Shane was as a Tewaaraton Award nominee and an IWLCA second team All-Region selection. Before graduating, Shane set Michigan’s all-time goaltending records in victories (24) and save percentage (.451). Shane currently serves as a volunteer assistant coach at Michigan after holding the same position at Harvard last season. Shane will join the newly formed Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse league in Summer 2021.

Imani West
Hometown: Maplewood, N.J.
College: Longwood (2015-18)

As a team captain in 2018, West set Longwood’s single-season record for ground balls (67) and earned second team All-Big South honors. Also in 2018, West ranked second on Longwood’s all-time list in career saves (451) while ranking fifth nationally in ground balls per game (3.72) and sixth in saves (182). West currently serves as a clinician for the US Lacrosse Sankofa Clinic Series.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON PLAYING PROFESSIONALLY WITH ATHLETES UNLIMITED?

BROWN: “It’s awesome. It’s great to play under a mix of the traditional and Olympic rule sets. The player-to-fan engagement is unique.”

SHANE: “I’m ecstatic about the league. I had to work harder and ramp up my training to prepare for these skilled offenses. The talent level is unmatched compared to past women’s professional leagues. I couldn’t be me more thankful for this opportunity. I can’t wait to show my stuff.”

HOW DID YOU MODEL YOUR GOALTENDING TECHNIQUE?

BROWN: “I played every game like it was my last. I never had private lessons growing up because my parents couldn’t afford it. I took advantage of drills in high school practices and camps. Back in the day, lacrosse camps were more about development and now it’s more of a showcase. I enjoyed listening to [Harvard head coach] Devon Wills and [Syracuse head coach] Gary Gait at camps.”

SHANE: “My technique is obscure because when I first started to play, I had no clue what I was doing until college. At Michigan, I experienced some box lacrosse goalie training that helped me improve my game.”

WEST: “When I got to Longwood, there was a senior goalie ahead of me named Christian Acker who taught me a lot on and off the field. Watching her helped prepare me for my sophomore season when I became the starting goalie.”







WHAT INTANGIBLES MUST A SUCCESSFUL GOALIE HAVE?

BROWN: “You got to have a strong mentality. Once you study the fundamentals, it’s 80 percent mental. In college, it was 90 percent mental. My daily routine was strict and influenced my mentality.”

WEST: “I think one of the most important things that I have learned from being in goal is not letting goals get to me. It’s something that I can carry over into real life. When I was young and I first started out, there were definitely games where I cried in my helmet. Once I learned how to bounce back and focus on the next shot, I became stronger. Teams are mostly going to score goals on you, it’s how you react that makes a really successful goalie.”

SHANE: “It’s a combination of a few different things. Be one with your team, tap into the discipline. You must have love and passion for the sport. While leading your team, you got to bounce back from tough situations. As a Black goalie, you see adversities on and off the field and know how to overcome them.”

HOW DID YOU CONCENTRATE ON FREE SHOTS AND QUICK-STICK OPPORTUNITIES?

BROWN: “Those were bread and butter opportunities for me. I studied a lot of film, and I zoned in on the ball. You get to a point where you find ways to slow down the game in order to make saves. Meet the stick and focus on the ball. Be patient and you’ll soon find yourself on a hot streak.”

SHANE: “Try to be in the spot before the shooter. You’ve got to make the shooter nervous. Those shots can be difficult at times. So, you must be explosive and quick to the ball.”

WEST: “In those moments, I really tried to focus on the ball. Reading the body language of players and communicating with my defenders helped me feel more grounded in those areas. Scouting reports that highlighted players’ tendencies were also helpful.”

HOW IMPORTANT IS COMMUNICATION WITH YOUR TEAMMATES?

BROWN: “It’s essential. That’s where I found my voice on the team and earned respect. If you can’t own up to your mistakes, you lose trust from your team. I let them know that I have their back and I’ll take the blame sometimes to motivate them. You must be a student of the game and show it.”

WEST: “I think communication is one of the most important things you can have as a goalie. It’s something that you can control. It’s helpful for you and your teammates because you can see pretty much everything. I never really watched football, but my dad would say, ‘You are the quarterback.’”

SHANE: “Communication is No. 1, aside from love and passion for the game. It’s a building block to a championship defense.”

HOW CAN WE GET MORE YOUTH INTERESTED IN PLAYING GOALIE?

SHANE: “Honestly, doing more media interviews like this helps the cause. When I was a young goalie, I didn’t see many examples from the college level. Then, I saw Devon Wills, and that changed. It’s creating those relations early on so that it’s not a far-off dream for the youth to see themselves in.”

WEST: “I think when explaining the role to young players, you must emphasize the importance of the goalie. Goalies are the last line of defense. They shouldn’t be used as target practice and just thrown into goal to be traumatized. A big part of being a goalie is mental strength. Coaches and teammates should understand that and act accordingly to make goalies feel like they are a part of the team.”

HOW DID COMMUNITY EFFORTS AND REPRESENTATION HELP YOU IMPROVE AS A PLAYER?

BROWN: “Community efforts are huge. Lots of top Division I players feel like hot shots but forget the struggles they experienced to get where they are now. There’s a privilege of having five or so sticks for yourself when others don’t own one themselves. Donate your time and equipment to the less fortunate because others don’t have those resources. Someone gave their time to help you, and you must do the same. It’s my turn to open doors for others. It’s frustrating to see the lacrosse community not do enough to give back.”

SHANE: “You zoom out and think of things that are bigger than lacrosse. The sport has shaped and helped me tremendously. Help give people your same dreams of being successful in lacrosse. Mentorship helps plant the seed of inspiration. Give the kids a flash of what opportunities they can have in the next few years.

WEST: “I think being the only black face in a predominately white space can be lonely sometimes. I struggled with it. It was important for me to know that I had family come to my games. My high school teammates went on to play in college and were able to relate to my experience. Having them in my corner helped me stay motivated.”

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