Bridging the Opportunity Gap: Bridge Lacrosse Providing Pathway to Play


This article appears in the November edition of US Lacrosse Magazine, available exclusively to US Lacrosse members. Join or renew today! Thank you for your support.

David Higbee was just a disillusioned college graduate looking to latch onto something he loved. 

The job market stunk. “2008 was not a great year to graduate college,” Higbee said. With a biomedical science degree from the University of Oklahoma, he moved to Dallas to work for a pharmaceutical company, the first in a series of unfulfilling jobs that also included stints as a chemist and city health inspector.

Higbee Googled “lacrosse in Dallas” and discovered Bridge Lacrosse, the nonprofit and US Lacrosse member organization that serves nearly 800 student-athletes from diverse and low-income communities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Higbee was not a lax head by any stretch. A Tulsa native, he had never played lacrosse before his sophomore year at Oklahoma, when a freshman named Alex Perry put out flyers around campus to drum up interest in a new club team. Higbee spent too many hours in a basement lab to commit to play his sport of choice, hockey, at Oklahoma. The stick-and-ball game beckoned.

“I’ll send him a note every couple of years,” said Higbee, now 35. “‘Hey man, I still need to thank you for getting me sucked into this sport because it’s my life. It’s my wellbeing. And it’s also getting these kids that we work with opportunities.’”

At Bridge Lacrosse, Higbee found more than just an outlet for his boundless energy. He found a vocation. He started as a volunteer coach and board member, then took over as executive director in 2011 when the founder, Edie Lycke, stepped down after seven years. Bridge Lacrosse had also parted ways with the private consulting firm that managed core business functions.

Higbee was 26 years old when he took over Bridge Lacrosse. He learned from scratch all the intricacies of nonprofit management, from network and marketing to writing grant proposals — all while continuing to coach boys’ and girls’ teams. “It was drinking from a fire hose,” he said.

He’s savvier now, but he’s still largely responsible for all operations.

“I’m either in the locker room counting cleats, or I’ve got to learn how to tie a tie and go to a board meeting or a donor meeting. It’s the whole variance, man,” Higbee said. “Bridge has been in a lot of ways my MBA program. I wear all hats, but it also allows me to always try something different and new. I love that entrepreneurial mentality.”

If ever he grows wary, Higbee reminds himself of Bridge Lacrosse’s simple but profound mission “to use lacrosse to broaden the horizon of our community’s youth.” He’s motivated by the success of South Dallas kids like Nakeie Montgomery and Jeremy Winston, a couple of Bridge Lacrosse products now playing college ball at Duke and Jacksonville, respectively. He’s particularly excited about Jamyria “JJ” Woods, the class of 2022 prospect who received calls from five Division I coaches when the recruiting contact period opened Sept. 1.







In addition to its youth and middle school programming, Bridge runs varsity teams that compete in the Texas scholastic leagues. Its à la carte K-12 programming has something for kids of all ages, experiences and skill levels. Higbee emphasizes emotional intelligence in grade school, enrichment and engagement in middle school and college readiness in high school.

“We’re not just here to show up and give kids sticks,” he said. “Lacrosse is a gateway. If we can get a kid hooked on lacrosse, what other doors can we open for them?”

Bridge Lacrosse, whose name was inspired by US Lacrosse’s Building Relationships to Initiate Diversity, Growth and Enrichment (BRIDGE) program of the 2000s, draws its participants from a sprawling area representing 99 schools. Ninety percent of players are Black or Hispanic. Most receive free and reduced-price lunch at school. 

Without ties to a school or rec council, Bridge drums up interest much in the way Higbee got hooked on the sport at Oklahoma. He’ll hand parents stacks of flyers and ask them to distribute them around neighborhood apartment complexes, at churches and in schools.

US Lacrosse provides discounted membership to Bridge Lacrosse, which over the years has received AED, diversity and sportsmanship grants. “The magazine is a huge thing for our kids,” Higbee added. “They realize there’s a really high ceiling in this sport.”

Now they’ll see themselves in the same space.

LOCALLY GROWN: SOUTHWEST

ARKANSAS  

Little Rock Youth Lacrosse created “Panda Dayz” boot camp lacrosse clinics with the help of coach Patrick Diamonon aka Panda.

LOUISIANA  

Northshore Lacrosse provides free clinics in the community for players grades K-12, an invaluable contribution the growth of the game in the state.

MISSISSIPPI 

Ocean Springs Girls Lacrosse plans to host a US Lacrosse TryLax clinic once the state lifts its COVID-19 restrictions.

MISSOURI

Missouri State coach Donnie Curran has formed the Missouri State Junior Bears — the first youth lacrosse program in the Springfield community.

OKLAHOMA 

Indian Nations Lacrosse has started a 4v4 program that aligns with the Lacrosse Athlete Development Model.

TEXAS  

The North Texas chapter started an ambassador program pairing college players with youth players during clinics and events.

Most Recent

'The Best Game on Earth': Kingfisher Lacrosse Hooks Kids in Iowa

It's a classic story with a modern twist. Lacrosse Heaven? No, it's Iowa.

Dialed In: Your Lacrosse Fix for Tuesday, June 22

Vegas, baby. Wayne Gretzky, Dustin Johnson and Steve Nash are now NLL owners.

Texas Lacrosse Players Learn It's Never Too Early to Start Giving Back

The USA Lacrosse Texas Chapter's Junior Board Program provides servant leadership training.

USA Lacrosse, Harlem Jets Commemorate Juneteenth with Clinic, Games

Tari Kandemiri aka Official Lax Girl reports from the Juneteenth Lacrosse Expo in Harlem.







Twitter Posts