Stenersen: Lacrosse Culture Reinforces Stereotypes


This column by US Lacrosse president and CEO Steve Stenersen appears in the April edition of US Lacrosse Magazine, which includes a special 12-page section featuring faces and voices of the black lacrosse community. Don’t get the mag? Join US Lacrosse today to start your subscription.

Ignorance and racism are present in our sport, as they are in our society, and this ugly truth is revealed more publicly from time to time.

US Lacrosse has led a number of conversations on the culture of lacrosse over the years, and we recently convened a thoughtful group of current and former players who shared poignant, personal experiences that were neither welcoming nor inclusive. These are men and women of color whose passion for the sport was strong enough to overcome the uncomfortable experiences that have been a part of their respective lacrosse journeys. They span multiple generations, represent an impressive array of careers, and remain actively engaged in the sport’s expansion.

Their unanimous belief is that our sport’s culture is reinforcing long-held stereotypes that lacrosse is not for every child, causing more families to either leave the sport or eliminate it as an option for their children.

In explaining the importance of being a “transformation” coach in his book “InSideOut Coaching,” Joe Ehrmann explains that most coaches are “transactional” in that they are too often focused on winning and meeting their own personal goals rather than changing lives. 

“Coaches need to establish a purpose statement that clarifies, in their mind and for others, why they coach,” Ehrmann writes. “I coach to help boys become men of empathy and integrity who will lead, be responsible and change the world for the good.”

We have a tremendous opportunity to create, embed and reinforce cultural competence as a foundation of the lacrosse experience for every player. But being aware of cultural differences is not enough; we must also seek to understand those differences and embrace them as a core value — part of our own purpose statement — if we truly want the sport to thrive.

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