Don Wilson’s Ardent Leadership Sustains Bridgeport Youth Lacrosse

PHOTO COURTESY OF BRIDGEPORT YOUTH LACROSSE


Talk to Don Wilson for just a few minutes, and it’s easy to get swept up in his enthusiasm and passion for Bridgeport Youth Lacrosse

Wilson founded the organization in 2006 to increase lacrosse awareness and opportunities for urban youth in Connecticut’s largest city. But more than just lacrosse, from the very beginning he has had the goal of also empowering youth participants with self-confidence, discipline, and the skills necessary to succeed in sports and life. 

It’s a mission that Wilson remains as committed to today as when he first started.

“We are really turning out kids that are succeeding,” said Wilson, who still serves as BYL’s executive director. “I am really proud of that.”

For more than 15 years, BYL has provided underserved and underrepresented youth with lacrosse training through camps and clinics, after-school programs, travel teams, and in-house leagues. 

But these days, the Creator’s Game is not the only arrow in Wilson’s quiver.

What began as simply lacrosse has now also evolved into a year-round Sports Academy program with alternate options like flag football, soccer, track, and even STEM training. In addition to sports instruction, the Academy strives to provide local youth with academic intervention, behavioral support, mentoring, and leadership training. 

“I’m very proud of the diversity we are able to provide in our programming and also the quality of our programs,” said Wilson, who also serves as the boys’ lacrosse head coach at Notre Dame High School in nearby Fairfield. “We are trying to address the holistic child and to help give each child what they need.”

Community partnerships with local coaches, club programs, and other organizations help provide some support for BYL’s mission, but there’s always more needed. In recent years, USA Lacrosse has been able to support Wilson with a Sankofa Clinic, diversity grants, and additional resources as a member of the Urban Lacrosse Alliance

“Don has been a servant leader in the lacrosse community for many years. His consistency and passion have been admirable and his love the game is unmatched,” said Eboni Preston-Laurent, director of diversity, equity, and inclusion at USA Lacrosse. “We have always enjoyed working with Don and appreciate how he continues to support his community to transform the lives of youth in Bridgeport.”







To further supplement the BYL’s expanding programming and financial needs, three years ago the non-profit organization also launched an annual fundraiser. On September 10, Bridgeport Youth Lacrosse will host its third annual gala at the Warehouse in Fairfield, featuring food, music and a silent auction.

Wilson highlights three critical areas of BYL’s operation that have the greatest immediate need: increased staffing, transportation, and equipment.

“We appreciate all our angels in the lacrosse community who help and support us in this work that we do,” Wilson said. “Their donations are what allow us to continue year after year.”

Wilson’s vision and enthusiasm for BYL’s future is as strong as his passion for helping others. 

“We want to establish teams at all grades, continue to compete in CONNY (Connecticut New York Youth Lacrosse Association) and, ultimately, to re-establish a lacrosse program at the high school level here in Bridgeport,” he said. 

Wilson’s steadfast commitment to his local community has not gone unrecognized. Through the years, he has been selected by the Fairfield County Sports Commission as its Sports-Person-of-the-Year for Bridgeport and recognized by both the mayor of Bridgeport and by U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal as a “local hero.”

While those types of external honors are appreciated, Wilson points to a more tangible measure of success. He cites the number of youngsters who have gone through the BYL’s programs and eventually matriculated to colleges that have now returned to help invest in the development of future leaders.

“It’s really an honor to see kids that started with our program who have now returned and are working within our program as counselors and training the next set of leaders,” Wilson said. “That’s my measure of success. We are empowering the next generation of leaders.”

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