Tina Sloan Green (second row, third from right) with the Eyekonz 14U team competing in the World Lacrosse Women's Festival at Goucher College in Towson, Md.

'I'm Here for a Reason.' Why Tina Sloan Green Came Out of Retirement with Eyekonz


TOWSON, Md. – The 14-year-old girl came to the sideline in tears, clutching her arm to cover the bruise. She sought the shade and anonymity of the pop-up canopy behind the bench. Jazmine Smith yanked her back into the sunlight.

“Look at me,” Smith said. “What’s your ‘I am’ affirmation?”

Sobbing, the girl said softly, “I am powerful.”

“Say it again,” Smith said.

Her voice still shaking, the girl replied, “I am powerful.”

“Take a deep breath,” Smith said, her tone shifting from stern to encouraging as the girl inhaled, then exhaled. “Now say it again.”

Composed, the girl straightened her back, stretched her shoulders and elevated her chin.

“I am powerful.”

Eyekonz Lacrosse, a Philadelphia club comprised entirely of Black middle and high school-aged girls, finished 1-3 in pool play in the World Lacrosse Women’s Festival. As sideline pep talks go, however, they’re undefeated.

Moments later, Smith pulled two players off the field for jogging rather than sprinting back on defense. This time, she shooed them toward the tent.

“There’s greatness in you,” she said, frustrated. “Sit down now and listen to Tina Sloan Green. Listen to the woman who built Temple.”


“There’s greatness in you. Sit down now and listen to Tina Sloan Green. Listen to the woman who built Temple.”


STEP UP AND STEP OUT.

Ever since Tina Sloan Green shattered every stereotype in lacrosse — first as a U.S. national team player and then as a three-time national championship-winning coach at Temple — she has lived by those words. It’s why the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame coach has mostly eschewed the spotlight since she retired in 1992.

But after undergoing brain tumor surgery last year and recovering from a temporary loss of memory, Sloan Green decided it was time to step up again.

“I saw what was going on with Eyekonz,” Sloan Green said of the field hockey and lacrosse organization Smith started in 2002. “It’s a movement. They’ve got to see it. There’s a benefit to being in a diverse environment. You have to sell that point.”

Sloan Green can still sell it, alright. At age 78, she moves more gingerly. She was measured in her steps and careful not to lose her balance as she walked from the turf to the grass field Friday at Goucher College.

But when it came time to cross the field during a stoppage in play, her gait hastened. She power walked as Smith and a reporter tried to keep pace.

“I want people to know I can still move,” Sloan Green said. “And they can see me in the morning when I’m doing my exercises, running. They can watch then too. Gotta let ’em see it.”

Then she turned to the reporter.

“And I want them to see me with you, because you’re an important part of this puzzle,” she said to the reporter, a white man. “Who do you represent?”








SLOAN GREEN’S REPUTATION PRECEDES HER. She broke a color barrier in both field hockey and lacrosse, becoming the first Black woman to play for U.S. national teams in both sports. One of six children born to Norwood and Sally Sloan — neither of whom had a high school diploma — Sloan Green graduated from the Philadelphia High School for Girls. Field hockey was her calling. She only started playing lacrosse as a sophomore at West Chester.

Sloan Green toured concurrently for U.S. national teams in field hockey (1969-73) and lacrosse (1969-71) while getting her master’s degree at Temple.

As a coach, Sloan Green led Temple for 32 years, retiring with a 207-62-4 record and the highest winning percentage (.758) of any coach in school history — in any sport.

Looking at pictures from her historic run at Temple, Sloan Green is just as apt to talk about the turf rats invading the huddle — her daughter, Traci, and son, Frank — as she is the future Hall of Famers who played for her like Kathleen Geiger, Gail Cummings-Danson and Amanda Moore O’Leary. Sloan Green’s children also chose careers in a historically white sport. Traci Green is the women’s tennis coach at Harvard, where she became the first Black coach to win an Ivy League title. Frank Green has his own high-performance tennis business.

“Had it not been for my having these experiences and them being at Temple in the huddle — getting on everybody’s nerves — they would have never seen that they could do this,” Sloan Green said. “I learned a lot. It’s because I had opportunities.”

Sloan Green was only 48 when she retired from coaching. She dove headfirst into the Black Women in Sport Foundation, which she co-founded with Temple colleagues Alpha Alexander, Nikki Franke and Linda Greene. She has authored two books, published several articles and made her second career supporting the advancement of women of color in all areas of sport.

Sloan Green plans to write another book. She’s got stories to tell. She wants to tell them while her memory remains. It briefly failed following her surgery, which left a scar on the left side of her head that looks like a sideburn.

In the context of Eyekonz, she’s the oral historian. She lets them know what the Philadelphia neighborhood where she’s lived for 50 years used to look like — before gentrification. How science and technology have advanced for their benefit. And how they need to advocate for themselves. Endlessly and relentlessly.

“I’m here for a reason,” she said. “Let’s show the positive things that Black women have done. They’re seeing the real me. This is a whole different generation.”




Tina Sloan Green, the first Black woman to play for the U.S. national team and a three-time national champion coach at Temple, with Eyekonz founder Jazmine Smith at a press conference announcing her return.


SMITH HESITATED TO SAY YES.

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder and increased public awareness of police brutality in 2020, the Eyekonz players wanted to organize a march in the name of Black women who had died at the hands of law enforcement.

“It’s a little dangerous in Philly,” Smith told them. Her daughter was one of the ringleaders.

Instead, the team work-shopped public policy proposals to send to local and state officials. But they still wanted to march. So they researched the cases of previously nameless victims of police brutality and created posters to go with their lacrosse sticks. They marched from Eyekonz’s home field in Strawberry Mansion to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the Fairmount neighborhood where Sloan Green lives.

“It translated onto the field. As soon as they did that, the whole program changed,” Smith said. “Their self-confidence — they felt like they belonged. And they knew they had a voice.”

Sloan Green lamented that teams today break down huddles with their sticks up. “We used to do hands in,” she said. “That was important, to touch each other.”

And to see hands that looked like yours.

“This is an amazing opportunity. You don’t see a lot of all-Black teams,” said 14-year-old Samiah Hayes, whom Smith singles out as having legitimate Division I potential as a lacrosse player if she applies herself in the coming years. “It’s a good way to build a family. I’ve learned to gain more self-confidence and to trust others more.”

Hayes was one of the players Smith chastised before sending them to “Mom Tina” under the tent. Sloan Green urged them to think feet-first on defense, like in basketball, but did not get a chance to say much more. Another coach competing in the 14U division of the World Lacrosse Women’s Festival — a white woman — interrupted them.

“I just wanted to say hi and thank you for what you’ve done for the game,” the woman said.

“It’s important for the new generation, not just with Eyekonz but across the world, to know the sustenance and the foundation that Tina Sloan Green created,” Smith said. “After she was sick, I was like, ‘You know what? What better way to give homage to the woman that paved the way not only for myself and for my players, but for women’s lacrosse, than to have her come back and share her knowledge?’ Since she came on, it’s like she never stopped.”

The World Lacrosse Women’s Festival features nearly 70 youth and high school-aged teams competing in conjunction with the World Lacrosse Women’s Championship. Click here for the latest results.