Right Place, Right Time: Sankofa Clinic Series Relaunches


This article appears in the Mid-Atlantic edition of USA Lacrosse Magazine. Join USA Lacrosse today to start your subscription.

A certain magic happens when a child grasps his or her first lacrosse stick — a power seldom felt in any other sport. With a stick comes a lifetime connection to a sport and a community.

Toni Auld saw the allure firsthand Feb. 12 in Newport News, Virginia. USA Lacrosse brought the Sankofa Clinic Series to the Achievable Dream Academy, where the host Coastal Crush Lacrosse Club hoped to introduce the game to a new audience.

The clinicians handed out gear to the nearly 80 boys and girls that signed up for the clinic. Auld also selected a few of the attendees to receive equipment from a USA Lacrosse grant. She saw more than a few more smiles — and a few tears — as children got the chance to play lacrosse for the first time. Many of them otherwise did not have the means to participate.

“Parents were taking pictures and coming up to me saying, ‘How can we keep doing this?’” said Auld, the CEO and director of coach development for Coastal Crush. “We wanted to give as many people the opportunity to play this game as we are capable of.”

Two weeks later and some 200 miles north of Newport News, La Mar Gunn Sr. hustled to set up registration and zip-tie goals for the Sankofa clinic in Dover, Delaware. He stole a few moments to watch his DREAM (Delaware Recreation Education and Mentoring) Association boys and girls engaging with the clinicians. Among them were Syracuse commits from the Dover area like Chloe Jones and Superia Clark. “It had all the other Black kids thinking, ‘We know them. We’ve seen them. They’re just like us. If they can do it, we can do it,’” Gunn said.

The Sankofa Clinic Series brings free youth lacrosse clinics to underrepresented communities. While the pandemic limited the reach the last two years, USA Lacrosse announced a robust 2022 schedule that included six different locations across the country.

The first two clinics in Virginia and Delaware were held during Black History Month — timing that only enhanced the value for the 220 total participants. “It was freezing cold, but I wanted it in February,” Gunn said. “I wanted it in the last week of Black History Month. It meant something.”







Coastal Crush, which draws from the Outer Banks of North Carolina up to Williamsburg, Virginia, had worked with PLL Academy and with multiple colleges, but the Sankofa Clinic Series was unique. Auld, who has been involved in lacrosse for 11 years and founded Coastal Crush along with four other women, contacted Hampton University men’s lacrosse coach and Sankofa Lacrosse Foundation cofounder Chazz Woodson prior to the pandemic. Woodson worked with USA Lacrosse to ensure the series came to Hampton Roads.

The Achievable Dream Academy, a nonprofit organization that partners with public school districts to operate schools in underserved communities, served as a perfect location for a clinic. Auld worked with physical education instructor Richard Linyear Jr. to coordinate the logistics. USA Lacrosse brought a contingent that included Rick Burton, Pat Timothee, Lauren Davenport and others to conduct the clinic, which generated rave reviews.

“It was a really great time and the clinicians did a great job bringing the energy,” Auld said. “When they all got the sticks and then the t-shirts, it was like Christmas time.”

In Dover, many of the participants rode busses to and from the clinic. Gunn wanted to make sure those who did have the means to travel could still access top-notch instruction. A Dover area native and graduate of Delaware and Delaware State, Gunn has spent the last few years trying to “spark economic and social upward mobility by intervening in the lives of children through sports, education and financial literacy,” he said. He started a Pop Warner football program and later added soccer under the DREAM umbrella.

Gunn learned about lacrosse from his neighbor, Bill Chaires, who played at Princeton. He saw a sport that could be played year-round and provide a positive outlet.

“It’s about survival,” Gunn said. “It’s more than lacrosse for these kids. It’s getting them past age 18. It gives the kids a fighting chance.”

The sheer number of attendees (140) at the Sankofa clinic was a testament to Dover’s potential as a lacrosse pipeline. “My vision is to have a super team of diverse kids,” Gunn said, “and that they’d be so good that colleges know that Dover, Delaware is the new capital.”     

MID-ATLANTIC REGION SPOTLIGHT

HAMPTON ROADS, VA.

Lacrosse will be a sanctioned varsity sport in Virginia Beach schools starting in 2023 after a vote by the Virginia Beach School Board. Hana Hagag, a Bayside High School student and Hampton Roads Lacrosse League product, was among those who presented a compelling case for the sport at a board meeting in October.

MARYLAND

Justice High School boys’ lacrosse and Rosemary Hills Lacrosse of Montgomery County were both selected as USA Lacrosse National Diversity Grant Program award winners based on their outstanding efforts to grow the game. Elsewhere, USA Lacrosse arranged Coach Development Program training in Frederick (Feb. 27), Cooksville (March 20) and Bowie (April 3).

NORTHERN VIRGINIA

USA Lacrosse proudly supports Shootout for Soldiers, the touring 24-hour lacrosse event that raises money for military veterans. The 2022 tour includes two stops in the Mid-Atlantic region, in Northern Virginia (June 17-18) and Baltimore (Sept. 10-11). The latter will be held at USA Lacrosse headquarters.

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