By Brighde Dougherty, Founder and Coach, FLOW Self Empowerment

Photo Credit: The author/IWLCA

In January I had the great fortune to volunteer with World Lacrosse and travel throughout Africa looking to increase player participation and strengthen capabilities of the three member nations hopeful for eventual participation in the Olympic Games. Our role was to coach the sport at the grassroots level, train local coaches and officials, as well as support existing programs where possible.

In 12 flights throughout five countries (Ghana, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania) we coached over 1,000 athletes, trained over 50 coaches and 20 officials and left equipment in every country. We worked in fishing villages, slums, prisons, boarding schools, high schools, with U-19 teams and met with a Minister of Sport. Some of the children had seen few white people before, let alone lacrosse. Others had traveled to Canada and the United States to represent their country in World Championship events. We saw fledgling programs, grassroots development successes, emerging leaders doing the best they can, but perhaps most importantly, all had a desire for more lacrosse.

Through all these adventures, and so many more, there was one common theme – the purity of sport. Regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status or positions of power, the minute we all stepped on the field we shared one voice. We all spoke the common language of simply loving to play. In this unified voice of sport, we created a field of laughter where all were welcomed, the goal was to help everyone around you learn and we were all on the same team. Five to fifty-year old players were equal in the game plan to learn and grow. Communities came together to support one another. Schools embraced the opportunity to use sport for personal growth. For a brief moment in time, all differences disappeared, and self-empowerment was embodied through the opportunity to play lacrosse.

After returning home and finding that pre-season quickly morphed into the loss of the 2020 season, I hope that every coach and every athlete who loves our amazing sport can pause for just a moment and remember the reason you fell in love with lacrosse. When you started playing it wasn’t for recruiting, creating and breaking records, or getting on TV, or even winning. Initially, we all fell in love with the sport for the purity of play. For the one voice we all share on the field of being athletes striving to have fun while being our best selves. As we face the challenges that have arisen as a result of COVID-19, both on and off the field, I encourage everyone to remain hopeful that we will eventually come back to the one voice we all share in loving the purity of play embedded within sport.

Live Empowered and Enjoy Lax for Life!