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Harlem Lacrosse Builds Community Through Sport

Posted January 23, 2020 by Harlem Lacrosse

This is an update on the winning proposal from the PLAY category in the 2019 LA2050 challenge.

This year, Harlem Lacrosse's message was #TogetherWeGrow. And we were thrilled to kick off this academic year by being awarded an LA2050 grant to make Los Angeles the best place to play! Through this partnership and with the help of many other individuals and organizations, Harlem Lacrosse - Los Angeles was able to focus on increasing our impact.

Our first priority was to strengthen our existing programs at our four school-based programs and our Community/Open programs. The LA programs kicked off the school year in August and jumped right into a fall designed to recruit new players and retain returners from last year. The highlight of the fall was our Friends & Family Fun Day, where players brought their loved ones to the field for a day of friendly competition. Students were able to showcase their own growth while teaching parents, siblings, and friends the basics. Building community through sport is an important goal of Harlem Lacrosse.

Program staff refined their skills during professional development training sessions, which included working with WeCoach on trauma-informed coaching practices, Glenn Young on progressions for teaching physical fitness, and Doug Lemov who provided best practices and customized lesson planning and practice evaluation tools to the HL staff. In addition to their practice plans, Program Directors build out a curriculum for each season which includes academic support, social-emotional learning lessons, team building activities, and enrichment experiences to support their players. Personal and professional growth through ongoing staff development is essential to the high quality programs Harlem Lacrosse offers.

We also continued to grow our partnerships, with local club teams, high school and middle school programs, and local leagues.Our girls teams were thrilled to welcome back program partner USC Women's Lacrosse team, led by coach Lindsay Munday. The USC players hosted a clinic and have been keeping in touch through a pen pal program. I know the Harlem Lacrosse girls are excited to cheer on their friends and lacrosse mentors when USC plays at home this spring. The Harlem Lacrosse boys competed and won their division in the fall box lacrosse league, a testament to the hard work these student-athletes have put in, and the dramatic improvement that can result from focused training and goal setting. Currently the boys are competing in a Winter League, and through these important competitive experiences are increasing their skills and gaining important game time minutes. Our girls will once again compete in the Pacific Edge Lacrosse Association's spring recreational league, the only all-girls league in LA, and a big supporter of what Harlem Lacrosse is doing to bring the sport into urban schools.

Harlem Lacrosse has continued to provide enrichment and career mentoring to its students as well. Through partnerships with Google and String King, students learned about local companies and potential job pathways. Students took tours of local colleges and visited museums. And we just kicked off our annual corporate partnership with AdvicePeriod, who will lead this year's cohort through a 12 week program around financial literacy.

In addition to the full-time Program Directors who work in tandem with school staff at our partner sites, Harlem Lacrosse has hired several part-time assistant coaches, many who learned about the program through their own school communities. Harlem Lacrosse players who are now in High School have also played a role as junior coaches and interns. Harlem Lacrosse is currently working on how to create more formal high school programs to continue serving the older players, through tournaments, college counseling, and coach and leadership training. Harlem Lacrosse also relies heavily on the dedicated group of volunteers who help at Play Days, and act as assistant coaches and tutors.

One unique program that Harlem Lacrosse offers is the Youth Leadership Board, a cohort of high school students who act as junior board members and get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at what it takes to run a non-profit organization. Applications for next year's cohort will be open in June 2020.

And finally, Harlem Lacrosse - Los Angeles continues to prioritize growth of its local advisory board. Currently we are lucky to have a group of very committed, very passionate individuals who advocate for Harlem Lacrosse and provide vital support. We are hoping to add a few more like-minded individuals to strengthen our board and increase our reach into the community; this has proven to be a bit of a challenge, as the lacrosse community, while tight knit, is still relatively small in LA. If anyone is interested in joining a mission-driven, sports-based youth development organization in a board role, please contact us!

Harlem Lacrosse is a year-round program, and our LA staff is already finalizing our busy spring season as well as our overnight camp - Camp Alex - and our day camp, Summer Academy. By the end of the year, a typical Harlem Lacrosse student-athlete will have participated in between 250-300 hours of programs. Through teamwork and deep relationships between Program Directors and their players, the students who make up the Harlem Lacrosse rosters experience growth in academics, athletics, and social-emotional learning.

Harlem Lacrosse is committed to helping each of its players find their own personal pathways to success. But we know we can't do this alone. We are so proud of our partnership with LA2050 and are excited to continue our work with our own growing team as we continue to expand in Los Angeles.

Interested in joining our team? Applications are currently open for full-time Program Director positions on our website. And we are always looking for volunteers to be coaches, tutors, and mentors. Want to learn more about Harlem Lacrosse? We will be hosting our Annual Benefit on February 6th at Sony Pictures.