While field hockey in the city of Philadelphia can be traced back nearly 100 years, the same cannot be said about girls’ lacrosse.
This especially goes for the city’s public, charter, and Philadelphia Catholic League schools, who compete in District 12 for a berth in the state tournament.
The current group of teams in the Philadelphia Public League have only a shared history since 2010, and the gulf in class between themselves and the rest of District 12 was laid bare last year as Philadelphia Girls’ High School (Pa.) fell 22-2 to Radnor Archbishop Carroll (Pa.).
Yesterday, new school took up the game in the hardscrabble environs of Philadelphia Strawberry Mansion (Pa.). Following on the announcement that the school will be playing field hockey in the fall, Jazmine Smith and her Eyekonz sports club have gotten a head start on the fall by starting a girls’ lacrosse program this spring.
The road will not be easy; the 21st Century has been an era of both success and failure in terms of diversity initiatives in lacrosse as applied to large cities. There are thriving leagues in New York City, Baltimore and Philadelphia, but there are only a handful of public-school teams in Boston, the District of Columbia and in Manhattan proper.
Indeed, trying to get the sport going in the nation’s capital has been an exercise in patience. Team USA’s Holly McGarvie Reilly taught the game to girls at Washington Ballou (D.C.) while doing her Teach for America stint, but the game, as it happens, has shifted to the only two schools in the District that have field hockey: Woodrow Wilson and the School Without Walls. Reilly now coaches at a prep school in California.
As is the case with many other athletic pursuits, the staying power of a game lies in developing the sport in youth leagues, continuity and commitment in coaching, and support from the community.
And I really hope Strawberry Mansion’s program will grow and develop confident players and leaders going forward.