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TOTALLY (LA)CROSSED OUT: A Story of Dedication And Perseverance Against The Odds

It would be safe to say that when it comes to sports, most people would be familiar with the traditional offerings including, basketball, baseball, football, or soccer. However, for many youth in traditional urban settings, lacrosse is not one of those sports that would jump out at them. There are multiple reasons why this is the case but don't tell that to Koi Slaughter who is the head coach for the girl's lacrosse team at Evans High School. In 2015, Oak Ridge and Evans High added lacrosse programs as part of an Orange County school district effort (Jones High followed the following year) to provide the same sports at each of its high schools, and a

national push to make lacrosse accessible to more athletes, especially minorities. Slaughter, who had previously coached lacrosse through a City of Orlando program. He jumped at the chance to be a part of the program. "I wanted to be a part of something different" states Slaughter, a 2006 graduate of Evans High school. When asked about some of the challenges that exist, Slaughter states that increased exposure to the sport and keeping the girls motivated is a main goal of his.

The competition can be tough when going against other schools that have more established programs with players who have been playing longer. Because of this, Slaughter is not so focused on winning and losing. Instead, he wants his team to set goals of how they can improve. Another challenge Slaughter acknowledges that players in other neighborhoods

with more long-standing teams have other avenues to play year-round outside of school which provides those players additional opportunities to improve their skills. Something that his players are not privy to, due to a myriad of reasons including, financial limitations, transportation, or continued lack of exposure in the sport. Slaughter is hopeful that a new lacrosse program called the Sol Blazers, will provide an opportunity for more girls to continue to learn the fundamentals and play outside of the school league at no cost to the participants (with the exception of a $30 US Lacrosse membership fee). Across the country, over 800,000 children and adults play lacrosse, up more than three times from 2001, according to U.S. Lacrosse. At the college level, lacrosse remains a mostly white sport. In 2018, 86% of players were white and less than 3% of players were black, according to the NCAA. Hampton University in Virginia became the first historically black school to add a Division 1 lacrosse program.

When asked, what's next for his program, Slaughter states that we would love to see more community support. We need everything from volunteer assistance with water and snacks to printing T-shirts. Slaughter believes in the motto, how you practice is how you play. "I want our girls to leave it out on the field and not be afraid to be great." My dream is seeing the older girls pave the way for younger players coming up. A couple of his current players are even getting recruitment looks from NCAA teams. When asked that question about his prospects about coaching on the collegiate level, Slaughter states, "while it would take a lot to pull me away from this team, it is something that I would love the chance to do."

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