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IWLCA Students of Color Coaching Symposium Recap

By IWLCA Admin, 01/06/21, 3:30PM EST


The IWLCA concluded its first ever Future Leaders of the Game: IWLCA Students of Color Coaching Symposium yesterday. The two-day event included a series of online seminars focusing on coaching lacrosse and preparing for a career in athletics interspersed with smaller group discussions and networking opportunities. 37 student-athletes representing NCAA Divisions I, II, II, and the NAIA and the graduating classes of 2019-2022 were selected to participate in the Symposium.

Gina Oliver Thomas, head coach at the University of Cincinnati, and a two-time world champion with the U.S. women’s national team, served as the keynote presenter for the Symposium. She  capped off the first day with a message about being confident in who you are, embracing your journey, leaning on ‘your people,’ and shouldering the responsibility that comes with being a role model for those who follow. “I am really encouraged and excited about the level of engagement of all of the women in the Students of Color Coaches Symposium!” Oliver Thomas enthused. “It was refreshing to interact with so many women of color that share a love for lacrosse. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for all of those women in the game.”

The intent of the Future Leaders of the Game: IWLCA Students of Color Coaching Symposium was to utilize the expertise of a diverse group of coaches and administrators to expose the participants to the coaching profession and provide them with the knowledge, career connections, and inspiration to serve the game and diversify the pool of coaches in our sport.

Jessy Morgan, chair of the IWLCA’s Racial Equity Task Force and athletic director at Garrison Forest School, gave the closing remarks at the final session on day two of the Symposium. In addressing the participants, her message was straightforward, striking a balance between acknowledging the challenges facing marginalized people in a largely white sport, and encouraging them to make a difference for the next generation following them.

“You have to have heart to be the black girl on a lacrosse field and then be brazen enough to stick with it. Despite the obstacles against you,” Morgan said. “You have to have heart to wake up and decide ‘I will dare to be different,’ and stand out in a world that doesn’t want to always accept you. That type of heart in sport is the difference between winning and losing.  Finding this is the difference between having a long, rewarding, and difference making career in coaching, versus being burnt out from the inherent stresses of competition.”

The planning for the symposium was a joint effort between the IWLCA’s Racial Equity Task Force and several IWLCA committees and staff members, and its execution was managed by Paige Messersmith, head coach at Ohio Wesleyan University. Abi Jackson, head coach at Union College, served as the Facilitator Coordinator, and managed a group of current IWLCA member coaches who led the participants in small group activities: Nicole Flores (Stanford University), Taylor Paige (Shenandoah University) Tatiana Samuel (University of the Cumberlands) Dijoné Scurry (William Peace University), Malia Shimabukuro (Midland University), and Thuy Williams (Pacific University). The full description of the Symposium presentations and discussion sessions is listed below.


Opening Session/Group Session #1
Hosted by Abi Jackson, this session included introductions to the Symposium facilitators and participants, and continued with the first group breakout session.

Presentation #1
Jennifer Wong, Temple University
College Coaching: Behind the Scenes

What is college coaching? You might wonder what college coaches do all day when they aren’t at practice. This presentation will cover the different aspects and job responsibilities of collegiate coaching. How can I be the best possible first-year coach? Learn skills to begin preparing for your first college coaching job.

Presentation #2
Alice Lee, Williams College
Leading with Why

Lead from a place of authenticity and inspire others to act, by first understanding your "why." . Why do you play lacrosse? Why are you interested in coaching? Why should people follow you as a leader? When we understand our why (the values that we hold to be true) we can then have a clear guide for what we want to do, and how we want to do it. 

Group Session #2
Facilitators discussed coaching philosophies and lead participants through reflective questions to help them begin thinking about their own philosophy.

Presentation #3
Zhanè Ruffin, University of the District of Columbia
Recruiting 101

An overview of the recruiting process: what questions to ask Prospective Student-Athletes (PSA); how to make personal connection with PSAs and their families; what key characteristics to look for in PSAs. Calling on her experience coaching at an HBCU (Historically Black College/University), Coach Ruffin emphasized recruiting student-athletes of color.

Keynote Presentation
Gina Oliver Thomas, University of Cincinnati
You Win With People: Herstory

Coach Oliver Thomas shared her story from beginning to end, including her start in the game, and where the sport has taken her. Oliver Thomas is an All-American and two-time World Champion. She won the World Cup in June 2009 and was named to the All-World Team, which is awarded to the best 12 players in the world.

Networking Social

Symposium presenters, facilitators, members of the IWLCA Board of Directors and other invited guests joined the participants for a virtual social networking opportunity. IWLCA Hall of Fame coach Tina Sloan Green was the featured guest at this social.


Presentation #4
John Sung, Virginia Tech
Climbing the Ladder

Want to get into the coaching profession? This presentation will take you through each step of the process, from the job search and resume building, to winning the interview and creating a lasting career in coaching women’s lacrosse.

Presentation #5
Victoria Chun, Yale University
Beyond the X's and O's

Understanding the expectations that come with a job in collegiate athletics is the first step towards building a successful career. This session explored some of the myths about working in intercollegiate athletics and offered the tools and insight to prepare you to succeed in your first job, and beyond.

Group Session #3

Facilitators introduced the concept of short, mid, and long-term career goals and guided participants through a goal-setting exercise.

Presentation #6
Ashley Johnson, UC Davis
Developing your Role as an Assistant & Building Relationships 

Understanding your role as an assistant towards the players, as well as your co-workers. Finding your voice on and off the field and always being hungry for more. Confidence building, collaborating, lessons learned, boundaries and inclusion, navigating your place of hire, filling your plate, and crushing your role as an Assistant Coach.

Presentation #7
Britt Brown and Mira Shane
Why Giving Back Matters No Matter Your Experience

Giving back will be essential to transforming the game of lacrosse. It can be daunting to find avenues to do this when you're just out of college potentially living in a new place with a new job. This presentation helped participants understand how much their continued presence in the game is vital for the growth of the sport. A game we all know opens up doors to so many opportunities in life on and off the field. 

Group Session #4

Facilitators introduced an exercise to help participants determine their values and objectives to begin formulating their coaching philosophy.

Presentation #8
Pamella Jenkins, Delaware State University
Being Intentional With Your Career to Maximize Your Job Potential

Depending on your aspirations and goals for the future, coaching at an institution that allows you to wear many hats can be rewarding. Titles do matter; what are your strengths, and how can you maximize your job duties to strengthen your resume? Coaching can lead to many other career avenues if you are intentional and put in the work.

Closing Session

Jessy Morgan, Athletic Director at Garrison Forest School and co-chair of the IWLCA Racial Equity Task Force, delivered closing remarks to participants. A virtual networking social followed immediately afterward.