In Detroit, Michigan, a group of girls from Cass Technical High School is braving the odds to be one of the best girls’ lacrosse teams in the state.
Cass Technical High school, a public magnet school in Detroit, has an elite list of alumni including former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Diana Ross, and Big Sean. The school, however, lacks sports options for girls.
Girls are disadvantaged to the point that there are only three sports for girls in a school with about 2,400 students. And when a lacrosse team was formed as recently as 2019, it was just for the boys.
Two girls, Deja Crenshaw and Alexia Carroll-Williams decided to advocate for an all-girls lacrosse team but that did not come on a silver platter. First, lacrosse is not a game that most Blacks would naturally opt to play, let alone Black girls. But that did not stop them from putting up a fight.
Only about 3% of women in college play in the predominantly White game, which is traditionally a Native American game, just like hockey.
“Lacrosse is something that you don’t usually hear about in urban cities. It’s really important that we give people the opportunity to play a sport that they may not have ever heard of,” Crenshaw said.
Thanks to Crenshaw and her colleagues, school authorities allowed the coach, Summer Aldred, to start a girls’ team in 2020. More than 30 girls turned up for the first practice. The odds were stacked against the girls’ team from inception as the school did not provide funding.
Aldred used her local connections to rake in some donations. A Cass Tech alumnus also donated $10,000, which set the ball rolling for the team’s first tryouts. 55 girls turned up and the team was optimistic about what was to come for them, but COVID-19 struck the world.
Everything the girls and Aldred had planned froze when schools were shut down. A year later, in March 2021, only 15 girls came for practice when schools started opening. Some parents were hesitant to let their girls out in public because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Thus, recruitment was slow.
When things finally picked up for the girls’ lacrosse team at Cass Tech, the 18-member group, with 14 of them being Black, lost their first six games. The team regrouped and re-strategized and won against Avondale High School with a scoreline of 13-6.
All that the girl’s lacrosse team at Cass Technical High School wants now is an opportunity to play a sport they have grown to love and to bridge the diversity gap. Assistant coach Christianne Malone, who has played lacrosse since the 6th grade as one of a few Black girls, said the game has still not attained the level of diversity she would expect, The Guardian reported.
“It’s still not nearly as diverse as it could be by this point in time. Twenty years later, it’s almost the same demographics as it was when I was first playing,” Malone said.
For Zahria Liggans, the senior captain and team goalie, “It’s OK to step into these spaces where there might not be a lot of you because you can open up a channel for somebody else, for people who look like you.”