(ABC)–Playing lacrosse was something Nova Coston had never done as a senior at the University of the District of Columbia, but it was something she wanted to try.
“I don’t know what this sport is about, but I’m doing it,” she said.
So tried it, and she loved it. Now she’s moved from player to coach with a program called Winners Lacrosse.
On the first day of October, she teams up with Winners executive director Matt Breslin to instruct a group of children at Tyler elementary school in Southeast.
“I’m totally jealous, I want to go back to being five again,” she jokes of the instruction the youngsters are getting.
The group works with just sticks at first, practicing their catching and throwing technique.
“It’s not a baseball bat,” Breslin coaches the kids. “Good,” he says as one youngster adjusts his stance.
Winners Lacrosse introduces lacrosse to children in the inner-city and uses the sport to teach life lessons. The non-profit organization started in 2000.
“A gentleman by the name of Bruce Bashik noticed that the sport was growing, but that it was only growing in certain communities,” Breslin said.
Lacrosse is stereotypically viewed as an elitist sport. It’s expensive; the cost of outfitting a boy in full lacrosse gear can easily approach $250.
“It’s probably one of the most expensive sports out there and we wanted to take that problem away, because it’s such a fun sport, we wanted everyone to have the opportunity to play,” Breslin said who played lacrosse in college at Duke University.
All Winners Lacrosse asks is that participants show up with a good attitude and ready to work; there are no costs associated with participating. Today Breslin and Coston are working with one of their many after school programs. Most of the activities the organization facilitates in the fall are after school programs and clinics. Last year they introduced a middle school league in the city that is scheduled to return in the spring.
“When I came on in 2011 we had about 110 kids on our teams, right now we have almost 300 boys and girls on our teams ages 6 through 16,”Breslin said.
As more children are being introduced to the sport, ground balls and passing aren’t the most important parts of the program.
“The whole program is based on using the sport, which is a lot of fun, to teach life skills to boy and girls.”
All the sports “buzz words,” as Breslin calls them, apply. Making eye contact, accountability, respect, communication, and listening are constantly reinforced during sessions and the participants must shake their coaches’ hands before they leave.
“What do we have to do before we go,” Breslin asks the group of students whom have all taken a knee for the closing huddle. One or two incorrect guesses are rattled off, including “getting water,” before someone lands on “shake hands.”
It’s only the second time this group has come together.
“Effective communication comes from effective listening, so if you can communicate effectively it’s because you’re listening effectively,” Coston says, “and we saw today that they were listening last week because they demonstrated it on the field today.”