Girls Lacrosse at Strawberry Mansion High School Offers Local Youth Another Option
There is no question about what kind of sports tend to thrive in mostly urban communities. You have your standard football and basketball with boxing and track and field also drawing a large number of young athletes. Philadelphia’s high schools typically offer other intramural sports, like baseball or swimming, but the inner city youth tend to gravitate toward the ones that showcase raw physicality and competitiveness over technicality. That pattern is no different with lacrosse now starting to make it’s way into the 215.
That’s right, lacrosse has come and is likely here to stay. After all, the sport is anything but its abbreviation — LAX. It requires running, coordination, running, concentration, stamina, running and yes, more running. At least, that is how it’s described by Jasmine A. Smith, the girl’s lacrosse coach at Strawberry Mansion High School.
Smith brought the lacrosse program to the school last year and since then, has already seen a great deal of promise in her athletes. A Philly-native herself, Smith attended Radnor High School and went on to study at West Chester University. She explained her interest in sports as a child was due largely to her grandmother, who encouraged her to play lacrosse and other non-conventional sports.
Coupled with her love for sports is her hardy passion for living a good life, using athletics and the musical arts as a medium to do so. You don’t have to be a scientist or a chakra guru to understand that ideas like those make for a healthy lifestyle.
Although currently a resident of Bryn Mawr, Smith is far from detached from her hometown, and holds immense compassion for inner-city youth. By simply hearing how Coach Smith speaks about her students and what they endure as a team, you get a palpable sense of her desire for them to strive in athletics and life.
Last year, Smith took it almost entirely upon herself to kickstart the lacrosse program at Strawberry Mansion. She wasn’t one hundred percent sure that she would get good reception at first, and who would be? You don’t see much lacrosse being played in Philly at any level, let alone within the African-American community.
Strawberry Mansion is known to be a pretty tough school, and tough schools aren’t always the warmest to new faces. Fortunately, Smith brought a firm, patient, encouraging attitude and a humble outlook to the table, which eventually won her students over.
Smith quickly identified the issue she saw at Strawberry Mansion: young talented black females not having many ways for them to be expressive and make a proper path for themselves. Lacrosse has proved to be another path — be it a narrow or a wide one — for these young women to see that there are goals to shoot for in life.
Smith understood that her athletes needed this mindset. Because of this, now she has three exceptional students going to colleges on athletic scholarship. Nadirah “Slim” McCray has the nod from University of Hartford and Nadirah “Na” Gateword will be attending Lock Haven. Recently, Samani Hinton found out that she would be receiving a partial athletic scholarship from Delaware State University.
It seems only fitting that Gateword and McCray have matching first names, since the two have proved to be arguably the most fierce and dexterous attackers on the squad.
Outside of lacrosse, Smith has even been able to get her athletes interested in being involved in their communities; teaching them how to research local politicians and reach out to City Hall. She gets them to be involved their own success, teaching them on and off the field.
Thanks to Coach Smith and the game of lacrosse, students at Strawberry Mansion High now have an option that they didn’t before. Instead of wandering the streets, they can go to practice and try to better themselves.