January 10, 2013

US Lacrosse Hosts Diversity & Inclusion Retreat at Convention

by Paul Ohanian | LaxMagazine.com | Related: National Convention Heads to Philly

Cal head women's coach Ginger Miles, a member of US Lacrosse's Diversity & Inclusion Task Force, took part in Wednesday's one-day retreat in Philadelphia.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

PHILADELPHIA — The unofficial start to the spring lacrosse season — the 2013 US Lacrosse National Convention, presented by Champion — started unofficially on Wednesday with a one-day retreat hosted by US Lacrosse's Diversity & Inclusion Task Force. Approximately 20 invited stakeholders gathered to develop recommendations and strategies to maximize inclusion and increase lacrosse participation among underrepresented and underserved communities.

"We were able to pull together a well informed and passionate group and tap into their resources and input," said Tim Clark, a longtime US Lacrosse volunteer and former member of the USL Board of Directors who serves as chair of the Task Force.

The group, comprised of players, coaches, program administrators and others with connections to the greater lacrosse community, spent the day rotating through smaller work groups and larger group discussions. Exercises ranged from defining the terms "underrepresented" and "underserved" to cataloguing the barriers to participation for minority populations.

In the end, the group identified five key areas of focus that align with one of the key priorities in US Lacrosse's 2013-15 Strategic Plan — strengthening access and opportunity for all.

The five suggested areas of focus, as formulated by the work group, were:

- Increase leaders of color within the game.
- Reduce the financial barriers to participation.
- Increase lacrosse awareness and exposure through marketing efforts.
- Develop strategic alliances with existing organizations.
- Incorporate demographic analysis to measure effectiveness.

Moving forward, the Task Force will continue to organize and development specific action plans within these areas of focus before presenting the proposals to the US Lacrosse Board of Directors for approval. Once approved, the Board and staff of US Lacrosse will begin the process of allocating resources to help achieve the identified goals.

"Our commitment to this cause must be intentional," said Steve Stenersen, president and CEO of US Lacrosse. "Both staff and volunteer leadership is needed to drive this process forward."

In Stenersen's view, the increased conversation stimulated by the national governing body on the topic of diversity and inclusion is consistent with the organization's vision statement, which "envisions a future which offers people everywhere the opportunity to discover, learn, participate in, enjoy, and ultimately embrace the shared passion of the lacrosse experience."

"The more we talk about this at a leadership level, the more comfortable the discussion becomes," he said.

Clark noted that the key is to build from the momentum of Wednesday's event.

"Today was a huge step forward for the Task Force," Clark said. "The challenge now is where do we go from here."

Ginger Miles, head coach for women's lacrosse at the University of California and a member of the Task Force, appreciated hearing the varied ideas and suggestions of stakeholders from around the country committed to the issue of diversity and inclusion.

"This was a great opportunity to get influential people together to brainstorm," Miles said. "We heard a lot of different voices that offered valuable perspectives though candid and honest conversations."

Clark and Miles both agreed that there's plenty of work still ahead for the Task Force.

"I see this as an extension of the work that has already begun," said Clark. "We need to keep the needle moving. Change takes time, but we are going to get there."

Additional convention information is available at uslacrosse.org/2013convention. Follow LaxMagazine.com for a live blog from the Philadelphia Convention Center and additional coverage starting Friday. Follow @uslaxconvention on Twitter and Tweet using the hashtag #LaxCon.

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