News / USA

Lacrosse Debuts in Inner-City Washington School

Some of the girls on the lacrosse team at Ballou High School in Washington, D.C., run a drill on the practice field, May 2011
Some of the girls on the lacrosse team at Ballou High School in Washington, D.C., run a drill on the practice field, May 2011

Multimedia

Jeff Swicord

The modern version of the Native American game lacrosse is a popular sport at many predominately white and affluent, suburban private schools in the United States. But it also has taken root at a predominantly African American, public high school in Washington, plagued by poverty, violence and low academic achievement. Girls are now playing lacrosse at Ballou High School, where educators and students there hope to gain from it.

It is the last practice of the season for the girl's lacrosse team at Ballou, and the competitive spirit is still running high. This is the first year Ballou has had a lacrosse team, and the first time these girls have played the sport. They lost every game, but their coach, Holly McGarvie, still considers the season a success.

“I think the goal each year is going to change," she said. "This year, I think, just starting and building a foundation that we can build from and create a tradition of women’s lacrosse here at Ballou.”

Building a foundation in one of the poorest and most violent neighborhoods in Washington is not easy.  Eighty-five percent of Ballou students participate in the national free and reduced school lunch program, an indicator of poverty. In the past six years, more than 40 Ballou students have died violent deaths, many of them victims of drug violence.

Rahman Branch, the schools' principal, said, “One of the components is the drug culture kind of came into our cities. It really shattered a lot of poor communities and a lot of families. And our children come from those broken homes. Our children come from those splintered communities.”

Ballou’s low point came in 2006, when less than 60 percent of the senior class graduated. School administrators decided they needed to make changes. Foremost was creating an environment where students could leave their street-hardened survival skills at the school door.  

Another - expanding after school activities like girl's lacrosse.

“We decided to take some more approaches to add on to them being comfortable being a kid, to now making sure they are a kid who knows what they want, what it takes to get there, and then has the stamina to go through,” said Branch.

Branch said Holly McGarvie, a first-year teacher out of Princeton University, was a perfect match for Ballou. A star collegiate player and member of the U.S. National Lacrosse Team, she wanted to integrate lessons she learned from sports into teaching biology.

“In coaching, it is always great when you have an athlete, you know, understand a concept or make a great play with a teammate," said McGarvie. "And, I thought, you know, maybe in teaching you could do the same thing.”

McGarvie's lessons in the classroom and on the field are not lost on the girls. The first practices were frustrating, with angry exchanges among some players. McGarvie quickly let them know that would not be tolerated, and coached them on how to work through problems.

“On our way home from our first game, we are all talking about it and the girls are extremely excited," said McGarvie. "Despite the loss of, I think maybe 11 to 1, they were already in the mindset of what can we do better.”

Sophomore Tylashia Joyner said lacrosse has kept her away from negative things, and more focused on her future. “I will want to play in college because it will keep me in shape and it will help me stay focused and want to do something. Because if you want to play a sport, you have to have your grades up.”

If you are counting wins, it was a tough season for Ballou. But you wouldn’t know that from the look on the girls’ faces. Diane Jones said she will definitely play again next year.

"We had good times even though we lost all our games," said Jones. "We played good for it to be our first season of play.”

Ballou has already improved its graduation rate by 10 to 15 percent since 2006. Administrators expect that to continue to improve, and for lacrosse to be a part of it.


You May Like

Ukraine: Russian Forces Tightening Grip on East

And new United Nations report documents human rights abuses committed by both sides in conflict More

Locust Swarms Fill Antananarivo Skies

FAO-led control efforts halted plague More

South Africa’s Plan to Move Rhinos May Not Stop Poaching

Experts say international coordination needed to follow the money trail and bring down rhino horn kingpins More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid