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

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party 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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs