Trinity athletes connect with local inner-city children to teach them the sport of lacrosse through the nonprofit Inner City Lacrosse program founded by Michael Gary '86.
The Trinity College men's and women's lacrosse teams have long histories of success, on and off the field. In the spring of 2012, the men's team qualified for the NCAA Division III Tournament and advanced to the second round, and the women's team won the whole thing, defeating Salisbury, 8-7, for the NCAA Division III National title.
On the heels of a dominant spring, the players returned to campus this fall ready to again prove their commitment to the game. However, rather than suiting up for practice, the Bantams took to the field as coaches for young kids from Hartford, running drills and teaching them the basics of the game of lacrosse.
"The clinic has allowed us to introduce the sport of lacrosse to a vibrant group of young athletes and formed a bond between players and Hartford's youth," says Trinity men's senior Rob Nogueras. "Seeing the smiles on their faces reminded me how beneficial the sport is."
Michael Gary, of Exeter, N.H. and a 1986 graduate of Trinity, approached Bantam Men's Lacrosse Coach Michael Higgins
|Michael Gary '86 works with middle school students at one of the weekly Inner City Lacrosse clinics held at Trinity. Gary and his program were recently featured on MSNBC. |
and Women's Lacrosse Coach Kate Livesay over the summer with a unique opportunity. Gary founded Inner City Lacrosse
, an organization that aims to introduce the game of lacrosse to inner-city kids by way of collegiate athletes as volunteer coaches. Inner City Lacrosse clinics are currently run at Trinity and Yale University.
Gary remarked, "I always wanted to give back to the communities that have given me so much. I grew up in New Haven, so that's the Yale connection, and I went to Trinity, so that's the Hartford connection. I realized that the sport of lacrosse really was not found in the inner city, and when I learned that the skills that you need in basketball, hockey, and soccer are transferrable to the sport, I knew that kids could pick it up and it would be exciting. Bringing the two groups together and using college players to connect with the kids, sort of as a service learning opportunity for them, got me to think about this idea."
Starting in mid-September, Trinity athletes have been on the turf at Jessee/Miller Field for two hours every Sunday helping middle school students from the surrounding community learn the game of lacrosse.
Said Coach Livesay, "Our team was very enthusiastic about being involved. We passed around a sign-up sheet and they were very quick to fill in the spots. The athletes have driven the interest and been enthusiastic about it."
"It is an opportunity for our guys to give some time back and promote the game of lacrosse within the community," said Coach Higgins. "We asked guys to volunteer their time and we filled up every spot during the fall. Some of our players signed up for one or two clinics and came to three or four."
Though the program is about giving back to the middle school students who attend, Higgins also noted how beneficial the experience has been for his players. "As a team in the spring, our assistant coaches have really led practices. We have asked our players to implement those practices every Sunday. The great thing is getting to see who emerges as leaders out there. There are a couple guys who have really embraced the volunteer aspect and working with young lacrosse players. So far it has certainly been a positive experience for the men, and it's great to work with another athletic program on campus," he added.
Though both coaches are on the Inner City Lacrosse board, Livesay noted her role was in the background this fall.
"The players are the stars of the show. They're the ones providing all of the feedback and the coaching. My role was just to get it going and be there for the first couple clinics, and the players were very naturally happy to take over."
Senior Liv Whitney stated, "Inner City Lacrosse has been a positive experience for our team this fall. It's a great opportunity for both the men's and women's teams to create engaged relationships in the Hartford community as well as develop leadership skills."
The Trinity student-athletes have certainly put a lot of time and effort into the developing program, but coaches and athletes agree that this fall could not have been such a success without Michael Gary.
Coach Higgins commented on Gary's alumni connection, saying, "This was Mike Gary's mission 100 percent. It is great to see an alumnus giving back and literally doing something at the college."
Livesay agreed. "Michael Gary has been a devoted role model. He is so passionate about this program. He lives in Exeter and comes down to Hartford and New Haven every single Sunday. He is providing much of the enthusiasm and the energy and doing a great job of it."
Gary does not hesitate to call the first season a great. Local schools spread most of the word in Hartford, but Gary hopes to use the current Hartford parents to increase attendance in the future. His goal is to establish an Inner City Lacrosse branch at every college along Interstate 91 in Connecticut, and his focus is developing the connection between clinic participants and collegiate student-athletes.
Gary is nothing but grateful to Trinity and the volunteers for helping at the very beginning of what will surely be a long, successful journey. Gary added, "I want to say thank you to Trinity College and the support I have received from both coaches, who are on my board, for making it happen. I really thank Trinity, my alma matter, for giving access to the fields, and also the students, who volunteer their time on Sunday afternoons for two hours. They have been out here and been a real joy to work with."
Women's lacrosse senior Mallory Hinman described the Inner City Lacrosse experience perfectly. "It has been great to see all the smiles on the young girls who are learning our sport for the first time. We always left with a nice feeling that we really were making a difference and doing something great for the community."
Written by Emily Johnson '14