(Photo Courtesy of Tusculum Athletics)
A native of Charlottesville, Va. and 2003 grad of Mars Hill, DII Tusculum head coach Richard Carrington has been at the helm of the Pioneers’ since the program’s inception in 2014. He has lead them to 41-49 record overall, which includes a 2017 campaign where they went 11-4. And like many head coaches in the game, Carrington has been around the block plenty of times, serving as an assistant at VMI and the head coach at both DIII Alvernia and DII Chestnut Hill. He was founding coach at Chestnut Hill.
But unlike the majority of head coaches in the college game, Carrington is part of a pretty small club in lacrosse as one of just 13 black head men’s lacrosse coaches in the NCAA. Lacrosse Bucket caught up with Coach Carrington earlier this week to discuss how the game of lacrosse can be better when it comes to diversity and inclusion.
“In my mind, to further diversify lacrosse, as a whole, and at the coaching level, there are three steps that need to be taken. And those steps run from the ground up and they all feed into one another,” Carrington said.
Those three steps Carrington says the game needs to take are decreasing the cost of equipment, reshaping the current structure of the game, and opening up the college coaching market to more individuals. And while those points may be broad and involve multiple ideas, each one can be achieved within the game of lacrosse to make it better.
It’s no secret that lacrosse is expensive, and it is expensive from the get go. That fact is one of biggest, if not the biggest, hurdle in the game as it concerns to increasing minority participation. Unfortunately, most people can’t afford to spend $200-$300 dollars to buy the initial equipment (helmet, stick, gloves, pads) to even start playing the game. And those that can happen to be white and from the upper or upper middle classes, financially.
Lacrosse equipment companies and organizations across the should feel they have an obligation to either lower the cost of equipment to provide free or discounted equipment for players that want to play lacrosse but their families can’t foot the bill to get them started. Only then can the game start to grow the way it should.
“There must be a way for a kid to be introduced to the game and then be able to easily access it…The first equipment company to create a starter kit that is $30-$50 dollars will be ahead of the game,” said Carrington.
Beyond the mountain of cost in lacrosse, the current structure and pipeline that players go through from grade school to high school, and then college is very problematic and does not help to promote minority participation. In some cases, it can cost upwards of $2,000 dollars to tryout and join a summer club team. And in today’s current recruiting landscape, you wonder how many guys are missed because they can’t afford to player summer ball and only play high school, especially in nontraditional or emerging areas where college coaches can’t or wont drive to watch a high school game.
“I can tell you right now, if I grew up in the current lacrosse landscape of club lacrosse I would not be where I am today because of the expenses of the game. Back in the day you would go to a few camps and that is where you got seen. We need to get back to that,” Carrington said. “I’m biting the hand that feeds me here, but you can’t tell me that charging $2K-$3K to play summer lacrosse is an efficient way of growing the game.”
Also, unlike football and basketball, there is no sort of “unstructured” way to play the game. Sure, you can play pickup ball with your friends in the backyard, but that aspect of the game seems to be dying, if it hasn’t already. Bringing that aspect of lacrosse back and introducing new ideas, like Triiilax, will be greatly beneficial for the growth of the game overall, and could also help increase diversity.
The less equipment and structure you need to play the game, the more accessible the game can be for players in lower income areas, which in return will help better the game overall. Also, not having as much structure helps build that creativity within one’s game that many coaches try to kill at an early age.
According to Carrington, the third step to help increase diversity in college lacrosse coaching, and just the game in general, is to reshape the pipeline that turns players into coaches and the way coaching searches work and operate.
“I certainly don’t speak for all minority coaches and I am not going to sit here and say that head coaches don’t try and push minority players towards the coaching route, but in my experience, I never had anyone pull me aside and tell me that I had it in me to be a coach. I had to work and figure things out on my own, pretty much,” said Carrington.
In Carrington’s mind, the process of hiring coaches is too much about who you know and not enough about what you know. He believes that every college coaching job should be posted to the NCAA Marketplace so that a larger group of people can apply and have a chance at getting a certain job and climbing the ranks of college coaching.
Additionally, he also believes that the coaching associations – IMLCA, IWLCA – can help, by implementing changes, such as the one above, that coaches and schools have to abide by when conducting coaching searches. And if lacrosse makes these changes, that could kickstart change in other sports as well.
“The IMLCA has an opportunity to be a model for other coaches associations to follow when it comes to not only diversifying the job pool in terms of having more black and minority coaches, but opening the pool up to everyone,” Carrington said.