“Connecting people that are traditionally outside the lacrosse community is a primary focus for our diversity and inclusion efforts."
South Carolina is known for many things: pristine beaches, golf courses, college football, and the palmetto tree, among others. If transplanted New Yorker Edward Dougherty has his way, one day lacrosse could also be included on that list.
In 2014, Dougherty founded Coastal Lacrosse, a non-profit based in Charleston that uses lacrosse as a vehicle to help enhance academic success among at-risk youth. Coastal’s school-based programs are designed to keep students engaged throughout the year. The organization’s mission is to create opportunities for students to achieve success through academics and lacrosse.
“We partner with schools and really focus on just teaching kids the game,” said Dougherty, who moved to Charleston in 2010 after accepting an elementary school teaching position.
Upon arriving in the South and observing his students during recess, Dougherty noticed that many kids lacked sports literacy in anything beyond basketball and football. He decided it was time to expand their horizons by introducing new sports opportunities.
Coastal’s program, usually run as an after-school initiative, includes a nine-week session in the fall and 14-week session in the spring. Anywhere from five to eight schools will be participating at any one time. Dougherty’s goal is to be able to continue supporting kids that move through his program and join local leagues.
“We’re trying to spark their interest and help grow the game,” Dougherty said.
In 2016, Coastal applied for and received a US Lacrosse National Diversity Grant, designated specifically to assist with urban outreach that combines lacrosse instruction with life skills enrichment. The funds meet a number of needs for Coastal’s ongoing initiatives.
“We use it to purchase equipment, and it also allows us to pay registration fees for kids who join local rec leagues,” Dougherty said. “US Lacrosse has really helped us.”
US Lacrosse is now accepting applications for its newest cycle of the National Diversity Grant Program, which provides resources to local groups and organizations to support projects and events that promote lacrosse opportunities among non-traditional participants.
Six different grant categories, with slightly differing goals and qualifications, are available: Girls’ Initiative, Urban Outreach, Community Impact, Event Support, Disability Access, and BRIDGE.
Applications will be accepted through February 5, 2018. Grant recipients will be notified by the end of February.
“We’re excited to offer these grant opportunities to assist qualifying organizations across the country in making a greater impact for diversity in our sport,” said Eboni Preston-Laurent, senior manager for diversity and inclusion at US Lacrosse. “Connecting people that are traditionally outside the lacrosse community is a primary focus for our diversity and inclusion efforts."