Natnael Menbere is proof that you don’t have to fit a certain mold to play lacrosse. All you need is opportunity.
Born in Ethiopia, Menbere immigrated to the United States at age five and discovered the unfamiliar sport of lacrosse while in the third grade.
“At first, I thought it was cricket, and I didn’t want to play,” Menbere said. “But once I understood the game, I fell in love with it.”
Now a sophomore at Seattle Preparatory, Menbere has emerged as one of the best high school players in the Pacific Northwest.
After progressing through regional and national combines with the USA Lacrosse National Team Development Program (NTDP) this past summer, he earned a spot on the USA Select U16 team that competed in October’s Brogden Cup games against teams representing the Haudenosaunee Nationals and Ontario.
“I was really nervous about going to the tryouts, but I didn’t want that to stop me from the opportunity,” said Menbere, who received scholarship support from USA Lacrosse to help cover expenses associated with the combine. “As soon as the nerves left, I felt like I was able to perform up to my abilities.”
“The National Team Development Program draws interest annually from over 1,000 athletes from across the country,” said Natalie Wills, senior manager for NTDP. “We’re incredibly thankful to the supporters of the USA Lacrosse Foundation for providing the resources to ensure every athlete has the opportunity to compete and pursue a dream that was once only possible for a few.”
As an active long-stick middie and wing on face offs, Menbere’s impact is significant. Last spring, he earned a rare starting role as a freshman on his high school team.
“He’s such a disruptive presence against offensive players,” said Seattle Prep head coach Sam Bennett. “He’s got great footwork and he’s constantly in his opponent’s hip pocket.”
Having benefitted from the opportunities afforded by lacrosse, Menbere hopes to complete the circle in the future by sharing the joy of lacrosse with others.
“When I’m on the field, I just think about winning and having fun,” he said. “My goal is to, one day, be able to go back and help to showcase this sport in Ethiopia.”
“The generosity of our donors helps to break down barriers,” Wills said. “No athlete will ever be denied the opportunity of pursuing their goal of competing for the U.S. National Team. To us, there is no greater honor than wearing the red, white, and blue.”
The USA Lacrosse Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that serves as the philanthropic arm of USA Lacrosse. The Foundation helps drive the three main pillars of the USA Lacrosse mission: 1) Fuel the growth; 2) Enrich the experience; 3) Field the best national teams. Supporting the foundation provides thousands of children across the country the opportunity to experience the gift of lacrosse. To learn more about the USA Lacrosse Foundation, please visit www.usalacrosse.com/foundation.