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USA Lacrosse
| Jan 12, 2023

A Proper Farewell from Eboni Preston-Laurent

By Eboni Preston-Laurent

When I graduated from college, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do. After years of pursuing a journalism degree and chasing my sports columnist father’s footsteps, I spent my senior year like many others thinking — What’s next?  

As a goalie, you spend most of your time making saves and doing everything you can between the pipes to will your team to victory. Between saves, you also serve as the front-line of communication and the captain of the defense. In hindsight, it’s no surprise coaching became a logical next step for me post-graduation. I enjoyed the thrill of competition and helping people be their best. Once I graduated, I hung up the cleats and picked up a whistle instead. I coached college lacrosse for five years at a couple of small schools in New England and Virginia. I learned so many life lessons on the field as a player, but I learned equally as much during my short time as a coach. Some of those lessons were harder than others and I still learn from those memories and experiences today when I just sit and reminisce.  Those experiences and opportunities were all part of the pathway that prepared me for what would come.

During my time as a coach on campus, I spent invaluable time working with student life to create meaningful resources and opportunities for first-generation students and students of color on campus. That wasn’t necessarily my day job, but I felt a deep connection and obligation to serve students that looked like me or had my life experiences, to ensure they had equal opportunities.  

I have always been told to whom much has been given, much should be expected. Because of that, I have felt an overwhelming duty to serve those in need. Coaching lacrosse was my job, but I quickly realized that providing opportunities for under resourced communities was my calling.  Eventually the burnout from coaching took its toll and I found myself looking at the future thinking again — What’s next?

In 2013, I accepted a job offer to work for US Lacrosse (now USA Lacrosse) as the Associate Director of Diversity and Inclusion. I was immediately drawn to the idea of merging together my two passions in a significant way. I was excited, but anxious. There was no blueprint. I was the diversity and inclusion department of one. I started the job with mixed emotions, excited about the opportunity, but worried with anticipation about what’s next.

After nine years at USA Lacrosse, I look back on the work that we’ve done and the lives we have touched, and I’m humbled and thankful for each opportunity. I anticipated some of the challenges --the stigma around the typical lacrosse player, the cost of participation, the decline in youth sports — I knew that much. What I couldn’t have imagined is that over the next five years, America would embroiled in widespread civil protest coupled with a global pandemic, both of which would disproportionally impact already marginalized communities. I remember watching with sadness and unease during the Freddie Gray protests that took place only a couple miles from our former offices in Baltimore. A couple years later, we all worked through COVID-19—a time of uncertainty, when we wondered what lacrosse would look like in the aftermath and if our sport and our country would ever recover. Not too long after that, I’d find myself involved in several raw but real conversations with my colleagues about the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent need for reform and community resources. This also prompted a new wave of social justice responsibility led by consumers that challenged organizations like ours to be better, and rightfully so. 

Nine years later, I have found myself again at a familiar crossroad, where I have asked myself — What’s next?  This has been the greatest ride of my life and with mixed emotions, the time to move on in my journey has come. When people leave our organization, they oftentimes write a letter to staff with a heartfelt thank you and goodbye. I would always read them and think — what would I say when or if the time comes to move on?  How could I share a proper farewell for a place that has given me so much?  I still don’t have the exact words, but the one thing is for certain — I’ll miss USA Lacrosse deeply and I’m truly appreciative of every relationship and experience I’ve had during my time here. I’ll miss my small but mighty team of two (Donovan and Sam) that keep everything running nationally behind the scenes. I’ll think back fondly about my adventures with our Sankofa crew running lacrosse clinics across the country — whether it was in a barn in New Mexico or playing a quick pick-up game before a clinic in an old church in Pittsburgh. I’ll miss events like our annual Urban Lacrosse Alliance conference and watching my Wheelchair Lacrosse USA friends demo at LaxCon. Those late nights and informal discussions always reenergized and inspired me. I always wanted to work harder or do more because of them and I learned those most often overlooked are often the ones that we should listen to the most.  You all are the real MVPs and our sport is better because of the many people I have met along the way.

I hope I’ve left a small imprint on this sport and gave back a little piece of what it’s given me. I’m grateful for what we’ve built here, and I’m encouraged about what’s to come. This is not a goodbye to the game, but a thank you. Let’s all play a positive part in what’s next for our sport and in the words of our late colleague Gordon Corsetti, remember to always take care of your crew. I’ll be watching!

Signing off for now,