By Eboni Preston
A couple of weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Tina Sloan Green was the recipient of the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Philadelphia Sports Congress.
When we talk about truly great women coaches, you always hear the regulars—Cindy Timchal, Kelly Amonte-Hiller, Janine Tucker, etc. But any valid conversation should include Tina Sloan Green, a member of the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, right there in the mix.
As the first black head coach in the history of women’s intercollegiate lacrosse, Tina was head coach of the Temple University women’s team from 1973-1992. During those years, she led the Owls to three national championships and 11 consecutive NCAA final four appearances.
There are few that have done it better.
Her accolades as a player and a coach however, are just one piece of her legendary impact, and that’s why, in my mind, she stands as one of the best ever. After years of success, many great coaches retire and ride off into the sunset, leaving the game for good (or at least play golf or do television commentary on the side). But Tina has done quite the opposite.
In 1992, Tina and three other co-founders created the Black Women and Sports Foundation—a non-profit organization whose mission is to increase the involvement of black women and girls in all aspects of sport, including athletics, coaching and administration. Her take on sports participation is unique. While many programs and organizations focus on general sports participation, Tina has challenged the assumptions about black women in non-traditional sports. Instead of accepting the ‘status quo’ she has created an inclusive culture for urban youth beyond the existing social and financial limitations.
And her hard-work and success has come as no easy feat, I am sure. There are often times distinctive challenges associated with women of color participating in non-traditional sports.
For those of you wondering what those might be, let me give you an example.
When I visited with leaders at US Swimming a couple of months ago, they said that two of their biggest participation barriers among girls of color were, 1) black girls didn’t want to be seen in a bathing suit due to body image concerns, and 2) they didn’t want to get there hair wet.
To be honest, I can completely relate. There is nothing worse than wet ethnic hair and trying, daily, to control the uncontrollable. But how do you convince young black girls to swim if they don’t want to get wet and they don’t want to wear the uniform? That is quite the barrier and it happens more often than you think.
Tina has knowingly, and quite impressively, taken on these challenges that have long excluded black females from the pool deck or the fencing court.
When you look at all Tina has done and the opportunities she has created for young girls as players, coaches and leaders, you really come to understand how important and powerful her work really is. I have been humbled by her deep-rooted passion and her steadfast ability to replace a big barrier with a better opportunity.
So to you, Ms. Tina, I say congratulations and thank you for paving the way for the next group of black female leaders to follow. Thank you for doing the work that many of us benefit from and celebrate, but don’t commit to doing ourselves. Thank you for your desire, your dedication and your resiliency.
And to the next generation -- we’ve got big shoes to fill.
Eboni Preston Laurent is the senior manager for diversity and inclusion at US Lacrosse.