The US Lacrosse Board of Directors has approved a statement that officially defines the national governing body’s position on diversity and inclusion. The statement reads as follows:
US Lacrosse seeks to foster a national lacrosse community that encourages understanding, appreciation and acceptance of all within its membership, volunteer base and staff. Further, US Lacrosse believes that broad representation and participation add significant value to the lacrosse experience of each of us, and that these valued experiences are enhanced by embracing underrepresented and underserved communities.
The organization’s formal statement aligns with its current strategic plan, which articulates US Lacrosse’s priorities over the next three years. Strengthening access and opportunity for all continues to be identified as one of the organization’s top priorities within that plan.
"Our commitment to this cause must be intentional," said Steve Stenersen, president and CEO of US Lacrosse. "Both staff and volunteer leadership is needed to drive this process forward."
US Lacrosse has supported and led efforts to expand the sport to underserved and underrepresented communities since its inception in 1998, as demonstrated through numerous programming and leadership initiatives. These include the hosting of a broad-reaching diversity summit in 2007, the development of a standing organizational diversity committee in 2008, and nearly a dozen varied outreach efforts through the years that have included the BRIDGE Program, Emerging Groups Program, First Stick Program, physical education grants, and Native Vision, among others, with an estimated financial investment of approximately $1.5 million dollars since 1998 in support of these programs.
In 2012, US Lacrosse created a new Diversity & Inclusion Task Force to elevate organizational oversight and to further define and sharpen the focus of its efforts. Last month, the Task Force hosted a diversity & inclusion retreat – attended by approximately 20 invited stakeholders in the game - to formally identify initiatives and outline short and long term strategies to extend access and opportunity for all.
Among the outcomes from that retreat was the recommendation that the primary area of focus should be on bringing more people of color into all roles within lacrosse. This target demographic was prioritized as the most impactful from numerous potential diversity and inclusion elements. Strategies outlined by the group to support the initiative include increasing leaders of colors within the game, reducing the financial barriers to participation, increasing lacrosse awareness through marketing efforts, building alliances with existing organizations and developing more comprehensive demographic data to measure these successes.
"We were able to pull together a well informed and passionate group and tap into their resources and input," said Tim Clark, chair of the Task Force and a former member of the US Lacrosse Board of Directors. "The challenge now is where do we go from here?"
Recent progress on the objectives outlined by the Task Force is evidenced by the formation of the new Lacrosse Industry Council, which held its initial meeting at January’s US Lacrosse National Convention. This group, developed in partnership between US Lacrosse and the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA, formerly the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association), brings together manufacturers and other stakeholders within the sport for greater collaboration in areas such as reducing equipment costs, research and safety.
Additionally, the USL Board of Directors has approved the creation of the first full-time staff position to lead organizational efforts focused on diversity and inclusion. This position is expected to be filled in calendar year 2013.
"We’re going to continue our efforts to maximize the diversity of our national staff and volunteer structure," said Joshua Christian, managing director of sport development at US Lacrosse. "If this truly is a game for everyone, we need to be deliberate in the demographic composition of our staff and volunteer leadership."
"We need to keep the needle moving forward," Clark said. "USL has taken a giant leap to address the sport’s perception of being not for people of color. Change does take time, however, the Task Force intends to provide the focus and drive to make sure that resources are committed to break down perceived and not perceived barriers to participation for all in the creator’s game."
For more information about US Lacrosse and its ongoing efforts in the area of diversity & inclusion, please visit www.uslacrosse.org/inclusion.
About US Lacrosse
US Lacrosse, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, is the national governing body of men’s and women’s lacrosse and the home of the nation’s fastest-growing sport. US Lacrosse has more than 400,000 members in 64 regional chapters across the country. Through responsive and effective leadership, US Lacrosse provides programs and services to inspire participation while protecting the integrity of the sport.