Courtney Deena played both field hockey and lacrosse as an NCAA Division I athlete, and currently serves as the assistant field hockey coach at Hofstra University. She also serves as a clinician for the US Lacrosse Sankofa Clinic Series, with a desire to expose the game to more young players of color. 

Tell us about your background?
I am from Pickerington, Ohio and I went to a college preparatory school from 1st grade through 12th grade. I graduated in a class of about 86 students and five of us were Black. I grew up in a very proud Black family that was hyper-competitive. My mom was a track runner, my dad played lacrosse at Hobart, and my brother was a soccer player. We had to prove who was the most athletic and we did that by racing...everywhere. I remember one night after dinner, when I was probably six years old, we had a conversation at the table about “who is the fastest?” We decided that we would race. So we got outside, lined up, and took off. My brother won that race; however, I am still waiting for my re-match. I received a scholarship to play field hockey at the University of Maryland. After I graduated in 2017, I played a 5th year (I call it my “victory lap”) of lacrosse at the University of Louisville. College was far from easy, but the good and the bad experiences have helped shaped me into the strong woman I am today, and I am thankful.

How did you get started in lacrosse? 
My dad played lacrosse in college and he is from Long Island, so I was pretty much destined to have a stick in my hand at some point. I went to my first lacrosse game when I was about one year old.

What made you decide to play in college?
I started off as a college field hockey player and played four years at Maryland. I thought I was done until my friend told me I could take a 5th year and play lacrosse. So, one thing led to another and I was offered an amazing opportunity by Coach Kellie Young to play lacrosse at Louisville. I love lacrosse and I am still very thankful to Kellie and Coach (Scott) Teeter for the opportunity to compete as a Cardinal and for teaching me lessons I still carry with me today.

How did you get involved in coaching? 
My dad has coached across all levels, including my horrible rec soccer team when I was three years old. I really got involved in coaching with Sankofa because of my mom and Eboni Preston-Laurent. My mom shared my story in a lacrosse Facebook group and Eboni came across it and here we are today. Outside of Sankofa, I am also the assistant field hockey coach at Hofstra University.

Why did you pick lacrosse over more traditional sports?
Honestly, I consider myself an athlete but I was horrid at basketball and I hate losing. Also, I am barely 5-foot tall so I wasn’t shooting over anyone. I played basketball in 7th and 8th grade and in those two years we won one game. When it came time to play in high school, I decided that I would just focus on field hockey and lacrosse and save basketball for those who had a few more inches on me.

What opportunities did lacrosse provide for you that you wouldn’t have had otherwise?
Lacrosse has provided me the opportunity to meet many people from various backgrounds. One of the main things it has done for me comes from the Sankofa side. Having the chance to coach youth players across the country has been the best opportunity so far. I enjoy sharing my love of the sport with others and helping kids develop and foster their own love of the game.

What continues to motivate you to give back to the sport?
We all know lacrosse has grown incredibly fast, however, most importantly lacrosse is growing into all types of communities. As a Black woman, I feel a sense of pride when I see young Black girls playing lacrosse. I am motivated by the growth of young Black and Brown kids within the sport of lacrosse. It is a sport that can open so many doors for so many people, and I want to help youth and others see lacrosse as an opportunity for so much more.

What advice would you give to young athletes of color looking to get involved in lacrosse?
You belong. Many times, playing predominantly White sports can lead to you being the only person of color. It can be lonely being the only one, and it is easy to question yourself. But know that you belong. Also, cherish your difference. I remember times feeling as if I had to forgo a bit of my Blackness to seem more relatable or to appear less of an outsider. The things that make you different are the things that make you, you.

What does it mean to you for the sport of lacrosse to become more diversified?
It means a lot. I love seeing people and kids of color playing lacrosse. I love lacrosse. It is a sport that has given so much to me and continues to do such. I want to see other young kids of color benefit from this sport like I did and then continue to share their love of it for years to come. The more diversity we have in lacrosse and the more kids from diverse backgrounds, the more belonging those players will feel.

What type of social justice issues are you involved in or passionate about?
I am very passionate about racial justice. As a Black woman in America, I have seen first hand the injustices that we as Black people face. I am doing all I can to help educate others on the stories of Black people and encourage people to listen to Black voices. As a college coach of a sport that is predominately white, like lacrosse, I am sharing my stories. My mom taught me the importance of stories from a young age. Stories and experiences are ways that I can share about injustices in our world. I fall into two marginalized groups being both Black and a woman. My stories and experiences as a Black woman have helped me educate people within our sport about the importance of not only diversity, but justice.

If you could provide a book for summer reading for students, what would it be and why?
I would recommend Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I read it when I was in college and it instantly joined my all-time favorites list. The way Coates writes the book, as a letter to his teenage son, is powerful. The book unveils the injustices that exist for Black people. As someone who values experiences and stories, Coates does a great job weaving in his life experiences and the impact of them. I think that this book would be great for students because it is almost written as a letter right to them.