Jennifer Powell, a 9th grader at Albany (N.Y.) High School and a member of the school district’s junior varsity team, had her submission selected as the winning entry for the 2016 US Lacrosse Diversity & Inclusion Essay Contest.

Jennifer first picked up a lacrosse stick when she was 11 years old, and says that she knew almost immediately that lacrosse was the sport that she wanted to play. During the past two years, Jennifer played on the district’s modified lacrosse team before moving to the JV squad in 2016.

Jennifer’s essay was submitted in response to the question: Tell us about a lacrosse coach or mentor who has had a positive impact on your life. Specifically, how has this person created an inclusive environment for you and your teammates and promoted acceptance of each player's individual differences?

Her winning entry:

Since the day I tried out for lacrosse, I knew it would always be a part of me. Not only did I love the sport, but my teammates and coaches became a second family. Over the years, players (and coaches) come and go. However, one coach that has had a lasting impact on me was Coach Leslie Bogucki.

Because of this coach, our team became more accepting. Many coaches teach that it doesn’t matter your gender, race, sexual orientation, or even your skill level. Coach Bogucki taught what mattered most was a desire to play. But, she didn’t only teach us. Like any good coach, she demonstrated it. One way she did that was through our team manager. What was special about this person was they were transgender, and the young female was becoming male. During this transition, the player felt that they wouldn’t be able to keep up as a player. So, our coach offered them the position of team manager.

Despite our differences, Coach made sure that everyone was accepting, and most importantly, she made sure our manager felt safe on and off the field. Although many people have positive impacts on my life, Coach Bogucki’s impact has really stuck with me. Not only did she influence me, but a whole team of girls. Because of her, our team learned that our differences make us unique, and our uniqueness makes us bond more as a team. Not only did we become better players under her leadership, but we became better people in general.

As the contest winner, Jennifer will receive exclusively designed Encore Brand team shooting shirts for her whole team. Encore Brand is a lacrosse lifestyle company created by former Major League Lacrosse and National Lacrosse League player and University of Virginia All-American Johnny Christmas.

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