Last year, Donna Rose was recognized posthumously as the winner of the US Lacrosse Homer R. Schwartz Chapter Leadership Award, recognizing her longtime contributions to the growth of the game in South Florida. For two decades prior to her passing in 2018, she had an indelible impact on lacrosse.

As a testimony to her influence, that impact continues now with a new generation.

Oscar Cifuentes is the varsity girls’ head coach at Pompano Beach (Fla.) High School, and also serves as a clinician for the US Lacrosse Sankofa Clinic Series. His passion for the game was fueled in large measure by Rose.

Originally from Colombia, Cifuentes came to the United States at age seven. He was introduced to lacrosse as a student at South Plantation High School, where Rose served as his guidance counselor. She kept a tight watch on members of the lacrosse team.

“She was my ‘school’ mom,” Cifuentes said. “As a lacrosse player, if I got it trouble, they would send me to see her. She helped me to mature a lot.”

More than just wielding a heavy stick, Momma Rose, as she was affectionately known, would meet kids where they are. 

“Every time I needed something, she would be there,” Cifuentes said. “Her help got me through any situation I had.”

With Rose’s guidance, Cifuentes landed at Tennessee Wesleyan University, where he became a member of the school’s varsity lacrosse program. During this time, he also started serving as a coach with Rose’s BC Blues program, a club team for high school girls that was featured in this 2017 US Lacrosse story

“I got introduced to the girls’ game early on by Momma Rose and never turned away from it,” Cifuentes said. “After I graduated from Tennessee Wesleyan, I moved back to Florida and was serving as an assistant coach at South Plantation High School, with Robert Rose (Donna’s husband) as the head coach.”

That experience soon led to Cifuentes becoming the girls’ head coach at nearby Plantation High School. He wasn’t there long before receiving an invitation to take over a new program at Pompano Beach High School. 

Faced with a difficult decision to leave one school for another, Cifuentes turned to his mentor, Momma Rose, for advice.

“She told me ‘looks like you need to grow up and talk to the AD about it. And do what is best for you.’ Of course, she was right. I made the move and was welcomed by 30 girls who were ready to go and wanted to do what's needed to learn the sport of lacrosse,” Cifuentes said.

Now in his third year at PBHS, the team continues to make progress. The curtailed 2020 season has only temporarily delayed the growing momentum of the program, which features a diverse roster of players.

“Having the luxury of playing some of the best programs in South Florida has brought our knowledge of the game to another level,” Cifuentes said. “We are excited for what the future holds for our program.”

Taking a page from Momma Rose’s playbook, Cifuentes seeks to continually leverage lacrosse to create new opportunities for his players.

“Pompano Beach High School is one of the top academic programs in Florida and brings in kids from all over Broward County. This has brought a lot of diversity to our program. I want to help open doors for these kids, just like Momma Rose did for me.”

In addition to coaching, one of the other doors that lacrosse opened for Cifuentes was the chance to be a part of the 2018 World Championship in Israel. As a native Colombian, Cifuentes was able to represent his nation of origin in that event.

“It was an awesome experience to play on that level, and certainly something I’ll never forget,” he said. “But more than the games, my best memory was that players from all the different teams were able to just mingle with each other. That was my favorite part. It just shows how the lacrosse community is very close.”  

Cifuentes knows that everything lacrosse has brought to his life stems from the nurturing that Momma Rose provided. In an effort to pay that forward, he continues to also serve as a coach with the club program she started, which has now been renamed in her honor, BlueRosesLax.

“Lacrosse is my passion, and thanks to US Lacrosse and Sankofa, I am very fortunate that I get to continue to help grow the game all over the world and have the chance to tell my story,” Cifuentes said. “A big part of my story involves Donna Rose and how she found a way to help everybody that needed help. I want to be a mentor to kids, just like she was.”