TAMPA, Fla. — Street cred: what’s it mean to you?

In an area where demographics unintentionally can hinder the receipt of messages from educators to students, a credibility boost can go a long way toward instilling the lessons that will help kids long after their careers in organized sports end.

Joel Mohorter, head boys’ lacrosse coach at Tampa Bay Technical (Fla.) High School, got his boost from an unlikely source, perhaps, but it proved no less effective in building a more confident, more cohesive team. Though the losses continued for the predominantly minority Titan team this season, Mohorter, who is white and works as an attorney, saw the changes in his players almost immediately after they attended a Feb. 23 Positive Coaching Alliance workshop, thanks to a grant provided to the school by US Lacrosse.

“My players are aware they don’t look like the typical kids that dominate the rosters of most lacrosse teams,” Mohorter said. “There was extensive interaction between them and the workshop instructor which brought that to light, and also some related confidence issues our team was having. The class did a great job of making my players feel special and feel like they were pioneers in making lacrosse available to traditionally underrepresented populations. I saw a difference in my players’ attitudes and confidence after attending the class."

The US Lacrosse Sportsmanship Matching Grant, applied for by Hillsborough County (Fla.) Lacrosse Alliance volunteer Bruce McGonnigal, helps schools or local lacrosse organizations educate their leaders, coaches, parents and athletes by subsidizing 50 percent of the cost of a one-year partnership with PCA. The grant helps to fund up to three PCA workshops, related educational materials and ongoing support from PCA, an investment frequently upwards of $2,000 apiece in local lacrosse by the sport’s national governing body.

The tailored workshops, options for which include “Leading Your Organization,” “Double-Goal Coach,” “Second-Goal Parent,” and “Becoming a Triple-Impact Competitor,” among others, often bring into focus in a classroom setting the lessons and values espoused sporadically by coaches over time.

“The trainer challenged the players to think about their roles in lacrosse differently,” said Alison Fraga, partnership manager for PCA Tampa Bay.

She attended many of the workshops awarded by US Lacrosse to six high schools or youth programs in the area for early 2015, including the clinic that hosted the Titans. Fraga, herself a sports parent, completed two PCA workshops prior to becoming one of the two full-time PCA staff in its new Tampa Bay chapter last May.

“He talked about leaving their own legacies for the game, and about how important it was for the players to do drills in their neighborhood and, when asked what they were doing, to talk about lacrosse and light a passion in young African-American men to play the sport in youth organizations or in high school,” Fraga said. “It was very exciting to see.

“There are so many things happening in youth sports that are being driven by colleges recruiting younger athletes, coaches who are volunteers and not professionals, pressure by parents on kids that their performance in sports is or will be indicative of their performance in life — we need this type of education across all sports.”

Hillsborough County Public Schools require all sports coaches to complete PCA workshops annually, so Hillsborough County Lacrosse Alliance volunteers such as Melissa Ransdell and Jill Rintoul worked with them to open up player and parent workshops to all 12 lacrosse-playing public high schools in the district, requiring attendance by players. That helped get the message across that there’s more value to playing sports than simply winning or losing.

Workshops proved beneficial for some parents, as well.

“We thought we knew our son,” Rintoul, mother of a senior boys’ lacrosse player and rising freshman daughter, said after sitting in on a Feb. 16 player workshop. “We heard him talk about his goals, and we were way off. That conversation opened our eyes.

“The parent workshop helped to open the lines of communication with our kids, be it about lacrosse or otherwise, to help make sure everyone is on the same page. If parents can do that, they’ll have a better player and a better person to go onto college and beyond.”

US Lacrosse awarded 34 sportsmanship grants to schools or lacrosse organizations in 12 states last year, investing more than $50,000 in these efforts to develop in new communities the positive culture that the sport’s longtime participants hold so dear. The funds were made possible thanks to US Lacrosse membership dues. Applications for the next round of grants will take place in August.

“As a coach, you try to work real-life lessons into practices and pre or postgame speeches, but it ends up being kind of piecemeal and sporadic,” Mohorter said. “It was nice to have those lessons presented to the kids in an organized manner, and it’s always good when the kids hear the same things from more than one person as it gives me some credibility.”