Rick Burton is a clinician for the US Lacrosse Sankofa Clinic Series and also serves as a varsity boys’ coach at Edgewood (Md.) High School. His passion for lacrosse has motivated him to launch Route 40 Lacrosse, a program aimed at bringing the game to young people from all backgrounds. 

Tell us about your lacrosse background?

Being from Baltimore, I started playing lacrosse in middle school. I eventually played collegiate lacrosse at Wesley College in Delaware, then joined the United States Air Force, which allowed me to play the game in places like Qatar. I have played a lot of lacrosse, and I have taken my lacrosse stick with me around the world, so it’s always disappointing when I hear people ask, "Black people play lacrosse?"

How did Route 40 Lacrosse get started?

When I accepted the coaching position at Edgewood, which I thought was a predominately black high school, I noticed the team was multicultural, so that was a plus. But then I learned that all the black players were just football players with sticks. The black kids weren't exposed to lacrosse until high school because it wasn't affordable. That motivated me to start organizing free clinics for kids in our same community.

What are the goals for Route 40 Lacrosse?

Route 40 Lacrosse is a small group dedicated to establishing lacrosse as a mainstream sport in the local area. We are trying to form partnerships with the public school system and with community based organizations like the Boys’ and Girls’ Club. Many of the kids in our community cannot afford to play the game we love. Route 40 uses lacrosse as a teaching mechanism for helping students see the value of taking charge of their education, living a healthier lifestyle, and developing life skills for successful college and career advancement. We want to show these kids that there is another possible opportunity for them to get to college. The goal is to get kids interested.

What motivates you?

Just seeing some of the kids that come from the same environment that I came from, and just giving them the chance to play the game and watching them grow, it means everything to me. We’d love to see Route 40 Lacrosse become a feeder program for some of the schools in Harford (Md.) County so that kids already have lacrosse skills before they reach the high school level. And sometimes, I have come to realize, they just need a friend who will ask them, “How was your day?”

What does it mean to you for the sport of lacrosse to become more diversified?

One reason I love diversity in lacrosse and why I hope it becomes more diversified is it doesn't matter what your size, shape, height, or skin color is...there is no prototypical body in lacrosse. I can't wait to see a Hawaiian Samoan playing attack. We want to spread the game of lacrosse and make sure kids understand the fundamentals of the game.