Leading ladies of lacrosse

Leading ladies of lacrosse

CANDIECE KNIGHT

Monday, July 06, 2020

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THE talented trio of Coach Monique Morrison, Team Co-manager Amilca Thame, and massage therapist Akeema Jones have not only stepped bravely off the beaten path to manage a team of boys in a non-traditional sport, but they have also done extraordinary well in guiding the team to the finals of the national competition in their first attempt.

Although lacrosse is the oldest organised sport in North America, it is still fairly new to Jamaica, having only blossomed into popularity on the island over the last decade or so. An even more recent phenomenon is that this team of women is leading a sports team at one of Jamaica's oldest all-boys' schools — Jamaica College.

It began last year when 23-year-old Monique Morrison, who has been an avid lacrosse player since she first learned about the sport, was hired to coach the school's previously self-coached lacrosse team.

“I was a little intimidated at first, but I don't think the intimidation came from coaching a team of boys — it came from officially coaching a team,” the coach told All Woman. “So when I met them I had a little nerves, but I realised that they didn't see me as a female coach. They saw me as their coach.”

Her early jitters had less to do with the gender difference, and more to do with the age group similarity.

“Because I'm so close in age with some of them, I didn't want it to be a case where the respect wasn't there,” she shared. “So coming in as a youngster, I needed to find a way to make a name there and cement it for myself so that I could earn their respect. I just decided to do my best at what I do best, and it's working out for me.”

Before Morrison came on as coach, the dedicated team had been consistently competing in the Jamaica Lacrosse Association annual Taino Cup tournament, but had never made it past the semi-finals. With more structure and strategy, the team was able to make it to the finals for the first time this year. But she didn't do it alone. She had the dedication of a resilient, hard-working team, and the assistance of two other powerful women.

“My son started high school last year at Jamaica College and he was interested in lacrosse,” said Amilca Thame, team co-manager, of how she got involved with the team. “All my life I have loved sports and I played sports well into adulthood, so when my son joined the team it just took a life of its own.”

Thame grew from being yet another lacrosse mom to being the 'mom-manager' of the team within a matter of months.

“I was talking to the manager of the team about a few things I noticed with the boys, and he just introduced me in a team meeting, and said I was going to be the team mother,” she recalled animatedly. “I took on a more active role in terms of their mental preparation. I focused on their health and their well-being, as well as some discipline and strength in how you overcome challenges, and how you prepare mentally for life.”

Thame noted that although she is connected with the boys through lacrosse, she is concerned about other aspects of their lives, too.

“We talk about academics, things that happen in the home, and outside of the home — conversations that they didn't necessarily have adults to have a frank conversation with,” she said. “I'm a mother of young men. I have sons of my own, and I think that's one of the reasons why it has worked.”

She credited the team's success to their willingness to accept help.

“They are welcoming and they're respectful,” she added. “They were organised enough by themselves that it wasn't hard to add the level of structure that was necessary to take them to the next level.”

The third leading lady of the Jamaica College lacrosse team is 20-year-old Akeema Jones, a student at GC Foster College of Physical Education and Sports, who got involved with the team in January.

“I work with the Jamaica College lacrosse and basketball teams as a massage therapist,” she told All Woman. “I love to see athletes perform to their greatest potential, because I, too, was an athlete, but that unfortunately came to an end after facing several injuries that were left untreated.”

Jones decided to pursue a degree in sports massage therapy so that she could help young athletes to unlock their truest potential without being hindered by injuries in the process.

“For me, it's really a learning experience working with them,” she said. “They are the first team that I've ever worked with, and it was fun just getting to know them and working with them and watching them compete and being a part of the family.”

Though the COVID-19 pandemic robbed the team of the opportunity to play their final match against Kingston College, and therefore going another year without lifting the trophy, they are optimistic that next year will be an even better one.

“They've always been in the top four, even without a solid coach, but always fourth place,” Coach Morrison said. “This year was their first time making it to the finals under this new structure, and we're coming back next year. We're coming back better and stronger, and we're going to earn our place.”


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