Female lacrosse Coach Morrison shaking things up at traditional Jamaica College


Female lacrosse Coach Morrison shaking things up at traditional Jamaica College

Observer senior reporter

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

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For the first time in 53 years a Jamaica College (JC) sporting team is being coached by a female, and Monique Morrison would create history if she succeeds in guiding the lacrosse team to championship glory.

Morrison, just 23 years old, is only the second female coach at the 231-year-old all-boys' institution, following in the footsteps of Valerie Bloomfield, who taught at JC and who doubled as coach of the lawn tennis team in 1967.

“I like breaking status quos...one barrier at a time, so this is good,” Morrison told the Jamaica Observer as she paused from putting the boys through their drills on the school campus recently.

Morrison, who is on Jamaica's historic female lacrosse team that qualified for the 2021 World Cup, said she was pleasantly surprised at the reception she has received since taking the coaching job in October.

“I expected some level of not listening to me because I am a female coach at a boys' school, [but] surprisingly, it is much easier than coaching women for some reason,” she said laughing.

“There has been nothing but respect for my instructions and decisions since I got here from the first day. They are excited, and I have been welcome at JC with open arms. I never expected [to feel] this welcomed here,” Morrison added.

Lacrosse Team Manager Ra-Umi Alkebu-Lan, popularly called Zeus, said the team basically finished fourth in the last tournament without a coach.

“We never had a coach last year, and when I looked around...the most reputable coach available for lacrosse was a female. And I spoke to Mr [Ian] Forbes, who is the director of sport, the principal, and the sports master and told them that we would like to employ a female coach...and they all said so long as she can fit in at Jamaica College, no problem,” Zeus pointed out.

And no problem it was for beaming Principal Wayne Robinson who said it is interesting times at the school, as she has brought a different perspective.

“When I interviewed her I asked her if she can manage and how she is going to cope. She actually slept in the vicinity of the boys during the camp over the Christmas holidays...she was in charge of the camp and managed them very well, and the boys actually listened and paid attention,” said Robinson.

That was clearly evident as the over 20 boys in training moved in sync with her every command as preparation intensified for the start of the school competition.

Lacrosse was introduced in Jamaica in 2008. About four years ago it came to schools and Morrison, while attending the Convent of Mercy “Alpha”, was one of the first participants, and she has not looked back.

“I started in 2014 when I was in high school. I wasn't really doing anything, and I saw this man on the campus that I have never seen before and I asked him [what he was doing] and he said 'we are starting lacrosse in Jamaica and we starting on Tuesday'. And I said alright then I am going to join. I joined the Tuesday and that's history,” she recalled.

Morrison, who is one of the few certified coaches on the island, is oozing confidence that JC can take home the lacrosse title and make the sport more popular in the school and by extension, Jamaica.

“As somebody who was on the very first train of this sport when nobody knew what this sport was aside from it being in Teen Wolf [movie], I can tell you that this sport has grown,” she pointed out.

Lacrosse is a team sport of 10 persons played with a lacrosse stick and a lacrosse ball. It is the oldest organised sport in North America, with its origins in a tribal game played by eastern Woodlands indigenous peoples and by some plains Indian tribes in what is now the United States of America and Canada. The game has been extensively modified, reducing the violence of European colonisers to create its current collegiate and professional form.

“I want more light shed on the sport. If we had a lot more attention on it we would have a lot more support, because our problem is getting equipment for all the schools that we want to bring on board.

“I believe that we can get it further if we had money to do it, but unfortunately, we can't broaden it the way we want. A set of equipment, including the chest pad, elbow pad and the gloves, is like US$300; so we would want all of that for all the schools, especially the boys' schools,” noted Morrison.

“I just want to see the sport grow where it is recognisable so that people on the road can be like 'oh, that's a lacrosse stick', instead of saying a hockey that. I have gotten that a lot,” she explained.

On hand to observe Morrison's training session recently was Ian Andrews, JC past student, Champs Class Two 1500m bronze medallist in 1982, and former director of the Institute of Sports (INSPORTS), who is now a sports historian.

“She has been able to fit in comfortably with the boys. Now you are talking about boys who are going through puberty and the extra testosterone, that has not had any impact, because she carries herself with such dignity and the boys respect her and, believe it or not, look up to her even though she is shorter than them,” said Andrews with a smile.

“She is so professional, and the boys are coming out in droves because it is a new sport and not everybody can play football or athletics [but they still] want to leave saying they played something for their school,” he added.

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