Hank Bethel – Bucknell Lacrosse

“I’ve been playing lacrosse for 16 years. Team sports have always taught me valuable lessons of hard work, empathy, and leadership. Through lacrosse, I’ve made a lot of friends across the country, at every level. I’ve been blessed with opportunities to coach and train younger players. I’ve played with kids from all walks of life and competed against schools from New England, all the way to San Francisco and Arizona. I am truly grateful for what lacrosse has done for me in my life. Lacrosse has introduced me to tight communities where I have grown with my religion and friendships, with individuals who I have played with and against.”

“Growing up in Baltimore and Anne Arundel Counties in Maryland, I was able to play with a lot of great players. I played on national teams across the country. I spent 2 years on a great club team from the Michigan area. They taught me a different style of lacrosse, and they invited me to their team with open arms. They were great teammates, and tough competitors. I played on a club team called Nations United for three summers, who’s main purpose was to showcase diversity in lacrosse by highlighting elite players from different ethnic, cultural, religious, geographic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. They taught me the diversity in the sport of lacrosse that I have never seen before.”

“Being black in a predominantly white sport has sometimes made things uncomfortable. At any given tournament, there were only a handful of other black lacrosse players on the fields. Alongside that, there were always stereotypes about black lacrosse players, that they are only athletic and “raw”. Black lacrosse players in some peoples eyes are only seen as useful defensive players or midfielders because of their “low lacrosse IQ” or poor stick skills. It was always frustrating watching kids who I’ve played with, be written up as a “raw player with a high potential as a great D1 defensive midfielder.” I chose to play defense at a young age because I enjoyed it, but I imagine being told and seeing across the internet that black lacrosse players can only be defensive players limits those who would want to enter the sport.”

“Besides the small nuances that are portrayed to black lacrosse players, I have been lucky to not have experienced much blatant racism in my years playing lacrosse. There were some instances, like when in middle school, an opposing coach refused to shake my hand, and those of my black teammates, in the line up after the game. I didn’t think much of it then, but now, looking back on it, it’s upsetting to think that someone would not think of me enough as a person to shake my hand because of the color of my skin.”

“However, I have had many positive experiences. I have been able to coach for a program in Baltimore called Charm City Lacrosse, that helps provide equipment and coaching to help spread the game to Baltimore youth. Playing for the Nations United lacrosse team as an ambassador for diversity and excellence in lacrosse was special.”

“Being black in the lacrosse community has not always been easy. Over my years playing, people have told me that I am “the whitest black person they have ever met” or that “I am not black enough.” To me, that’s garbage. Being black is not a personality, and playing a predominantly white sport does not make you less of a black person by any means. I think that’s something that younger black kids who want to play lacrosse, or any other predominantly white sport should know. I will never let my sport define who I am or who I will become as a person.”

“I hope that people will learn to be more empathetic and compassionate in sports and in the world. I want people to feel comfortable playing a sport that may seem unavailable to them, because, for me, sports have taught me lessons that will help me beyond the field, and I want everyone to be able to have the same opportunities that I did.”

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