Diverse Collins Hill 6th-graders breaking down stereotypes in GLL

 

      Georgia Swarm forward Shayne Jackson did his friend Jeff Olivo a favor. Jackson caught up with the 12-year-old Collins Hill Gwinnett Lacrosse League team and gave them a brief lesson on the nuances of box lacrosse.

“We put on a little box clinic and did some shooting drills at the tennis courts,” Jackson said. “It was fun.  “As long as you’re playing, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from.”

 

     Olivo is the former strength coach for the Swarm, so Jackson was happy to help. Olivo, a native of Brewster, N.Y., does his part to spread interest in the game he’s been involved with since high school. Lacrosse was far more developed than that it is in Georgia now. But Olivo says it’s one of the fastest growing youth sports in the state.“I’ve been able to be a part of it for the last six or seven years,” Olivo said. “I’ve been wanting to contribute from a coaching standpoint.”One thing Olivo and his youth coach partner Scott Leonardo are proud of is the diverse backgrounds of their players. Including his son, Jake, of Hispanic descent, the team includes eight black players, one Asian player and one South African player.While lacrosse may be developing in the greater-Atlanta area, Olivo said the culture — at least in boys leagues — is still similar to what it was when he played, mostly white.“I would have to say numbers are pretty similar then to what they are now,” Olivo said. “It’s (90 percent) Caucasian and all the other minorities fall into that 10 percent or so. You can see that in MLL, and you can see that in NLL as well. The numbers are pretty skewed, and I’d love to see it grow in more ways than one.”Olivo tries to spread the game in more than youth sports. He is a board member and strength coach for the Puerto Rican national lacrosse team.For Puerto Ricans, Olivo said, lacrosse was an alien sport just two years ago. Now Olivo helps train competitive players who compete internationally.

 

     Olivo is the former strength coach for the Swarm, so Jackson was happy to help. Olivo, a native of Brewster, N.Y., does his part to spread interest in the game he’s been involved with since high school. Lacrosse was far more developed than that it is in Georgia now. But Olivo says it’s one of the fastest growing youth sports in the state.  “I’ve been able to be a part of it for the last six or seven years,” Olivo said. “I’ve been wanting to contribute from a coaching standpoint.”

 

     One thing Olivo and his youth coach partner Scott Leonardo are proud of is the diverse backgrounds of their players. Including his son, Jake, of Hispanic descent, the team includes eight black players, one Asian player and one South African player.

While lacrosse may be developing in the greater-Atlanta area, Olivo said the culture — at least in boys leagues — is still similar to what it was when he played, mostly white.

“I would have to say numbers are pretty similar then to what they are now,” Olivo said. “It’s (90 percent) Caucasian and all the other minorities fall into that 10 percent or so. You can see that in MLL, and you can see that in NLL as well. The numbers are pretty skewed, and I’d love to see it grow in more ways than one.”

Olivo tries to spread the game in more than youth sports. He is a board member and strength coach for the Puerto Rican national lacrosse team.

For Puerto Ricans, Olivo said, lacrosse was an alien sport just two years ago. Now Olivo helps train competitive players who compete internationally.

 

     Georgia Swarm forward Lyle Thompson, who proudly represents his First Nation heritage on social media, and his brother have trademark braids that dangle from the back of their helmets.

Thompson, while he agrees with Olivo’s assessment of lacrosse’s stereotype, is optimistic about the direction of where the game is going, at least at the collegiate and professional levels.

“I think it’s changed a lot, especially over the last eight years,” Thompson said. “When I was in college, it was a totally different scene. What me, Miles and my cousin Ty did in college brought awareness to our culture and people interested in learning the history of this game. How much more Native Americans, blacks are in the game now. It’s not what it once was, a preppy, white, rich sport.”

 

 

 

Side note: Jeff Olivia has been a strong supporter of Puerto Rico Lacrosse. His participation dates from the earliest of the program's establishment.  Jeff has also coordinated community projects which has helped raise awareness for Puerto Rico Lacrosse. 

The original article may be seen at Gwinnett Daily Post 

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