TZ Boys Varsity Lacrosse Coach Andrew McIntosh was one of seven coaches tapped to serve on a panel discussion during the 2020 Intercollegiate Men’s Lacrosse Coaches Association Virtual Conference last week. The session, “From the Ground Up: A Coaches Conversation on Race, Social Justice and Why it Matters in the Game of Lacrosse,” was attended by roughly 120 college and high school coaches from across the nation and focused on raising awareness of diversity, equity and inclusion and offering resources and encouragement for coaches.
The panelists included high school coaches, college coaches, and international level coaches. The NILCA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee launched in September. “NILCA sent an email about the new committee to coaches last summer. As a coach-educator, I have an obligatory responsibility to help student-athletes grow as human beings, which includes weaving diversity, equity and inclusion into team culture. This was an opportunity to make real change, not only in lacrosse, but in using athletics as a platform to build life skills that transcend the field,” explains McIntosh, who is also the Enrichment and Technology teacher at South Orangetown Middle School. “So, I submitted a letter of interest and was interviewed before being selected to serve. We meet every Monday night and have had guest speakers and diversity practitioners present. Developing this community of coaches has been a really profound experience. Michael Black, head coach for boys lacrosse at Culver Academies in Indiana chairs our committee. He has done an outstanding job and works tirelessly to help his fellow coaches.”
As a coach, teacher and former high school and collegiate athlete, McIntosh believes that engaging student-athletes in discussion about diversity, equity and inclusion is critical. “We all have different experiences and battles that we face. Sports provides students with opportunities to find a way through these challenges and find passion in their lives. Athletics can be life-changing and even life-saving, which is why this work is so important,” he says.
Rethinking how coaches approach a code of conduct or accountability agreement with student-athletes is part of the process. “We have to help our student-athletes develop a deeper sense of empathy and understanding of how we act and speak makes a huge difference in creating an inclusive environment,” notes McIntosh. “It’s reframing the focus on how it feels to be the person hearing the derogatory language rather than focusing on the penalties as the only consequence. Our committee also discussed how to support players if they are a victim of derogatory language.” Personal growth is a key component of athletics, and that includes appreciating and valuing people whose experiences and backgrounds are different from your own.”
And personal growth isn’t just for the athletes. “I continue to learn how to engage in these conversations, being aware that it’s a process. The chair of our committee said it’s hard to develop muscle-memory to have these talks because they change over time which is why lifelong learning about diversity, equity, and inclusion is paramount,” McIntosh adds.
“Coach McIntosh is a perfect example of a transformational coach. His work on this committee is applauded and proves that Coach Mc is more than a lacrosse coach, he is a leader who is transforming the lives of young people by creating thought and dialogue needed today,” says Director of Physical Education, Health and Athletics Bill Pilla. “Tappan Zee Athletics is composed of a diverse group of student-athletes, coaches and staff. Our strength lies in our differences, not our similarities.”