written by Nicole Cush –
This year, the Asheville High School Cougars ushered in a new brotherhood, the Asheville High School Lacrosse Team.
The community long awaited this addition, some eagerly, others begrudgingly. Lacrosse, a Native American sport, has traditionally catered to white elites, and supporters often got the side-eye when they spoke of the upcoming season at the start of the school year.
But the Asheville High School Lacrosse team burst onto the scene, boasting a roster of athletes that hardly resembles the homogenous look that some expected. Some assumed it would be a team of white males only and refused to support it. But with numerous students of color and a female goalie, the AHS Cougar Lacrosse team were the talk of the hallways for their inaugural season.
For those who don’t know lacrosse, it can be described as a hybrid of hockey, soccer, and football, sprinkled with a bit of field hockey.
The team is led by a gentle giant of man, Coach Luke Mackenzie. This high-energy, red-headed Thor is passionate about the sport, but ultimately he wanted to ascertain that the team followed a solid code of ethics, on and off the field.
“Since I was a junior in high school, I had this idea that I would be very content being a high school counselor by day, lacrosse coach by afternoon. I was very surprised when I was approached about the possibility of an AHS team. Though it wasn’t exactly in the order I planned, I knew I couldn’t let this possibility go. When we got the green light from the school, I immediately got started on assembling a rock-star coaching staff, holding interest meetings for students, getting a hold of equipment, finding field time and locations, finalizing our practice and game schedules, and designing our snazzy uniforms.”
Mackenzie explains how his love for the sport started.
“When I was in third grade my friend Patrick convinced me to come out and play. It didn’t take too much convincing when he described lacrosse. On my very first day our coaches educated us about the sports history as a revered Native American ceremony that had been played on this continent long before the arrival of Europeans in North America. I was taught that lacrosse is the “Medicine Game” and has the unique ability to heal one’s mind, body, and soul with dedication. By the end of that first season, I was hooked.”
He adds that, after the team’s first season, “The positivity and support we have had from our parents is unlike anything I have encountered in my playing or coaching experience.”
So what can the Asheville community expect from the AHS Cougar Lacrosse team next year?
“We’ll be putting together fall programming for athletes interested in trying lacrosse or trying to continue their skill development. We’ll have a strength and conditioning program for athletes to prepare their bodies for the spring season.”
It doesn’t matter if you are 6’5″ or 4’2″, the stick and ability to master it is the great equalizer. Anyone can find a role to play on a lacrosse team.
And as for a girls’ team, Mackenzie stated, “Support for a girls’ lacrosse team continues to grow. I look forward to the day when our sport will be complete and AHS and our sisters can play on a team of their own. Until that day arrives, any female athlete interested in playing by the boys’ lacrosse rules can find a home on our team.”