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Coach Diana Oduho Advocates For Racial Diversity & Representation In Lacrosse

Diana Oduho | Co-Head Coach | Varsity Lacrosse Coach at Xavier College Preparatory

I want the next generation of BIPOC players to have more than a handful of people to look up to. The next generation needs more role models that look like them.

Diana Oduho

Co-Head Coach

Varsity Lacrosse Coach at Xavier College Preparatory

× The interview with Diana Oduho was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

Tell us about your role as the Varsity Lacrosse Coach at Xavier College Preparatory. What is your coaching philosophy?

So XCP is an all-girls school here in downtown Phoenix. I am the co-head coach and this will be my second year coaching. My first season as a coach got cut off due to COVID but it’s been great setting the foundation to become a competitive team. I’ve also loved that as a coach I get to stay involved in the game after playing at the college level and helping to mould my players on and off the field.

During the day I work for a marketing company as an account manager and coach in the evenings. Right now we’ve been working to adjust with COVID and the regulations to make sure we are keeping our players safe. My lacrosse days right now are planning small groups for fall ball which will start up within the next few weeks and working on individual skill-building. In a season as a coach my role includes:

  1. Development and advancement of the program
  2. Coaching
  3. Creating practice plans
  4. Developing and implementing game strategies

My coaching philosophy is to lead by example and to instill a positive work ethic and values in my players as well as build their skills and potential. Give 100%, get 100%…I teach my girls that the work and effort you put in is what you get out. Fundamentals are everything, especially in lacrosse. It’s important to build those skills and encourage players to get out of their comfort zones… that’s how they improve as players.

I want to create a fun environment that fosters a sense of teamwork, as well as accountability and hard work. These are life skills that these girls can take beyond the field and that’s what it’s all about. John Wooden said it best: “A good coach can change a game. A great coach can change a life.”

You’ve been a very influential voice in the discussion on racism in lacrosse. How do you try to push the conversation on racial equality within your team and league?

Pushing the conversation for me is just having those tough conversations, to begin with. Lacrosse isn’t really a diverse sport. The majority of lacrosse players are white, and as a black woman who is part of the minority, I feel a sense of responsibility to make it easier for the next generation that looks like me.

I have been using my personal platform lately to discuss the lack of diversity and accessibility in the sport. Racial inequality goes well beyond sports, but teaching my girls about it and encouraging them to educate themselves on the topic is a great first step to allyship (to their POC teammates/friends) and helping create change.

Inclusion has to be the standard, not just a buzzword In our league there have been great strides made in an effort to grow the game as a whole here in the valley and bring lacrosse to more people.

Lacrosse, originally Tewaarathon and Baggataway, was created by Indigenous peoples. How do you feel like rerouting lacrosse in Indigenous culture nationally and recognizing the history of the game more would help combat racism that occurs within the sport?

It’s just about knowing the history and honouring it. As I said, lacrosse is a predominantly white sport and racism in the sport usually is against non-white players. I have read about so many instances of racial incidents’ and slurs made my white players against black and brown players.

I think that many lacrosse players are truly ignorant of the history of the game. It’s a predominantly white sport but not a sport for white people only.

This is the Creator’s game; a game created by Native Americans. I think if people realized more of the history and culture, they would think twice and realize that this is a sport for everyone, not just for the white and rich like it’s made out to be. White people and all of us really, are able to play this game because of Native Americans.

You’ve mentioned before that while playing and coaching lacrosse, you’ve noticed a lot of Black women are often put on defense rather than attack or midfield. Tell us a little bit about why you think this is and how other coaches can be more aware of this.

Yeah definitely. I can count on one hand the number of black girls that I’ve seen play offence. I’ve spoken with other POCs who play and they’ve recognized the same trend. It definitely makes you wonder why the majority of black lacrosse players end up on defence.

For the most part, black players are already at a disadvantage coming into the sport late. It isn’t that accessible and it is very expensive so when you compare a white person who’s been playing since they were in elementary school against a black player who just picked up a stick for the first time in high school there’s definitely going to be a disparity in stick skills, and I think sometimes coaches are quick to throw players on defense or run them as a defensive midfielder due to their speed and athleticism.

If coaches can allow them time to develop those stick skills and just give them a chance there would be many more black players on the offensive side of the ball. However, there are also black players who are very skilled and still get overshadowed because they are just seen as an athlete, not necessarily a lacrosse player. Coaches should not only focus on black players being fast or strong but as a true lacrosse athlete.

What are your hopes for lacrosse culture in the future? Specifically, what are your hopes for the next generation of BIPOC players?

I hope that the future of the sport is more diverse. There have been great steps made for lacrosse to be more inclusive, but I want the next generation of BIPOC players to have more than a handful of people to look up to. The next generation needs more role models that look like them. If a young BIPOC player sees someone playing at the highest lacrosse level you know that they think? “Wow if they can do it, I can do it too.”

More so, my hope is once we get more BIPOC players into the sport that they are able to stay. That starts with more job opportunities in coaching, as well as more accessibility at the youth level. More BIPOC players at the youth level will mean more at the high school level and eventually into college.

Lacrosse is extremely expensive and on top of that not often available in urban areas. These are huge barriers. Companies need to make equipment more affordable and clubs/organizations can’t charge an arm and a leg to play club. When that happens a lot of doors will be opened. There is a lot of potential out there and all they need is a stick and an opportunity.

What are 3 of your most memorable lacrosse moments thus far?

  1. Becoming regular-season conference champs in 2019
  2. Getting first-team all-conference honors in my last year playing in college (2019)
  3. Winning my first overtime game as a coach at Xavier 

Emma Greer Emma's Final Thoughts

Diana Oduho has been a much-needed voice for racial representation & diversity in the lacrosse community. These conversations are extremely important in changing the culture of lacrosse and refocusing back on the root of the game. Diana brings up many greats points in regard to the lack of diversity in lacrosse stemming from many factors, including the lack of acknowledgement of its history and the lack of opportunity and accessibility. I’m glad Diana has continued with Lacrosse as a coach after her successful playing career because I truly believe she’s a good role model and making a great impact on lacrosse culture. Diana and I hope that this interview will continue the conversations on racial equality across the lacrosse community. 

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