A kickstand jammed its way into a windblown patch of grass at the top of a hill on Radnor High School’s campus. Black rotating tires on a three-wheeled stroller stopped spinning as a small baby was hoisted from the seat and cradled in the arms of Aminta Ghilyard.
Ghilyard, the assistant coach with Eyekonz Sports League, sat and tended to the baby while its mother watched the game.
Danelle Leake brought her family out to watch a lacrosse tournament that the league’s head coach and founder, Jazmine A. Smith, invited everyone to see. Her daughter, Jayanna Leake, age 8, plays for Eyekonz Sports League.
“[Jazmine] gets these girls involved and it’s important to show them that there are opportunities outside of inner city mentalities,” said Leake.
Under the care of her grandparents, Smith grew up in Radnor. Smith has played lacrosse most of her life and understands the opportunities afforded to her by excelling at the sport. With training based out of Haddington’s Shepard Recreation Center, she extends her knowledge of the game to young girls in the West Philadelphia area, as well as those across the Pennsylvania area.
The youths typically meet at the center on Saturday afternoons to work out, but Smith recently took a Saturday away from practicing in the city to expose the girls to a lacrosse tournament at her alma mater on the Main Line, Radnor High School.
Jayanna Leake lives in Wynnefield. Playing for Eyekonz Sports League introduced her to lacrosse and field hockey for the first time. The experience has been a fun one.
“I like the fact that she supports us,” said Leake. “She helps me if I mess up or if I don’t get stuff.”
According to the U.S. Lacrosse participation report, more than 50 percent of lacrosse players are age 15 or younger. Roughly 13.3 percent of high school girls go on to compete at the college level. Of those, only 3.4 percent go on to play in NCAA Division I.
Though not all Eyekonz participants will reach skill levels that afford the opportunity to go to school on lacrosse scholarships, coaches prioritize the overall experience and possibilities for personal growth.
“Growing up playing field hockey afforded me social and educational opportunities,” said Ghilyard. “I’ve already seen growth in these young girls academically, socially and personally.”
– Text, images and video by Tonii Mackie