All of the equipment — sticks, balls, goals, mouthpieces, goggles — has been donated by contacts McGarvie made throughout her playing career. The only expense incurred to start the program was uniforms, which Morton said cost a few hundred dollars.
“She probably saved us four or five thousand dollars,” Morton said of the donated equipment.
When she took the field with her players for the first time, McGarvie had to begin with the sport’s most basic principles, which is why it does not matter that the Knights practice on a field that lacks lacrosse boundaries (their five scheduled games this season are all at other schools because McGarvie wants her players to see fan turnout at games).
With financial and athletic backgrounds that are similarly limited, Ballou players do not have amenities that those at other programs might consider necessities — footwear, for instance. Some players practice in boots because those were the shoes they wore to school that day.
So much of the sport is completely new to many of the Knights.
“I just knew that it was played with balls and sticks. That was it,” said sophomore Tayliyah Dixon. “This is the first time I’m playing with a team and sticking with it. I need to learn how not to give up.”
The ease with which lacrosse players are accustomed to cradling and passing the ball are still new to some of the Knights. So, too, is the running.
“You may be in pain, but it’s fun. It’s a workout,” said sophomore Regina Hawkins, one of the most dedicated players on the team. “It makes me want to do what [McGarvie] did. She’s a role model. It makes you want to have a better future than what you have now by using lacrosse.”
It’s a competitive culture shock for McGarvie, who, growing up in southern New Jersey, recalled as many as 50 players coming out for a varsity lacrosse team. At Ballou, meantime, 18 girls have come out, but never all on the same day. Some practices have as few as three players, while 10 on the field is a successful practice.
“It’s been tough. I have to change my expectations,” she said. “Now, there’s no competition. Everyone who wants to play is going to. When a girl doesn’t show up, what do I do? ‘You’re suspended?’ I can’t do that. Here, you can’t be too tough because you want them to like the sport.”
That point became clear to many of them when McGarvie took the team to the Duke-Georgetown game on March 12. Several players talked about how awestruck they were by how the collegians worked the ball around the field. McGarvie is also stressing to her players the ability lacrosse can have on improving players’ college applications.
“A lot of their eyes opened,” McGarvie said. “It was like, ‘Wow, this is what this can be?’ ”