This January, BearLax [founder Theresa Sherry] launched The Tenacity Project, a non-profit dedicated to advancing the sport of women’s lacrosse by creating a competitive environment where players and coaches are empowered to reach their highest potential. Sherry and her team are on a mission to not only grow participation in girls’ lacrosse, but to teach life lessons ranging from self-advocacy and leadership to mental toughness and tenacity.
The Tenacity Project, formerly BearLax, began in 2007 to provide opportunities for Bay Area girls lacrosse players to compete at the highest levels. The organization has since expanded dramatically, with nearly 25 elite teams based in California and Texas and 4 new teams in Oregon. In addition to club teams, they run camps, coach development, community outreach and college counseling. This year, Tenacity’s introducing 20 select teams in California, with the goal of making lacrosse more locally accessible for players from 1st through 12th grade, giving girls a chance to compete and learn in the off-season without the travel demands of an elite team. Now, with nearly 900 hundred people in the Tenacity family, the non-profit aims to expand these opportunities by minimizing the gap between those who can afford to play sports and those who cannot. In 2015 alone, the organization provided $60,000 in financial aid to 64 girls.
Tenacity hopes to raise the stakes in 2016, giving out more scholarships, building their coaching staff and partnering with communities to secure field access and build a positive environment for youth sports. “It is not only possible, but it’s crucial for young girls and women to be both smart and fit,” Sherry says. “To get good grades in school, and to excel as athletes. We say yes you can play multiple sports, you can and must learn to advocate for yourself with teachers, coaches, and bosses. You can find a fit for yourself in the college process as a student, athlete and person. And you can be a champion regardless of your ability to pay for activities.”
The Tenacity Project is run by former college players and coaches including All Americans, World Cup Champions, and Conference MVPs. The founder of the Tenacity Project, Theresa Sherry, was a three time All American, two time National Champion, and Ivy League Player of the Year for Princeton University. Sherry won an Under 19 World Cup Championship playing alongside Tenacity Texas Director, Amy Markwort, and under the tutelage of Tenacity National Director, Wendy Kridel. Kridel was inducted into the Baltimore Hall of Fame where she won seven state championships during 25 years of coaching high school lacrosse.
The Tenacity coaches include women and men who have played for 28 different college programs. At least 14 coaches have won conference championships as players, 13 have been named All American, 14 have been on All conference teams, 7 have been League Players of the year, and there are 5 coaches who have spent time in the US National Teams system. There are nine individuals on staff who have coached, or are currently coaching college teams, and every coach has worked hard to transition from good former players to true teachers of the game.
“We’re a movement,” Sherry says. “We’re a very driven group of women and men, but really it’s all about empowering the girls. We’re trying to make them better than we ever were, to get them to make a difference in their communities, in their worlds.”