Are the outliers “in?”
History was made in March when African-American swimmers finished first, second and third in a single event in the women’s Division I NCAA championship.
For a long time, when it came to African Americans and sports, it was a safe bet to follow the money. The trail ended at what it cost to play. Or what one could get paid for playing.
That’s one reason black and brown faces are so prominent in football and basketball. Besides being the most popular traditionally, these sports offer the most full-ride scholarships in college and the quickest road to riches in the pros.
But outliers are on the come-up, found in “action sports” such as motocross, skateboarding and Rollerblading; country club sports such as golf and tennis; and Olympic sports including speed skating (Shani Davis) and gymnastics (Gabby Douglas).
Don’t be surprised as another contender enters into view like a thoroughbred charging from behind to close ground on the leaders. This newest contender for black athletes was created by Native Americans and is considered this continent’s oldest sport: lacrosse.
According to a survey by governing body US Lacrosse, 99 colleges added varsity programs between 2013 and 2014. Participants in lacrosse nationally have tripled to more than 770,000 over the past 14 years, and 55 percent of players are under age 15. What’s more, the sport is moving past its traditional base on the East Coast: The University of Denver last weekend became the first school west of the Appalachians to win the Division I men’s title.
“The growth is faster than I thought it was going to be,” coach Bill Tierney told reporters. He led Princeton to six national titles before taking the job at Denver in 2009.
“It’s out there,” he continued. “There’s tons of teams playing great lacrosse.”
There aren’t a ton of black players … yet. The biggest wave is a few years away.
But the ones on the field currently are hard to miss for reasons other than their color. Especially Duke University junior Myles Jones, who has been compared to the game’s greatest of all time, NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown.