For eight years, the UTSA Women’s Club Lacrosse team has sat in limbo. Since its founding in 2008, the team has never played competitively and has struggled with a shortage of players and a lack of direction; however, changes within the program are moving the team forward.
In the spring of 2016, the decision was made to dissolve UTSA’s Women’s Club Lacrosse, but one member of the team wasn’t going down without a fight. Throughout this semester, senior public health major Shakira Wingate has been on a mission to keep Women’s Club Lacrosse alive at UTSA.
In the fall of 2014, her first year at UTSA, Wingate joined lacrosse with no prior experience and little knowledge of the sport.
“I came out there one day for practice in November,” Wingate recalled. “I practiced on the practice stick. I bought my stick and everything the night of, and after that, I was committed. I was really pumped.”
Unsurprisingly, Wingate was upset when she heard about the decision to end the program. The decision came in late January of this year as the result of many team members’ upcoming graduations and university transfers. Despite the ending of the program, Wingate took it upon herself to round up girls who were still interested in playing.
In her first years on the team, Wingate recalled that only about five to seven girls would come out for practices. During these practices, she said, “We were just going out in the field passing, doing drills. There was never any communication with other schools to scrimmage or anything.”
That lack of competition was something she wanted to change.
Having never been in a team leadership position or played a game of lacrosse in her life, Wingate was fueled by her longing to get on the field and play.
“In the past, (team leaders) didn’t want it as much,” Wingate explained. “I want to play games, so I needed to make sure to get players.”
Initially, Wingate wasn’t alone in her desire to keep the team alive, but before the fall semester began, she was down to a one-woman team.
Wingate, who works at the UTSA Recreation Center, set up a few informational meetings which began the first week of classes. Describing the first meeting, she recalled being unsure of what to say to the 15 potential recruits. She ultimately decided to give it to them straight.
“We can play games, we can scrimmage, we can do all of that; All we need is players,” Wingate said.
“You can turn in your papers with me, and you can become part of the team. If you want to be committed, you can come play with us. If not, you can take your papers outside. This is either for you, or it’s not for you. You’re either going to walk by faith or you’re not.”
According to Wingate,the meeting was short: some girls walked out, but others signed their paperwork and stayed committed to the team. As of this week, the women’s lacrosse team now has 25 girls on their roster–all new recruits from this semester–and a scrimmage win against St. Edward’s under their belt.
Wingate is excited about how far the team has come in such a short time, but she doesn’t take all of the credit.
“If it wasn’t for those girls from that first informational saying, ‘Yes, I want to do it’ and them putting in the effort and wanting to step as leaders–I couldn’t do it by myself,” she explained. “I just had to be the one to put the vision in everybody’s mind and actually believe in what I was saying.”
Wingate’s charismatic and welcoming personality undoubtedly played a large part in her successful recruitment process. With her as team captain and the pro bono work of Head Coach Blake Radetsky, the team seems to have really come together.
This season, the team will be playing provisionally due to their brand-new competitive status, but they plan on playing seven games rather than just the four they are required to play.