Soccer wasn’t Eliza Brinkman’s sport. She had been asking her mom, Talia Brinkman, about trying out field hockey, but Talia couldn’t find any opportunities.
Lacrosse, though — that was a different story.
Talia had played for five years growing up, from eighth grade through high school.
“I played for a school on the East Coast, a little private school that didn’t have a football team, but we had really strong girls sports,” Talia says. “And our field hockey team and our lacrosse team — I’m not going to compare them to Texas football — but they were the strongest teams at the school, so they got all of that spotlight.”
She took Eliza, then a first grader at Moss Haven Elementary, to a free clinic hosted by Dallas City Lacrosse.
The program was started by East Dallas residents Pete Hoffman and Varina Lin.
Hoffman, originally from upstate New York, had grown up playing the sport and continued as an undergraduate at TCU on the club team. Lin played on the Division I women’s team at George Washington University.
Both parents of Mockingbird Elementary students, they had always talked about how great it would be when their daughters could play lacrosse together. They were aiming for 2022 as the year they would start a team for young girls in Dallas.
But the COVID-19 pandemic altered their plans.
Around October, Hoffman and Lin’s families were going stir crazy.
“So we went over to Mockingbird Elementary, and we trained our girls, and we had a really great experience,” Hoffman says.
While Hoffman had coached kids in sports before, he relied on Lin for her experience as a former player.
“Men’s and women’s — completely different rules. Completely,” Lin says. “I mean it is two different types of sports.”
The next week, a daughter of one of Hoffman’s acquaintances came to play. They kept training the girls for a few weeks, and then the parents started talking about getting the team started.
It was earlier than Hoffman expected but still possible. In just over a week, he built a website, made social media accounts and reached out to more contacts to invite more girls to play.
They held a clinic at Glencoe Park for girls in kindergarten through second grade who were interested in lacrosse. Of the 32 who signed up, 24 decided to join the two teams: one for kindergarteners and one for first and second graders.
Now, just three years after Dallas City Lacrosse began, the program has grown to include more than 100 girls in kindergarten through fourth grade who are zoned to Dallas ISD schools or those in the Lake Highlands High School feeder pattern. Next year, they’ll have a team for fifth graders.
Alex Fergus, whose daughter was one of the first 24 to join the organization, says the team gave the girls something safe to do outside during the pandemic, and it has helped them grow their confidence.
Plus, it’s provided young girls an opportunity to participate in a sport not offered by their schools.
“We’ve got over 100 girls who never would have picked up a stick,” Fergus says.
There are about 15 adults on staff of the nonprofit organization, and most of them are women.
Brinkman is one of them. As soon as Hoffman learned she used to play, he asked if she wanted to coach.
“It really brought me back to that joy of how much fun it was to play for a team and being part of a team,” she says.
Dallas City Lacrosse plays teams from the suburbs and nearby private schools, such as Hockaday and Episcopal School of Dallas. The hope for the program, Hoffman says, is to grow it to a club team for high schoolers across Dallas, including in East Dallas and Lake Highlands.
“It’s just amazing to watch these girls play, the first year playing, never having picked up a stick, never having heard of lacrosse,” Lin says. “And then all of a sudden, they love the sport. They want to play. At practice, they’re always asking for more time.”
Dallas City Lacrosse is hosting a free clinic at Glencoe Park on Sept. 24. Learn more at dallascitylacrosse.org