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Warriors Embracing Diversity in Lacrosse and Helping Grow the Game

There are a lot of life lessons learned on the field or in the box. Teamwork, problem solving and dealing with wins and losses are all skills that translate to the world outside of sports. 

Keeping kids in sports through their teenage years helps them further develop these skills and promoting inclusivity encourages kids to stay in sports. 

Head of Sports Partnerships at You Can Play, Heidi Johnston has worked with the Warriors and Canucks over the last season, consulting with both teams as they continue to create an inclusive space for fans.  

You Can Play provides educational resources and consulting for the Warriors, and Johnston says they are a great example of an organization that promotes inclusivity year-round. 

“I think that they’re really trying to be authentic and trying to make sure that all of those in the community feel welcome, whether it’s to a game on Pride Night or not a Pride Game. I know they do some things internally to make sure the staff is supported and that everybody on staff feels included regardless of whether the staff is part of the community or not. I think that they’re headed in the right direction for sure,” Johnston said. 

The Warriors have different touchpoints of visibility in the community, including a spot in the Vancouver Pride Parade and Johnston says those things are important things for young lacrosse players to see. 

“I have loved working with both groups; they’re really, honestly doing the work. They should really be proud of their efforts and everything they do within their smaller community and with the broader community,” Johnston said. 

“There are so many lessons in sports and for a kid to feel different and want to quit because of that I think that’s a huge, missed opportunity. It’s also an opportunity to learn about allyship, those kids who might not identify within the community, especially as we talk more about trans policy and non-binary individuals.”  

Lacrosse player and Warriors fan Finch Philbrook is an advocate for women’s lacrosse and the values of growing the game align with the Warriors. 

They started playing lacrosse 15 years ago following in their brother’s footsteps and fell in love with it. The 21-year-old is finishing up their last year of Junior lacrosse in Coquitlam and also plays Senior Salmonbellies. 

Philbrook has attended a Warriors’ Pride Night in the past and says it’s a great night out to meet up with family and friends to catch NLL action right in their backyard. 

“It was a lot of fun that there was a day for people like me, but then even without a Pride Night it didn’t really feel like I was left out because everybody was there to watch lacrosse, everybody was having fun, the environment was electric, nobody cares who you are unless you’re a Warriors’ fan. So, I’m out there being a Warriors fan,” Philbrook said. 

June is Pride Month, which commemorates and celebrates the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, but Philbrook represents the community throughout the year. 

“I’ve always got something rainbow on me, I strung my stick with rainbow mesh, I’ve got rainbow tape on it as well, so I don’t think I’m going to be doing anything out of the ordinary for Pride, I’m 100% throughout the year,” Philbrook said. 

Warriors’ forward Kevin Crowley has taught many young lacrosse players through his company Fusion West Lacrosse, including Philbrook, who attended one of his camps a few years ago. Crowley’s approach to inclusion has created a strong sense of community with Philbrook and many other youth lacrosse players.  

“He’s a solid coach and one of the main people in the area growing women’s lacrosse,” Philbrook said. “Some of my best friends that I hang out with now are other coaches that I met at Fusion through him.” 

Growing women’s box lacrosse is important to Philbrook, who is involved with the Women’s Global Box Lacrosse Network alongside lacrosse pioneer Michelle Bowyer. Philbrook is also in the process of helping spearhead a women’s box lacrosse team for the Philippines and is working with the president from Team Philippines.  

Philbrook’s dedication to the sport and the inclusive growth of lacrosse is a testament to the impact of supportive and equitable environments.  

The Warriors and Philbrook continue to inspire young athletes to stay involved and embrace diversity in the lacrosse community to help grow the game. 

Vancouver Warriors