Bringing lacrosse to the greater Detroit area

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Aldred (middle) and some of her players embracing on the field. She is a new addition to the OU Club Lacrosse team, and works to provide access to sports for kids in Detroit. Photo / Summer Aldred

Michael Pearce, Editor-in-Chief

Lacrosse is a predominantly white sport, with high barriers of entry for anyone without significant disposable income.

One of Oakland University’s Club Lacrosse players is aiming to bring the sport to those who typically aren’t able to compete due to financial constraints or limited exposure to the game.

Summer Aldred is a former lacrosse player from Denison University in Ohio. After tearing her meniscus and dealing with residual patella tendon injuries, she had a few years of eligibility left. Now, she’s coming to Oakland University to join their club team while working on her second degree. 

“I’m getting my second bachelor’s degree in exercise science, and then going to work toward getting my master’s in athletic training,” she said. 

Aldred helped form the first girl’s lacrosse team in the Detroit area at Cass Tech High School, after the school only introduced a boy’s lacrosse team.

“Detroit public schools haven’t had any lacrosse up until the spring of 2019,” she said. “The girls of course were upset that they didn’t want a girls program off the bat and just wanted to focus on boys. I ended up just hosting clinics, not associated with Cass during the spring, because it wasn’t fair that the girls didn’t get to play and the boys did.”

The inaugural girls season was cut short due to COVID-19, but Aldred and the other coaches received overwhelming interest, with more than 65 kids at tryouts. 

She also has spoken on active allyship for athletes during a webinar through a US Lacrosse national panel. 

“It was a really cool opportunity to speak with other people that have very similar experiences and work in other disadvantaged communities,” Aldred said. “Lacrosse has been so privileged for so long, so we talked about how coaches can give back and expand diversity.” 

Aldred never grew up with lacrosse around her, but she was “athletic enough to just pick up the game,” according to her. Giving kids the opportunities that she didn’t is something she is focused on.

“Women’s sports in general are not as well-funded,” Aldred said. “There aren’t as many opportunities for young women to play sports, especially at an accessible level.”

Through her coaching, she has seen kids receive scholarships at the National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) level and the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) Division II level.

“Being able to provide something that they wouldn’t have otherwise had an opportunity to fall in love with has been something that’s really rewarding for me,” Aldred said. “It’s been awesome to see kids get that opportunity to get money, go to college and to do something that they love.”

As for the future of lacrosse in the greater Detroit area, Aldred sees a place and desire for more lacrosse teams.

“I’m really lucky, I’m a cofounder of Detroit United Lacrosse, which is a nonprofit arm that does a lot of the outreach and clinics,” she said. “We had a clinic with University of Michigan varsity coach Hannah Nielsen, and we had 20 girls there. We just keep seeing that interest, people want to invest in lacrosse.”