If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know this girl is one of my best friends. I’m sharing part of Anna’s story because she’s an amazing human, but also to share her experiences as my dream is to make lacrosse more inclusive for anyone that wants to play. There is a clear lack of diversity in our sport for all people of color. The good news is there are are more stories being shared, more players being shown in media outlets for younger players to look up to. However, gaps still remain when every day I go to a practice, camp, or tournament I’m not made aware of my race or difference, and for many youth this is not the case. I hope that sharing Anna’s story to my audience will encourage younger players to keep playing despite their physical differences, but also bring awareness to organizations that are working everyday to help get more kids playing the game and changing the landscape of what lacrosse looks like. If you want to read another blog I read on my thoughts about diversity and the game, check it out here. I’ll never have all the answers, but I’ll always keep trying to make change. Anyways, back to Anna…
Just in case you needed to know her resume of how bad ass she is see below:
WPLL New England Command 2018 Champion
Korean National Lacrosse Team Captain
2x Captain Stanford Lacrosse
Tewaaraton Award Watch List, MPSF Newcomer of the Year
2x MPSF Champions, 3 NCAA tournament appearances
Also, in case you didn’t know, she happens to be a bad ass in life. She’s currently pursuing starting her own fashion company called Avanti, which is launching very soon. You’ll want a pair of their jeans, so click here to sign up for the mailing list when you can get some. She kicks butt in working out and eating clean, and has been motivating and inspiring me to be my self since the day we met. Keep reading to learn more about Anna and how race has played a role in her journey in the game. Keep tabs on Anna on Instagram @annakizzzm.
When did you start playing lacrosse?
I started playing lacrosse when I was 8 years old- this is considered late for someone living in the DC/MD/VA area!
When you first started playing, did you notice a lack of diversity on your team?
Growing up, there were 0-2 other Asian Americans on my teams. Of course I would notice this immediately- I think when most people of color walk into a room they are pretty cognizant of this- but when you become great friends with your teammates the weird feeling doesn't linger.
If not, was there ever a moment where it hit you like “there aren’t many people playing this sport that look like me?”
I was always conscious of being the only Asian person in the room or on the field growing up. It's a strange feeling- you think that everyone is probably wondering what you are doing there or that you must not be that good. However, I'm glad I continued to play all kinds of sports with my friends despite being in these situations. The list of sports growing up includes soccer, basketball, tennis, field hockey, and lacrosse.
As you got older in the sport, more intense with club teams and camps, were there any points where you felt out of place or made more aware of your race?
Absolutely. With M&D, we were at every major summer and fall tournament where there were hundreds of players and parents. Luckily, I don’t get my shyness from my parents and if they felt any weirdness at all, I'm thankful that they never showed it in front of me. That probably would have affected my play in a very negative way. My parents have supported me playing from the beginning and I wouldn't be here without their love and guidance.
Did you ever feel that this awareness affected how you played or your thoughts on your capabilities?
I never doubted my capabilities as a player because of this. I do believe I was a little shy on the field and didn't use my voice as much as I should have. It carried into the beginning of college but whenever I'm on the field now I don't stop talking to my teammates- whether they are right next to me or down the field! As a captain for Team Korea, I have a lot of responsibilities on and off the field and it requires constant communication to my teammates.
What made you decide to continue to pursue the game internationally? Professionally?
Honestly I love the game so much and getting better physically/mentally is exciting for me. I wanted to help grow the game in Korea by sharing what I learned from some of the best players and coaches in the US. However, I only play with that team once every two years. In regards to the professional level, I did not join the UWLX league for any specific reason, but one of my best friends (LYNDSEY MUNOZ) convinced me to join the WPLL draft last minute and here I am today. (I believe my previous work schedule was not compatible with the travel and commitment the UWLX required but I've made some career changes which have allowed me to participate in the WPLL- I believe in their mission and their amazing staff behind it.)
Now you’ve played at so many levels, what motivates you to keep going?
I received some messages from Asian American girls thanking me for being a role model to girls like them. I never really expected to be in this position or to have this role in women's lacrosse. I'm very thankful for the platform the WPLL has provided to help me inspire the next generation in bringing more diversity to the sport. Bring some friends with you to the first tryout- that's how you grow the game!
Also, maintaining a basic level of fitness is extremely important to me- so training with a purpose (in order to perform and compete at the highest levels) motivates and excites me!
What do you think needs to happen to create more diversity and inclusion in the sport?
There should be more youth programs in different areas to create more diversity and inclusion in the sport. It would be great if we had more people donate time, equipment, and money to help these organizations grow the game we all love so much.
What else do you want to do with fitness/lacrosse space going forward?
I want to work with clothing/equipment brands in the fitness and lacrosse space and show some diversity in media outlets!
What would you say to a girl who’s unsure if this sport is for her, feeling different from everyone else because of the color of her skin?
If you love whichever sport you're playing, nothing else should matter. The color of your skin does not mean you are better or worse than anyone else. There are a lot of things you won't be able to control including your teammates and how others perceive you- but what you can control is how hard you work. No one can take that away from you!