Before Marguerite Lanaux accepted the position as head coach for Howard University’s Lacrosse team, the only all black collegiate team in the country almost saw the end of their nine-year program. When former head coach, Melinda Vaughn, stepped down at the end of last season, Vaughn, she left the team with great uncertainty. No one knew if a head coach would be found in time and in what direction the program was headed. The 2005 fall season was quickly approaching and the team and faculty did not know when or if the lacrosse team would see a tenth.
The unappealing head coaching position left many of the team members almost certain that the program was about to end. “It seemed hopeless," said Dominique Browner, a junior and current member of the team. "The position only pays a part time salary without benefits, we’ve always had a losing season and they would have to face the challenges from our athletic department as well as from the white dominated lacrosse world."
The odds of finding a coach were most certainly against the team and many of them could see their dreams and aspirations for the upcoming season quickly fading. However, these feelings of uncertainty and fear ended when Lanaux, a former student and member of the Howard Lacrosse team, accepted the position in October, she saved the program from termination
Raised in Freeport, Long Island, Lanaux is the youngest of three girls. She started playing the game 13 years ago after being influenced by her role model and older sister who played. “I fell in love with the game,” she said. After her high school graduation, Lanaux signed to play Division One lacrosse for The State University of New York at Albany, where she played midfield for two years. She completed her second season with the team, but was not satisfied with the school.
“There was something missing, she said. I liked my teammates, but I did not like the school. There’s something about being the only black girl on your team, it gets to you after a while.” This feeling caused her to transfer to Howard, where former teammates say she became an instant leader and major contributor to the team on and off the field.
While at Howard, Lanaux’s leadership ability and skills for the game led her to be chosen by her fellow teammates as captain. However, she said her proudest moment came at the end of her senior year when she received the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award from the coaching staff.
Lanaux went on to Howard Law and recently passed the Bar Exam after she graduated from Howard University in May 2001. So why would she sacrifice her life and time to coach a team that has never had a winning season?
"I have always had a love for the program. It has a lot of opportunity and I would have hated to see the program end,” she said. The challenges that face her would run many good coaches away, but Lanaux has passion to see it succeed.
“Understanding the program and how it is run is half of the battle,” Lanaux said, “I see things that need to be changed and I am doing my best to help make a positive difference for the program.”
Lanaux is the forth head coach in the 10 years that the program has been around. "The program can’t keep its coaches because they don’t give them enough respect, said Eva Okareka former teammate and Howard alumni. ” They refuse to pay them a head coach salary and continue to show their lack of support for the team.”
However, past and current team members believe this is what makes her different from former coaches. Team captain Shannon Morris said, “She brings lots of knowledge of the game and a positive energy that’s contagious. I can already see significant improvement with the team.”
With a new positive vibe and a determined head coach ready for challenges, it seems as though Howard University’s Lacrosse program has received the coach that the team needed and has been waiting for.