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Perspectives: Galen Lew

Nov 1, 2020

I am a half Chinese-, half Japanese-American born citizen. Growing up, I never really saw people who looked like me in the sport that I loved the most: lacrosse.

I grew up in a small town in New Jersey, arguably one of the hotbed states in the lacrosse world. The environment I developed in very much allowed me to immerse myself into the culture of the sport. Starting from a young age I was always holding a stick and a ball. I was given the advantage of being able to play a sport curated in a very white environment. It allowed me to be recruited from such a young age and achieve my goals of attending Stanford. I benefited off of the privilege of the game. 
Lacrosse is often labeled as a predominantly white sport and to a large extent that is true. However, the sport is originally known as "The Creator's Game" and a prevalent component of Native American traditions. Now, it has been adapted as a white, high-society game. Growing up, I could see that reflected in the thousands of dollars my parents invested in sending me to camps, clinics and on my equipment every season. But I could also see it in my teammates and friends who didn't look like me.

One of the reasons why I chose Stanford to continue my lacrosse career was because of Anna Kim, one of the only Asian women's lacrosse players that I saw play through my youth. I remember having the team poster from 2014 hanging in my room as inspiration to get recruited by Stanford. To be in the same position for other young girls today, that she was for me six years ago, is a feeling that is hard to explain.

Now, looking back on my career here at Stanford, I've had a handful of Asian parents and their daughters come up to me after games. I can clearly remember at one of my very first games at Stanford as a freshman, I was walking to the team tailgate only to be stopped by an Asian mother and her young daughter. The little girl stood timidly by her mother looking at me. The mother explained that she was happy her daughter could see someone who looked like me on the field, that it was encouraging to see that people like me could make it to such a high level of lacrosse. It was the first time I understood how my presence as an Asian American lacrosse player could possibly impact younger generations of little girls. I saw in them myself. Knowing at that age I didn't have those role models as a young player, it was incredible for me to know that now I could be an inspiration to someone else and encourage change in the landscape of the game.

Meeting parents and kids like this drives me to inspire change in the world of lacrosse and in women's sports in general. We've got a long way to go before the lacrosse world is recruiting and diversifying in all of the right ways, but I think meaningful steps are being taken. Stanford women's lacrosse was the first team that I played on that reflected the possible diversity that the sport could represent. I am grateful for all my teammates at Stanford who have supported me on my journey. They inspire me to keep an open mind, strive to be better than I was yesterday, and continue to create spaces for people of color in the sport.

I hope to continue encouraging all little girls underrepresented in the current lacrosse community to involve themselves in the game and benefit from the things that it has taught me. I want lacrosse to show them that it's not just a game, and that it can be a pathway for possibilities beyond the sport. Stanford has given me the opportunity to not only flourish on the lacrosse field but also as an academic and a person.

If we can enter into spaces that do not reflect us widely, then there is no telling where any woman of color can go. I hope to bring more visibility to unrepresented minorities and remind everyone to challenge the status quo. If you don't fit in the box, screw the box. Go create your own.