Off the Field and into the Heart of Harlem

The Barnard student-athletes play lacrosse through the Columbia-Barnard Athletic Consortium, a collaboration that supports Barnard athletes competing with Columbia undergraduates in the Ivy League Athletic Conference and NCAA Division 1 Athletics — making Barnard the only women’s college to offer this opportunity. 

A Place-Based Partnership

Barnard’s local connection to Harlem has bolstered its commitment to the nonprofit organization since the partnership’s inception in 2014. Members of the College’s lacrosse team have extended their knowledge and skills to students on the Girls Harlem Lacrosse team of P.S. 149 while also growing into the roles of coaches, mentors, and tutors. 

“[Barnard and Columbia’s student-athletes] are learning how to lead with their authentic selves and how to be kind and generous with their time and efforts,” said head coach Anne Murray.

“Having a combination of Columbia and Barnard student-athletes on the [women’s lacrosse] team allows us a diverse collection of personalities and perspectives,” said assistant coach Tierney Larson. “Barnard Athletics empowers young women to excel in the classroom, in their community, and on the field.”

For the youth at Harlem Lacrosse, this partnership with Barnard and Columbia provides insight into what’s possible. “They’re so young, and they can’t really process what it is to play a college sport, but to see someone who they look up to and then to say, ‘Oh, I can do that,’ is the biggest thing,” said Lily Herrmann, program director of the Girls Harlem Lacrosse team for P.S. 149. “It’s a very tangible connection. [Barnard and] Columbia are not that far away — [the connection] is right there, in their backyard.” 

Herrmann, who has played a critical role in expanding the partnership, highlighted the importance of having athletes from the College share their experiences with students who did not have the same opportunities to play youth sports. “There are so many soft skills [the students] learn through playing a sport. When we come into a community [like] Harlem, we see that students might not have had the opportunity to learn those skills,” said Herrmann. “The young students are playing a sport, but at the same time, they are building up their bank of social-emotional skills through perseverance, determination, and resilience.”

Serving the Community and Building Relationships

Skyler Nielsen ’25, who volunteers as a coach and mentor to the Girls Harlem Lacrosse team, emphasized how the sport has helped her adapt to stressful and unanticipated situations. In finding her footing, Nielsen teaches the younger students skills what she has learned on and off the field.

“Adaptability, communication, and leadership are all muscles that need to be worked on continuously in order to grow and develop,” said Nielsen. “The most effective ways [I’ve found] to coach the students at the Girls Harlem Lacrosse team [have been informed] by my own strengths. Understanding my privilege to make a difference has allowed me to connect deeply with these students.”

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