Up until 2015, New London youth had never had the opportunity to play lacrosse in town. That all changed when Chelsea Phillips founded the New London Youth Lacrosse program.
Philips, a 26 year-old Waterford native, began playing lacrosse in middle school and went on to play in high school for Saint Bernard School. When it came time to apply to college, her first choice, Emerson College in Boston, put her on the admissions wait list, but her skill on the lacrosse field earned her recruitment to Salisbury University in Maryland. After a semester at Salisbury, she transferred to Emerson, where she also played for their women’s lacrosse team.
Phillips returned home to CT after graduating from Emerson in 2014, and began coaching the Mitchell College women’s lacrosse team as a 22 year-old, even coaching young women her own age. However, she didn’t stop there; Phillips, who spent time growing up in New London, has always loved the city and wanted to give back. Seeing the opportunity and need for it in New London, Phillips started the New London Youth Lacrosse program in 2015, with the ultimate goal of eventually creating a lacrosse program at the high school level in the city.
That goal became a reality in 2017 when she created and began coaching the New London High School girls lacrosse team, with help from grants she received from US Lacrosse’s First Stick program, which provides equipment to new lacrosse teams, and donations from local businesses. That first year, they played at the club level, moving up to playing a junior varsity schedule in 2018, and finally playing at the varsity level this year with a roster of 30 girls.
A newer sport to the school, the lacrosse program is not in the High School’s athletics budget, so while the school does help by paying for buses for away games and referees, Phillips (along with assistant coach Stephanie Roberts) volunteers all of her time coaching. Phillips has also applied for, and won, additional grants through US Lacrosse’s Urban Lacrosse Alliance, which helped to provide the team with uniforms.
No stranger to hard work, Phillips works full time as a project manager for a construction company and just earned her masters degree from Columbia University this year. While one of her long term goals for the team is to win ECC championships, she also wants to help as many girls on the team as possible get into college.
Reflecting on her experience applying and getting in to college, Phillips knows that lacrosse can be a great way to get your foot in the door. She says that though New London’s focus has historically been on other sports, lacrosse provides even more opportunity to help New London students get into college. “With a sport like basketball, there are only five girls on the court at a time,” said Phillips, “but with lacrosse, there are 12 girls on the field that can potentially be seen by a recruiter."
Brenda’s Note: This profile is part of my “Small City, GREAT Women” Photo Project, which celebrates the women of New London, CT who are doing great things. If you know a woman who would be a good fit for the project, NOMINATE HER HERE.