Middlebrooks to lead lacrosse program, is first black female head coach in EU history

Category:  Sports
Friday, February 19th, 2021 at 10:48 AM
Middlebrooks to lead lacrosse program, is first black female head coach in EU history by Jenna Tupitza
Photo: Edinboro Sports Information

“My mom was jumping and very excited,” said Jalen Middlebrooks, recalling the moment she told her parents about becoming the new head coach of Edinboro women’s lacrosse. Not just a career step, but Fighting Scots history, Middlebrooks is the  EU has hired.  

The new coach said the honor “means a lot to my family,” stating they, and her mother specifically, had experienced countless instances of racism in life. “I am excited to be a head coach for Edinboro, and I am excited that I created history,” she said.  

Along with her coaching debut, it should be a busy spring. Middlebrooks is currently finishing up as a graduate student at Edinboro, as she’ll get her master’s degree in school counseling this May. 

Before being hired as head coach, Middlebrooks had been graduate assistant for two years, which gave her time to connect with the girls on the team. Midfielder Kandyce Graham said: “I am just so happy for her as she starts this new chapter. Already, we have seen that she is more than fit for the position! She is what this program needs to be successful. Her competitive spirit pushes us all to perform at our best.” 

Middlebrooks explained that she connects with players since she is also attending Edinboro and understands that balancing sports and school can be difficult. “I want to make sure they succeed,” she said simply.  

She spent most of her time as assistant helping the team grow both athletically and off the playing field. She specifically mentioned that “The players were a little too scared to make mistakes [before], and now they embrace the mistake and learn from it.” 

“Coach J always makes sure that we are OK off the field first. We are all close with her and are so happy to have her as head,” said Graham. 

Prior to her position as graduate assistant, Middlebrooks was on the St. Bonaventure University women’s lacrosse team. According to a St. Bonaventure press release: “Middlebrooks ranks fifth in Bonnies history with 78 caused turnovers during her four seasons in Brown and White. She also stands 11th in program history with 120 groundballs.” 

“This is a solid way to show diversity in faculty and staff,” said Faculty Athletic Representative Dr. Gabe Armatas. “I’m glad the team has stability with somebody they have had for a while.” 

In a press release, Edinboro Athletic Director Dr. Katherine Robbins also praised the hire. "We are confident Coach Middlebrooks will continue to build on the strong foundation she and Coach Stauffer initiated and built the last few years." 

“Having Coach J as the first black head coach here at Edinboro makes me so proud,” said Graham. “Not only for her and myself, but for every young woman that will come after us. She has paved the way and believes in diversity within the sport. I know she will be dedicated to having more diversity within the sport, whether it be for Edinboro lacrosse or otherwise.” 

Middlebrooks hopes that her achievement of becoming the first black female head coach at Edinboro will inspire others to accomplish their goals. She explained that she’s been doubted before, but “I focused on what I could do to make myself better and that’s when I put in double the work.” 

For example, she played wall ball her whole summer before her sophomore year at St. Bonaventure to improve her skills. “Nobody can tell you that your dreams are too high except yourself,” she added. 

The Edinboro woman’s lacrosse team plays their first game on March 6 against Ursuline College. Middlebrooks says that even with the low number of players due to the pandemic, “we are not low in spirit.”  

Middlebrooks is taking over for Leighann Stauffer, who was her college teammate at St. Bonaventure for four years. “Leigh hired me as her graduate assistant when she became head coach for Edinboro. We are still best friends to this day,” said Middlebrooks. 

Jenna Tupitza is the Assistant News Editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

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