Two years ago, Nikkii Lieb Schwob came from spectacular high school (Radnor, PA) and college (UVA) lacrosse careers to "lacroseeless" Pinehurst, NC. Here is what happened next!
1. Nikki, What were some of your first impressions about the "state of girls' lacrosse" in Pinehurst when you arrived in 2012?
When I first moved to North Carolina, I was excited about spreading the love of the game in this area. I knew lacrosse wasn't very well established yet, and looked at it as a great opportunity. Whenever you coach in a "non-traditional" or "developing" lacrosse area it is refreshing to see players who soak up everything you say because it is all new to them. However, it has proved to be a little more difficult than I anticipated to grow the game. Here we are 2 years later and while lacrosse has come a long way, I'm still waiting to see the explosion in numbers that I'm hoping for. It is very difficult in North Carolina because so many great female athletes play soccer for their High Schools, and girls soccer season is in the Spring here (the same as girls lacrosse season). While I love to see female athletes playing any sport, selfishly I'm still waiting to see some of those better athletes try lacrosse. That has been and continues to be a very tough challenge.
2. Now that you have built impressive girls' lacrosse opportunities in the Sandhills, look back at some of the "landmarks" in developing these opportunities. What were the events/activities that made you discouraged as well as those that made you think that "yes, lacrosse IS going to happen here?" Biggest surprises?
Right away I think about the first camp I ran here with Davidson's Head Coach Kim Wayne. In the summer of 2012, we advertized for a summer girls lacrosse camp in Pinehurst thinking we would get a decent turnout. We only got 10-12 players to sign up - which was somewhat discouraging, but at the same time, you have to start somewhere! As it turned out, some of the girls that attended that camp became leaders on the Pinecrest High School team in the 2 spring seasons that followed. In the spring of 2013 I volunteered to help coach the girls Club Team at Pinecrest. Although the team was about 3 years old, in 2012 they only had one game. That 2013 season was tough - it was hard to schedule games and our overall record ended up being 1 and 5 - but again it was something! We had enough for a team with 23 on the roster which was encouraging, and we won at least one game, so it was a start! One really encouraging event that took place in the summer of 2013 was the first lacrosse camp I ran with my organization, Shine on Sports. I had 30 campers come out and brought in some great coaches for them to learn from. The camp was a great success. I think parents and players really started realizing how great the sport is and the potential we have for it to grow in our area. Campers received some great leadership training and learned about the college recruiting process - something many of them had never even considered before. Many of the campers also participated on my AC Sandhills Club team that summer and fall. Again, this was another encouraging sign - to have enough girls to create a club team and attend some tournaments and get exposed to the talent outside of our area. And today, I am very proud to say that one of our own players received an opportunity to play lacrosse at Meredith College in Raleigh! I am thrilled to have Lynsi Beers as the first ever girls lacrosse recruit to come out of Pinehurst - she is a perfect fit for Meredith College l and think she will be a great addition to the program there. I'm also thankful that coach Scott took a chance on a new player from a developing area. This event was definitely one of those things that made me think, "Yes! Lacrosse is going to happen here!"
3. Talk about the development of "Shine on Sports." Where did this inspirational approach come from?
Like many coaches, I see sports as a perfect platform to promote leadership qualities and teach life skills to young people. I created Shine On Sports to provide more opportunities for kids to be exposed to the wonderful game of lacrosse and learn all the valuable lessons it has to offer. The name was chosen to honor my cousin, Max Brindle. Max was a phenomenal athlete and unforgettable, charismatic person who left his mark everywhere he went. He really found his place to "shine" on the lacrosse field and went on to attend Drexel University in Philadelphia. In June of 2008, Max left this world to Shine On in another. Though family, friends, and anyone who knew Max miss him every day, we know that he lived each moment to the fullest. He taught us not to wait to leave our mark on the world - life is too short. We were all made to shine, it is up to us to determine how and when. My hope is that Shine On Sports will give as many people as possible the opportunity to SHINE - on the lacrosse field and in life.
4. Finally, the Future! The Pinecrest Varsity Girls' lacrosse team debuts next year! What other high schools in the Sandhills region (Britt, Terry Sanford) do you expect to form girls' lacrosse teams and by when? Will Nikki Schwob be Pine crest's first Girls' Varsity Lacrosse Head Coach?
We cannot wait for Pinecrest High School Girls Lacrosse to be Varsity in the spring of 2015! The girls have certainly earned it and deserve to be a Varsity program. Ideally, at least one other school in Moore County offers girls lacrosse in the near future (i.e. Union Pines or North Moore High), but as of now the problem is finding coaches and enough student interest at these schools. However, I would expect that other nearby schools like Terry Sanford and Jack Britt will offer Varsity Lacrosse programs in the very near future. I have been coaching a lot of Fayetteville athletes over the last 2 summers as they have come out for our AC Sandhills Select Club team and I know the interest is there. They have great lacrosse enthusiasts in the area who are doing everything they can to get the sport into the high schools. For example, Wes Davis, father 3, has gotten the sport established in the Cumberland County Parks and Recreation program and he is making every effort to get lacrosse in the high schools next so his oldest daughter (still in middle school) will have a place to play. As of now, the plan is for Jack Britt and Terry Sanford to at least have club programs this spring (2015) and hopefully they will quickly move to Varsity status. As for me coaching at Pinecrest - though I am due with our first baby at the end of August, I hope and plan to coach at Pinecrest this spring and cannot wait to see what we can do!