Editor’s Note: On June 23, 1972, a federal civil rights law was passed that prohibited sex-based discrimination in any educational institution that receives federal funding. Title IX also gave girls and women the equal opportunity to compete in sports across the country. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Title IX’s passing this summer, Hope College Athletics shares the memories and perspectives from Hope College student-athletes, coaches, and alumnae around the 9th of each month during the school year.
In the sixth installment of our Title IX celebration, head women’s lacrosse coach and equipment manager Keagan Pontious discusses the different ways she has benefitted from Title IX — ranging from her days as an All-American lacrosse student-athlete at NCAA Division II Seton Hill University (Pennsylvania) to working in athletics as a career.
Q: What is one of your favorite memories from playing lacrosse?
A: One of my favorite memories I have is from playing in college when my lacrosse team at made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. I remember sitting in a classroom with my whole team on selection day. We truly had no idea if our strength of schedule was good enough to qualify that year. I remember listening to our name be called and instantly crying because I was so proud of our team. I was a fifth year senior and could not hold back my tears of joy. The underclassmen on the team had no idea how hard the women before them worked to put our name on the map and make an NCAA Tournament.
Q: How did your time as a lacrosse student-athlete shape you into the person you are today?
A: Being a student-athlete allowed me to realize that life is short (just like my playing career) and that you must enjoy every second of it. My time as an athlete was precious because I got to play the sport I love with my best friends and teammates. Lacrosse taught me how to be humble, stay disciplined and be grateful. These three characteristics helped me define who I am today.
Q: When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in athletics? What or who inspired you to make that choice?
A: I realized that I wanted to be a coach and continue to have lacrosse be the center of my life when I was a fifth year at Seton Hill. I started to enjoy helping my teammates succeed and reach their goals rather than worry about mine. I developed a new understanding and appreciation that brought me so much joy. Helping my teammates smile while playing the game they love meant more than anything in the world to me. At that time in my life, I knew that I needed to keep lacrosse in my life and become a coach.
Q: You work with student-athletes, female and male, across all of Hope’s 22 varsity sports. What do you enjoy most about your work in supporting them?
A: I love to constantly remind them to be grateful and enjoy the little things in life. It goes by so fast. I wish I was a student-athlete again, so I try to remind them daily that every rep matters. Every interaction with their teammates matters. Every tough day makes them stronger and that they have an opportunity to have a great attitude every day they wake up.
Q: What advice would you have for girls who are just beginning their athletic careers?
A: My advice to a girl just starting out in her athletic career would be to develop a strong work ethic so that in college it is second nature. It helps to start playing competitive sports at a young age to understand the importance of healthy competition and realize what you can achieve with hard work. My other advice for any young athlete would be to have confidence. Develop your own unique style, and be confident about it. If you hesitate in lacrosse or in life, an opportunity can be quickly taken away, so be confident in your decisions and go for it!