Lacrosse has brought out best in mother/daughter team

Rocky River

By Michael Fitzpatrick

It’s not uncommon in men’s college sports for a father to coach a son.

UCLA basketball coach Steve Alford just finished out a four-year stint of coaching his boy, and in the 1990s, Tubby Smith coached a son on one of Kentucky’s national championship teams.

A mother coaching a daughter in college athletics is a lot more unusual, but it’s been the norm for the Baldwin Wallace University women’s lacrosse team, where senior midfielder Maddie Russell is finishing off a stellar four-year career in which she plays for her mother, Kim Russell.

“It’s pretty unusual for daughters to play for their mothers at the college level,” Kim Russell said. “It’s very rare because there are very few moms who are college coaches whose daughters are college-age. There are a lot of coaches who have babies, but not a lot who have college-age daughters. It’s pretty cool. We are pretty lucky.”

“It think it’s been a lot of fun and a great journey, and I’ve enjoyed every second of it,” added Maddie.

The Rocky River High School graduate is also one of the top women’s lacrosse players in NCAA Division III for BW, which just finished its regular season with a 12-3 overall record and a 7-1 mark in the Ohio Athletic Conference. This week, the Yellow Jackets start conference tournament play.

Maddie got an early introduction to the sport, which Kim played collegiately (along with field hockey) at the College of William & Mary. In 1996, when Maddie was just 15 months old, Kim, who had moved to Ohio to work for the sports agency IMG, was named the first lacrosse coach at Magnificat High School.

She recalled carrying Maddie around with her during those first practices.

“She came to all the practices in a backpack on my back,” Kim said.

Eventually, Kim, with the help of the city of Rocky River, started the youth lacrosse program, which Maddie  honed her skills.

“It was the first program on the West Side, and that was for third- through eighth-grade,” Kim said.

A four-year starter, Maddie was named Ohio Athletic Conference Defender of the Week March 27 and the OAC Offensive Player of the Week for April 10 and April 17 this season.

Last year, while earning first-team All-OAC honors, she scored 30 while leading the team by creating 33 turnovers. In 2015, she was the OAC Defensive Player of the Year and an All-OAC selection.

“Maddie’s strengths are she is, No. 1, very fast. She has speed and she never gives up. She is a career leader in takeaways at the NCAA Division III level. Something else she is known for is chasing players down and taking the ball away from them,” said Kim, when asked what makes Maddie such a good player.

Maddie originally started out attending UNC-Wilmington, but transferred to BW halfway through her freshman year.

“It was too expensive and too far away,” Maddie said.

But it all seemed to work out for the best.

“Yeah, it did,” Maddie said.

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