June 20, 2017, published on

Here, the grass on the lacrosse field rises to midcalf. Each step is like dropping into quicksand, so it’s a good thing these two girls can fly. One jukes imaginary defenders. The other tiptoes at freeway speeds before whooshing the ball inside an orange-lined goal.

Nadirah McRae, who goes by “Slim” — “I got chicken thighs!” — is wearing black and silver Nikes with tattered laces. Nadirah El-Amin Gateward, “Na,” has on worn navy New Balances. The 18-year-olds can’t afford cleats, not for this private April workout session at 33rd and Diamond in Strawberry Mansion, one of North Philly’s most dangerous neighborhoods. And not for their games.

But they will go through you or around you or behind you to score. Like they did the night before, when each blasted in four goals against West Mastery Charter School-Shoemaker. Smacked in the neck, El-Amin Gateward fell backward to the ground, blood rushing to her head, but played the rest of the game, another Strawberry Mansion loss, this one a close call at 11-10.

The Nadirahs, who call each other “twin,” who both play midfielder, who both have asthma, who both are versed in tragedy, who will both graduate from high school on Tuesday, break into sprints. Going one-on-one, McRae slips, her legs nearly scissoring into splits, but recovers to score. She dances in front of the net while El-Amin Gateward snaps each pose with an imaginary camera. “Give ’em face, Sis!” El-Amin Gateward screams in delight. “Give ’em face!”

That two black girls are celebrating their lacrosse skills — honed enough to take them to college — is something of a rarity. Lacrosse is played in predominantly white, affluent areas. At the NCAA level, 86.4 percent of Division I women’s lacrosse players in 2015-16 were white, while just 2.8 percent were black. US Lacrosse doesn’t even track participation rates for girls of color at the youth and high school levels. (READ FULL STORY HERE).