Story and photos by Nancy McGuire.
Few people in life fall into their dream jobs by happenstance, but one such person is David Higbee, executive director of Bridge Lacrosse, a youth sports program based in South and West Dallas.
Having played club lacrosse while he was a student at the University of Oklahoma, David reached out to Bridge upon his move to Dallas as a way to connect with a community he was familiar with and to assimilate with his new home town. Originally founded in 2004 by Edie Lycke as the Friends of North Texas, Bridge Lacrosse has evolved into an organization that provides primarily minority youth, both boys and girls, the opportunity to play the sport of lacrosse. Often thought of as a sport for the privileged, due to initial cost to play and lack of access in underserved communities, Bridge has sought to remove those barriers and develop not only sports skills on the field but also develop the whole child with supplemental academic and after-school programs. David has played an integral role in that development. “I moved to Dallas to work in the environmental industry and ended up the director of a nonprofit youth organization. It was quite a career pivot,” says David, while reminiscing about his change of fate.
Initially volunteering his time as a coach to youth teams, David eventually earned the full-time role of executive director in 2011. Since then, Bridge has expanded both in terms of participants and programs offered. “We have 184 kids registered for fall ball, and over 100 of those are new to the program,” David says, with youthful enthusiasm in his voice. David has worked hard to strengthen the organization’s relationship with the local lacrosse community as well as USA Lacrosse, the national governing body for the sport. David has become a tireless advocate for Bridge and “his” kids, putting the organization on firm financial footing through fundraisers, grants, and participating in the North Texas Giving Day campaign.
Bridge kids have come from more than 80 schools and 45 different ZIP Codes. David and his staff have worked hard to create a family-like culture for Bridge participants so that every student feels welcome. A number of high-schoolers who transitioned through the Bridge organization have continued their playing careers at DI schools and smaller institutions. Many graduates come back during breaks to work with current participants, such as graduate Demarieh Wesley. “With alumni/alumna returning to give back to the younger kids, it’s living proof our program works,” says David.
One of the keys to keeping student athletes engaged is promoting a fun atmosphere at practices and games. The final score of a game is not always the barometer of success but rather what each player learned on the field, what skill they improved, and how they handled the stress of competition. David’s emphasis is always on character-building and how can each player take what they learned so that they can apply that to all facets of their lives. This past year, both the girls and boys high school teams were champions in their respective divisions, coming full circle from previous years when they were lucky to win a game or two. With a lot of hard work and dedication on and off the field, the players from Bridge have demonstrated that they deserve to be considered a legitimate force in the Texas lacrosse realm.
David sees a bright future for Bridge, hopefully expanding the program to other areas in the Metroplex, such as the Pleasant Grove community. He also hopes to provide more tutoring, test prep, and travel opportunities to high school players so that their play on the field, as well as their academic readiness, is appealing to college recruiters.
When asked what he is most proud of when it comes to the Bridge organization, David pauses, then ticks off a list of accomplishments which include the positive impact the program has had on the south side of Dallas, the development of college readiness training, as well as instilling in his players a sense that they belong on the lacrosse field as much as any other child. That confidence will serve them well throughout their lives, whatever they choose to do.