Mia Ibrahim describes herself as “the nerdy dorky band girl” who became a music major and is now a music educator and clarinetist—but she’s also a CityLax lacrosse coach and the head girl’s coach at KIPP’s Academy. A true teacher, she started teaching clarinet lessons out of her garage in high school to the local neighborhood kids, and now balances her time between helping students learn how to play musical instruments in the classroom and coaching NYC girls in the game of lacrosse outside on the field.
Originally from Detroit, Mia moved to Davis, California before starting high school, which is where she first picked up the sport. She recalls, “One of my bandmates was really nervous to try out, so she asked if I could try out with her so she wouldn’t be alone on the field.” Mia’s friend ended up getting cut, while Mia made the team. She fell in love with the sport and continued on to play attack as a DII player at San Jose State University. After graduating, the SJSU coach quit during the middle of the season, so Mia offered to step in and help “keep the team afloat”— and thus began her first coaching experience.
Mia then moved to New York City to study Music Education at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College. Shortly after, she began volunteering with CityLax. “I definitely wanted to give back to the community, but I’m also a good teacher and I enjoy teaching others and working with anyone (a kid or an adult) who is trying to develop themselves as a person, so CityLax seemed like a good fit,” Mia explains. “I doubted myself as a coach at first, because I have a very happy-go-lucky demeanor in my classroom, but then I realized that out on the field at CityLax, that actually worked to my advantage and that positive reinforcement really does have the same great effect on the field as it does in the classroom.”
Beyond her coaching approach, however, Mia still sees some very marked differences between her classroom at PS 29 and on the field at CityLax—“I want to push boundaries out on the field more so than in my classroom, because I think music-making is such a vulnerable experience, but lacrosse is a chance to really go for it, and just be 100 percent and not worry ‘oh they’re going to judge me for that note.’ In lacrosse, you drop a ball, you pick up a grounder—it’s a teamwork thing and you learn that it’s going to be fine no matter what.”
Other lessons that Mia hopes to convey to her student-athletes are to “be yourself, enjoy the sport, be proud, and have fun.” Being surrounded by teammates and coaches who were gay helped her to come out and to be proud of who she is. Mia says, “Even when I was closeted, just being around people who were like me made me feel comforted. And the sport itself helped, because it’s about being bold and being yourself and having fun. I also want my student-athletes to realize that they’ll get out what put in.” She recognizes that many of the girls she coaches have an ambition to explore horizons beyond the South Bronx, and so Mia strives to show how the skills they learn on the field can translate to academics and other areas of their lives. “I’m just excited to see how their character is built and how rigor shows in everything they do.”