Women’s lacrosse senior aims to bring action sports to urban communities

Senior Shelby Thompson has started every game during her four years with the Panthers. She has 18 ground balls and eight caused turnovers in four games she’s played this season. Photo by Gabriella Anderson

Growing up, senior Shelby Thompson found herself drawn to two separate worlds: technology and sports. She shot videos with friends, making mini documentaries and submitting them to contests. At Chapman, Thompson, a news and documentary major who plays on the women’s lacrosse team, realized she could combine her interests.

“Sports were a passion growing up, but I was very in tune to the technology around me,” Thompson said. “I realized I was good at it and I liked doing it. Now that I’m older, it’s cool to do all that with sports.”

Playing defense for the women’s lacrosse team, Thompson has been on the team for her whole undergraduate career. During her sophomore year, she had 41 ground balls and 26 caused turnovers. She won second team all-conference along with a conference all-academic award. Her junior year, her statistics improved, with 45 ground balls and 32 caused turnovers.

“It feels good to have your hard work recognized with awards like that. But I don’t pay much attention,” Thompson said. “The hard work will show on the field and in the classroom, where it really matters.”

When lacrosse sparked her interests, Thompson recalled there being few concrete ways for women to get involved in the sport.

“When I first started (in seventh grade), I was part of a club called ‘WAVE’ with eight other girls,” Thompson said. “We were all just trying to learn. We even had boy sticks when we first started. We didn’t really know we needed girl sticks.”

But that didn’t stop Thompson. Growing up in San Clemente, Clifornia, Thompson was always involved with sports. Graduating from San Clemente High School in 2015, Thompson was ready to hang up the cleats. She chose Chapman for the leadership skills it seemed to offer, but she didn’t know the university has a women’s lacrosse team.

“I saw them practicing one day,” Thompson said. “I met everyone on the team, I met the coach, and now, here we are four years later.”

Head coach Dan Kirkpatrick said he believes Thompson has found her confidence over the time she’s been on the team.

“As a player, her freshman year, she rarely saw the field. But she was a great teammate and she worked hard,” Kirkpatrick said. “Her sophomore year, she had a breakout year.”

Off the field, Thompson is involved in the youth action sports business DIVERTcity. The project is an extension of the company DIVERTcollective, whose goal is to bring sports to large communities where sports aren’t accessible.

DIVERTcity was inspired by Marty O’Connor, a 2017 business administration alumnus and the now-head of corporate sponsorships for DIVERTcollective. O’Connor, the now-head of corporate sponsorships, was involved in an accident in 2013 when he fell down a staircase in a restaurant, leaving him a quadriplegic.

O’Connor has worked with Thompson throughout her time with DIVERTcity. She began as an intern, but is now the chief content producer and she helps manage the internship program at Chapman.

“What I love about Shelby is her attitude and passion,” O’Connor said. “She is extremely self-motivated.”