Saint Lucia’s Daynia La-Force, head coach of the Rhode Island women’s basketball programme, was amongst five women honored as part of the inaugural Girl Scouts of Southeastern New England’s ‘Leading Women Awards’ on Thursday night.
La-Force joined President of the Providence Chamber of Commerce Laurie White, Gov. Gina Raimondo, CVS Senior Vice President Judy Sansone and Elizabeth Cugini in being recognised for her role as a strong, influential woman who sets positive examples for today’s girls.
La-Force herself was a girl scout. During her acceptance speech, she shared what she learned through the organisation, which she joined in 1984 as a child growing up in Brooklyn, after moving from Saint Lucia.
“I would wake up every Saturday morning and walk two blocks to the church on Courtelyou Road to attend my troop meetings,” La-Force said. “It was there where I first learned to dream and believe I was special. It was there I learned the power of being a woman and the impact I could make on the world.”
La-Force was joined at the ceremony by her own troop leader, Mauren Cranston Wertling, whom La-force credited with teaching her that it was “my honor to try and my duty to love.” Cranston Wertling’s sister, Cathy, was the woman who first asked La-Force about playing basketball.
“After my Flying Up ceremony, she asked me if I ever thought about playing basketball,” La-Force said. “I said no, because other than my dad [Trevor Scholar] forcing me to watch NBA games and men’s college basketball, I didn’t know anything about the sport, not even that girls played basketball.
“But it was the confidence and courage I practiced every Saturday morning which made me feel I could tackle anything.”
The influence of the Girls Scouts and those early days of basketball had a great impact on La-Force’s life. She went on to earn a full scholarship as a basketball player at Georgetown University, and she has been a coach in college basketball for nearly 20 years.
In her first season at Rhode Island, La-Force led the biggest single-season turnaround in Rhodies history, as the Rams went 17-13, a 10-game improvement from the previous year.
The 17 victories were the most for the Rams in 19 seasons, as La-Force led Rhody to its first win at the Atlantic 10 Championship tournament in six years.