Karen Heggernes Nominated for NCAA OneTeam Award

Hamline University’s own Karen Heggernes, head coach of the women’s lacrosse team has been chosen as a finalist for the NCAA Division III LGBTQ OneTeam award.


Melanie Hopkins

Coach Karen Heggerens passing with senior Ashley Hessler during one of the pod (10 people) training sessions.

Maria Lewis, Sports Reporter

In her sixth year as the head coach of the Hamline University Women’s lacrosse team, Karen Heggernes has been chosen as a finalist for the NCAA Division III LGBTQ OneTeam Award. Heggernes is among 10 finalists for the Administrator/Coach/Staff of the Year award. 

“I feel very honored to represent Hamline University and our athletic department with this award,” said Heggernes. “…I also feel proud to represent my community in something so visible. There are many parts of this world, including within the United States, where I am not welcome because of who I love. So a visible nomination like this gives me hope for the future. I also feel extremely grateful to the many many LGBTQ coaches, activists and leaders who paved the way for me to be welcomed and heard”.

The Administrator/Coach/Staff of the Year Award honors the service, leadership, and promotion of LGBTQ inclusion by an LGBTQ athletes administrator, coach, or staff member. Winners of the award will be announced in November and will also be honored at the virtual NCAA convention in January of 2021.

It’s one thing to say you are inclusive, it’s another to believe and live it,” said Heggernes. “We set the tone early on every year about how we will treat each other, talk to each other, listen to each other. I always say that sports are more than just the final score, it’s about the relationships you create while working towards a common goal. We all have one thing in common: our love for the game”.

The women's lacrosse team practicing passing on the field at Klas Field
Melanie Hopkins
The Hamline Lacrosse team social distancing during a pod (10 people) practice, working on passing and stick tricks.

The Hamline women’s lacrosse team has won three conference championships and competed in the NCAA National Championship for three years as well, winning the first round game for the first time in 2019. This accomplishment comes from the chemistry of the team that stems from the coaching staff.

“I believe that [inclusion] was more emphasized [in Karen’s] actions than in her words. She was genuine with herself from day one of the program,” says 2019 Hamline lacrosse alum, Lexus Tatge. “It set the tone for those on the team and others she was involved with outside of the team. We knew that we had to be genuine with ourselves as well as with each other or else that would be violating a sort of “unspoken” team norm.”

Heggernes has coached over 50 athletes in her time at Hamline and has had an impact on many of them both on and off of the field.

“I wasn’t out coming into college and I probably wouldn’t have come out if Karen hadn’t been my coach. She made the most welcoming and non-judgemental space I could ever imagine on a college athletic team and with that, it allowed us, as her athletes, to just be us,” 2019 Hamline lacrosse alum, Alycia Monserrate-Novotny, said. “The way in which it affected me was positive- it allowed me to accept who I am and live that proudly”.


The Hamline women’s lacrosse team also tributed their yearly MWLC conference game against fellow Twin City school, Augsburg University, as a “PRIDE game”. The purpose of this game is to celebrate the LGBTQ community.

“The purpose of the Pride game is to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community and increase the inclusivity of sport and harness the power of representation,” said Senior Tara Westerlund, a member of the women’s lacrosse team. “The Pride Game is one of the ways that HU LAX expresses their commitment to equality. Pride games focus on making athletic communities more inclusive and less discriminatory by providing athletes with a platform to advocate for LGBTQ equality”. 

In years past, it was called the “Ally” game but the goal for the 2020 season was to rebrand.

“In the example of the Pride parade, the community and allies alike attend, and it is held in celebration of queerness and not allyship,” said Westerlund. “I think the term “Ally Game” places the emphasis on celebrating allyship when we should really celebrate difference, in this case LGBTQ identities”.

The 2020 season was cancelled after only three games, before the Pride game was able to be played due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, this game will continue to be a favorite from fans, families, players, and members of the community. It is with great thanks to Heggernes that this game has come to Hamline in the first place.