Harpeth Hall coach inducted into the inaugural Tennessee USA Lacrosse Hall of Fame
For Legare Vest, the best memories of her Harpeth Hall lacrosse coaching career are many.
Standing on the sidelines in Chicago one year in early March, watching her team shovel a field. “It was so cold the water froze in the bottles,” she said.
Taking the girls to Florida to play at the ESPN zone, then hitting Disney World for an evening of fun and gathering them again at the entrance, watching them fall asleep on top of each other.
Winning state championships together. Losing a state championship but feeling confident that the team would return the next year to win.
A pioneer in the sport in Tennessee, Mrs. Vest helped bring girls lacrosse to the state 25 years ago and led the way for Harpeth Hall to win five state championships, most recently in 2022.
This year, though now retired from her coaching career, Mrs. Vest adds one more memory to her list — being inducted into the Tennessee chapter of the USA Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
Mrs. Vest is the only woman in the inaugural class of five Hall of Fame inductees, a group that was honored at a banquet on February 11, and even decades after she launched Tennessee’s lacrosse program for girls she still feels called to make a difference in the sport.
“A rising tide lifts all boats,” Mrs. Vest told the audience as she delivered a speech at the Hall of Fame dinner on Saturday night. “... When one of us succeeds, we all reap the benefit of that success. This is only a legacy if it provides a foundation for growth.”
The beauty of the sport
It was a college roommate who first talked Mrs. Vest into playing lacrosse — a move she only considered after she missed her college basketball season her junior year. Once she had a lacrosse stick in her hand, she fell in love.
To her, the sport brought the beauty of basketball strategy to a larger playing area. The camaraderie among the team, she said, felt richer in lacrosse, likely because there were more players.
Mrs. Vest first started coaching at an episcopal school in Virginia, modeling her style after her own coach at Sweet Briar College — a woman named Jennifer Crispen.
“I strove to recreate her sense of fairness and admired her ability to push me to my limits without ever raising her voice or using condescension,” Mrs. Vest told the audience as she delivered a speech at the Hall of Fame dinner on Saturday night. “She made me want to be better, be stronger, run faster, be a good teammate, and be a good role model for younger players.
“She made me want to win, and she inspired me to be a coach.”
‘Can you make that happen?’
Mrs. Vest remembers the year she brought lacrosse to Harpeth Hall. It was 1998, and U.S. Lacrosse had just reorganized and relaunched with a men’s game and a women’s game.
Ann Teaff, who then served as Harpeth Hall’s head of school, pulled Mrs. Vest into her office and said she wanted the school to have a girls lacrosse team.
“Can you make that happen?” Mrs. Vest remembers being asked.
Though Mrs. Vest’s family had recently expanded with the birth of her second son, she said yes because “I wanted my students to have the same opportunities as their brothers.".
A lacrosse legacy
With Harpeth Hall leading the way, Mrs. Vest helped co-write the bylaws for the Tennessee Girls Lacrosse Association. She convinced other schools to join, and she helped provide training for coaches and officials. Then, she went about educating the community about the game.
“People couldn't even spell the word lacrosse when we first started playing,” she said. “I carried spray paint in my coaching bag so we could make sure the goal circle was visible. We had no uniforms, no pinnies. We had to train referees and coaches for other schools, so we had teams to play.
“Bringing lacrosse to Tennessee was a challenge. There were no fields, no equipment, no balls, no coaches, no mouthguards — we had to special order everything. Now, you can pop into Dicks Sporting Goods and find what you need. So, it means a lot to me that my efforts on behalf of women's sports are being recognized. This is more than just an acknowledgment of winning state championships.”
It is recognition of a trailblazing coach — and a memory of a lifetime.