Natalie Bermudez is proud of her Puerto Rican heritage, but growing up in New Jersey, it took her a while to truly connect with her native culture. 

“I was always the one Spanish girl among my friends,” she said.

Bermudez began playing lacrosse in high school and then became a four-year starter at midfield for Georgian Court University. She was a freshman on the first team in GCU history in 2007 and became the first Lion to score 100 career goals. 

After college, she eventually joined the women’s lacrosse coaching staff at Felician University in Rutherford, N.J., serving as the lead assistant during the team’s inaugural 2016 season, and then spending the next three years as the head coach. She stepped down following the 2019 season. 

That’s when she joined Puerto Rico Lacrosse and felt the impact of a life-changing experience. For the first time, she had a fuller grasp of her culture. 

“Once I discovered Puerto Rico Lacrosse, it all came full circle for me,” said Bermudez, who serves as head coach of the women’s national team program. “It felt like I found a family I didn’t know I had and that my coaching career hit a new level.”

Earlier this week, Bermudez joined Kyle Harrison for an Instagram Live chat to discuss the personal journey that led her to Puerto Rico Lacrosse. Their IG Live interview was the last installment in a four-part series hosted by US Lacrosse to celebrate diversity and inclusion.

The mission of Puerto Rico Lacrosse is to foster the growth of lacrosse within Puerto Rico while also establishing a self-sustaining lacrosse community. Sponsoring men’s and women’s national teams is an extension of that purpose. 

Upon joining the organization last year, Bermudez quickly plowed ahead in helping to organize a Puerto Rican team for the 2019 Women’s U19 World Championship. That effort paid immediate dividends.

Making its first-ever appearance at the Women’s U19 Championship, Team Puerto Rico had quite an impressive debut, finishing with a perfect 4-0 record in pool play, capped by a 12-8 upset over the favored Haudenosaunee nation squad.

“We hit the ground running to get ready, and it turned out to be one of the great experiences of my life,” she said.

Based on her connection to the game in both the United States and Puerto Rico, Bermudez is optimistic about the expanding presence of diversity as part of the future of lacrosse. 

“Honestly, we’re on the right path,” she said. “Everyone is starting to sign up for the mission to spread the game. I think diversity is all different colors and all different shapes and sizes of people. It’s an all-encompassing melting pot. Lacrosse is unique enough to draw in all of that.”

She’s excited to be part of the growth of the game, especially in her new role in Puerto Rico.

“We have a lot happening on the island on the development side,” she said. “In our senior women’s program, we’re really focused on player development and helping our players to excel and get better.”