When Taryn, my younger sister, and I would play in the backyard with our sticks as kids, we loved the limitless possibilities of the game. Lacrosse allowed us creativity in physical form, and the more we had our sticks in our hands, the more accustomed we would be to them, and thus the game would come easier. The nature of women’s lacrosse unleashed silliness, passion, and a whole of fun in the back of our house.
It gave us something else: the opportunity to set goals. We could aim for personal achievements and improvements, making certain teams, even coming up with the coolest stick. But we had something to set our sights on, and not long after discovering the game, our overarching goal was to become Division I lacrosse players.
Playing professionally? The thought never crossed our minds when we were forging lasting memories in the backyard, on the beach, and anywhere else we could bring our sticks. Such a thing did not exist, and the idea that it could exist wasn’t under consideration. Unlike other young athletes who can dream of playing the sport they love for a living, lacrosse girls my age didn’t have that.
It wasn’t until I was an upperclassman at Stony Brook that the concept of continuing my playing career was a remote possibility. I didn’t even know what sponsorship deals were, and the first professional women’s lacrosse league began play in 2016 when I was in the middle of college. If not for a lot of hard work from the women who came before me, some great wisdom from my Stony Brook coach Joe Spallina, and some fortunate timing, I’d probably be only coaching right now rather than competing at the highest level and making a living doing it.
But that hasn’t been my reality, and I’m incredibly grateful for it. I am fortunate enough to be a professional at the sport I’ve loved since I was 8, and that’s a dream come true, even if I never knew it before. I’m very proud to be able to say that I make money off of something I love.
I want more lacrosse women to have that same chance.
Women’s lacrosse is in a much different place than it was five years ago, let alone when I was a kid. But it’s not where it can and should be. Not even close.
The growth potential for the game, and for women’s sports as a whole, is astronomical. When men’s professional sports leagues were beginning in North America, it took decades for them to find stability. Comparatively, women’s professional sports are in their infancy. It’s taken the WNBA 25 years to get to where it is now, and it’s been with plenty of growing pains and still tons of room to expand. I don’t see any reason why women’s lacrosse can’t do the same.
It will take a while, probably longer than I’ll be able to play for. But it will come, and I try to do my part to ensure it.
Growing the game is part of my daily life. Beyond what I do on the field, I founded my own training company, KO17 Lacrosse, to help push professional women’s lacrosse forward enough so female lacrosse athletes don’t have to have a job on the side to make ends meet.
What will that look like? Who’s to say. It’s difficult for me to even articulate goals for my own professional playing career, other than to win a gold medal with Team USA at the Women’s World Championship and to play for as long as my body will let me, because things can change. We wouldn’t have imagined the sport looking the way it does now five-to-10 years ago, and who knows what form it’ll take in five-to-10 years from now. But if I can reach as many girls as possible across the world, spread the game, and share my lacrosse journey with athletes who hope to fall in love with this sport the same way I did growing up in my Long Island backyard with my little sister, then it’s more likely that the next generation of girls can have a much more concrete answer to what they hope to achieve in their playing careers.
The limitless possibilities of lacrosse are what drew me to it. Those same limitless possibilities are what drive me to grow it.