In 2016, the lacrosse world was given another outlet for post collegiate players, but this one was different. This finally was a real professional league for women’s lacrosse that has been sorely needed. The United Women’s Lacrosse League (UWLX) was started so that the growing number of women’s college lacrosse players have a real outlet to play high level competitive beyond national teams and summer tournaments.
Now, it is important to note how much the men’s sport is obsessed with growth. We at Lacrosse All Stars are of course included in that, otherwise #GrowTheGame would not be our way of life. But, think of the fanfare that is generated whenever the men’s sport gains a new NCAA Division I program. Everyone immediately jumps to questions to determine who will coach, what league they will play in, are there any rivalries, what is their recruiting base like, and how long until they are competitive. This is all completely justified and it is great to see the men’s lacrosse community rally around these new programs and help get them on the map.
Building a Buzz
By comparison, there is little press or excitement when a new women’s program is added. Because of this, NCAA women’s lacrosse has grown into an absolute giant. Sure, you still have the old powerhouses each year like Maryland, North Carolina, Princeton, and Northwestern, but now there is a new wave of programs and coaches that are elevating the sport. Southern Cal is starting to make deep runs in the tournament, Florida is a perennial top 10 team, and Oregon is even making a play. The men’s game dreams about schools like this joining the fray.
Even with the major college athletic powers jumping in, you still have Stony Brook, Boston College, and Colorado inching closer and closer to a championship game appearance. Right now, NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse is 112 teams deep. That is a full 51 more than the men’s side. Needless to say, there is an enormous amount of untapped talent. Enter the UWLX.
Reason For UWLX Round Two
When I spoke with UWLX Co-Founder Digit Murphy, she was very excited about this upcoming season. But what I really needed to hear from her was one simple question: why another season?
The answer was even simpler: the first season was a success.
Starting a league is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. What it comes down to is essentially creating a brand new business. That is something that Digit has done extremely well throughout her career. But, one of the best things about this young league is how they are tackling some of the issues head on now that other league don’t even think about until they are forced to. Some of this is at the center of how season two is beginning.
They have a Director of League Diversity to help with building their teams in a way that reflects the country that will see them play, they have a front office loaded with talent in their areas like, sales, marketing, media, and management rather than just an office of lacrosse people. These are things that the MLL and NLL have had to wrestle with for their entire existence, but the UWLX is taking on from the beginning.
What To Do, What To Do…
Then, as they were prepping for season two, an obstacle appeared. When an obstacle appears, some people focus on it while others see new opportunity. Digit and her team were given a large obstacle this year which created an enormous opportunity.
With the FIL World Championships happening this summer, they learned that nearly all players on Team USA were going to be unavailable for their schedule. With just a four team league that is still in somewhat startup mode, this could be seen as a crippling development.
Instead, this allowed them to ensure that their original goal is still their goal. Give more women an opportunity. With an enormous talent pool, a focus on player diversity, and a recognition of the talent at the DII and DIII levels, the UWLX has rebuilt themselves into a stronger version that will still be able to showcase some of the best talent that the sport has to offer.
I’m Ready, Are YOU?!
There are plenty of new faces on the sidelines this season, but most of what made the league a success last year is back once again. There is still world class talent on display, led by some of the best coaches in the game. The new rules that made games more exciting and higher scoring are still in place. And the best part of all: it all starts this week, timed with the NCAA Championship Weekend.
For anyone that is in Foxboro for the NCAA, add this to your calendar: Saturday, May 27 at 5pm is the first of two UWLX games at Attleboro High School. That is all of 15 miles or 20 minutes from Gillette Stadium, and will be a fantastic way to wrap up a day of NCAA games.
More information can be found at on the league website. Take the drive, check out this league in person, and help Grow the Game!