Grow the Game®

Team USA's Devon Wills during the World Cup Final at the 2017 FIL Rathbones Women's Lacrosse World Cup, at Surrey Sports Park, Guildford, Surrey, UK, 22nd July 2017. women
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Women in a Men’s Game: Making a Case, Finding a Solution

Progress is being made. Not quickly, but it’s being made nonetheless.

Women are breaking barriers and entering the world of what is deemed a “men’s” game.

There are now female coaches in the NBA and NHL, refs in the NFL, etc.

But where are the female coaches in men’s lacrosse? Male coaches are splashed all throughout the women’s game.

But where are women in men’s lacrosse? Players, or coaches? The excuse given by some is that it’s a different game. However the men’s game is different than women’s, they are being hired over women to coach the women’s game.

Ginny CapiccioniGinny Capicchioni was the first to play men’s box professionally, getting started back in 2003 with the NLL’s now defunct New Jersey Storm. A pioneer for women in the men’s game, she’s backstopped various men’s teams in the US and Canada, eventually even Team USA in the 2011 World Indoor Lacrosse Championships. (I was lucky enough to train and speak with her this summer and it was an awesome experience). She also coached with Randy Fraser for US U-20 Indoor this summer; a female coach for a man’s game. 

Another goaltender, Devon Wills, followed suit in 2013. She signed with the New York Lizards of the MLL, although she never got to see a minute of time in the regular season. Nonetheless, this was further proof that women can compete at the highest levels with their counterparts.

Look, being a woman playing in a man’s world is tough. I play box lacrosse in the Boston Box League on Tuesday’s in Hingham (yes, I drive 7 hours total to play for an hour). However, I am welcomed there. I also played in Fresno with the Central California Lacrosse Club and I was welcomed with open arms. This is not the case in some other “box”  or field leagues. For whatever string of reasons, a variety of challenges rears its head only for female competitors. In order to get any recognition, or to even be deemed worthy to be there, you have to be at your best at all times. It seems that means being five times better than a man. You can never blunder, be tired, or give up because that will be the end.

For these groups, it’s not about playing with the best competition or growing the game. I have been on that side of the equation. The side where you are disrespected because you are a woman. You’re disrespected even though you are undoubtedly better than men on the floor or field. It happened to me in college, when I played one summer in the hometown men’s league. Unfortunately, it’s not old news. It happened again to me playing box in Jersey this past summer.

The box experience probably hit me harder.

I drove two hours to play a couple games. I played the week prior and crushed it. I had the whole bench cheering for me when I stopped the other team’s best shooter on a break away. The guy screamed, “he didn’t even move!” and the bench yelled back “SHE didn’t move!” It was a memorable experience and motivation for me to drive all the way back and to put on all of the gear.

For readers that don’t know, box goalie gear is a process and a half to put on. Yet, I got suited in five minutes and was ready to go. The guy that runs the league came over to me as I was putting on my helmet and said that the guys didn’t want me to play. They had another goalie that they ran with the whole season.

Now remember it wasn’t my first rodeo.

I ran with the same guys the week before and I played better than the goalie they “ran with the whole season.” To make it even better, I was invited to come back by the head of the league. That goalie’s response to me playing better the week prior? Pose a shutout, or really show the role was his and his only? Oh, no. During the game, he threw, not only his gear, but a temper tantrum as well. But it was acceptable.

Which brings me to my other point. Women not only have to be their best at all times, taking no reps off and showing no weakness, but women have to watch their actions to a level men are not held accountable. Face it, women have to be so well behaved while holding in all frustration and anger, as their male counterparts can act like young children and get away with immature and unsportsmanlike behavior.

A good example of this is what occurred at the Open last week. And yes, I am bringing up Serena here.

First and foremost, I do not agree with the way she handled the situation. At all. But, if she didn’t handle it the way she did, would we be talking about it? The answer: probably not. However, I do agree with her statement, and I’m summing it up here, that men can get away with that behavior. I firmly believe she is correct.

But as women, in a man’s world, we must hold our anger in and go about it in a different way.

The way I handled the situation in box is that I walked away (after I took off all 35 pounds of gear). I wanted to scream. I wanted to yell, shout, and rip heads off. But, I knew that would go nowhere. Worse, the reality of the situation means it could lead to me being shutout from playing box in any men’s league. So I shut my mouth and drove the two hours back home. I had to, because I want to play again… somewhere.

One of my friends called me the next day to ask how it went, and I told her they didn’t want me there. Her response: “I would have gone on the floor anyway, I’m already dressed.”

US Lacrosse Team USA Indoor 2018Looking back at it, I realized she was right. I should have just gone on the floor. But to be honest, I took a look at the operation the place in Jersey was running and I smiled. Let’s just say I am humbled by the fact that I can hang with the elite caliber of the Boston Box League. Jersey, to me, was extra reps.

No need to make a scene or statement. It would be seen as completely inappropriate for a woman to stand up for injustice, but if a man did it, he would be seen as a leader.

So, my question for you is this: how do we, as women, stand up for ourselves and those around us, for equality, when it is acceptable for men to have the same behaviors, but not for us?

How do we break down the barrier for women in sport? Not just at the coaching or playing level, but at the administrative and executive level as well?

The answer: To defy politely and never despair.

I’d like to hear your answer. The only way to move forward is come together and talk, but more importantly, to listen. You heard me. Let me hear you in the comments below.