Growth not a problem for women’s lax
Long before Christopher Columbus’ fleet of ships landed on the Eastern shores of America, Native American tribes competed in a much rougher, larger version of lacrosse, a sport that is still looking to gain popularity, particularly among the women’s teams. Predominantly played on the East Coast, women’s lacrosse has slowly “trickled over” and is continuing to grow, according to Seattle native Alex Iani, a senior.
“I mean, it’s definitely the fastest growing sport, I would say, on the West Coast for sure,” said Iani, who plays attack on DePaul Women’s Club Lacrosse. “It’s kind of like the new sport. Like I feel like soccer was pretty big, basketball was really big, but lacrosse is definitely the new sport for both girls and guys.”
Casey Johnson, a junior on the team, coaches over the summer for Lakeshore Lacrosse and has seen the programs grow in size by roughly 200 people in the past two years. Johnson thinks a lot of the growth in the Midwest has to do with the success of Northwestern University’s women’s lacrosse.
“They, with the exception of last year, the six years before that they won the national championship,” said Johnson, of Northbrook. “Kelly Amonte, who is their coach, she’s, like, amazing and she has camps over the summer and all kinds of programs and stuff that a lot of girls from the suburbs who play go to.I think all the publicity that was drawn to their team promoted [women's lacrosse] a lot in the Midwest.”
Though children can now begin playing as young as kindergarten, neither Johnson nor Iani were introduced to the game until just before high school.
“Our age group, maybe a little bit older, is kind of the first generation of people playing it through in the country,” Iani said. “Like right now I feel like it’s kind of at the soccer level. People who really like lacrosse will watch lacrosse and will want to continue playing lacrosse.
“I think it will take a while before it becomes a popular professional sport,” Iani said.
Johnson had similar thoughts and doubts that women’s lacrosse will ever become as popular as soccer or basketball.
“It sort of seems that everybody knows how to play. They’re, so to speak, all-American games,” Johnson said. “And lacrosse is kind of like hockey. It’s not one of those kinds of sports. I think a lot of it has to do with the equipment. You know, sports that require more equipment are less likely to be more popular because there’s more that goes into playing it.”
There is no professional league for women’s lacrosse, but players who wish to stay in the game after graduation can join Lakeshore Lacrosse, which offers both summer and year-round leagues.
“That’s as far as it will go I think for women,” Iani said. “But it’ll be interesting to see if they ever come across a professional league.I think it’s something that I guess the future holds. But I don’t know if there ever would be a major women’s lacrosse. Hopefully. That’d be cool, but I don’t know if it would have as many followers.
DePaul currently plays in the Division I Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse League.
“[Playing lacrosse is] definitely a fun thing to do, but when you’re in a game it’s serious and you want to win and it’s competitive,” Iani said.
With a schedule heavy with away games, DePaul fans will not be able to catch many games, but that does not mean that no one will be watching the team compete.
“There’s a good amount of people who will watch the games,” Iani said. “A lot of times it’s like the men’s team of [the home] school will watch and there’s like parents who go and friends.It’s not like a football game or whatever, but there is support and you know the people who are watching are really invested, so it’s nice. They’re there to watch a good game.”
And for those interested in the sport, it is a matter of getting them out of the stands and on to the field.
“Encouraging players [to play] is probably the best thing for the popularity of the sport and time will only tell if it’s going to become a huge popular sport,” said Iani. “So it’s definitely something to look out for.
Published in The DePaulia