A magical Saturday in early June, between weeks of competitive play in the United Women’s Lacrosse League (UWLX) proved to hold special memories for all involved. From members of the Boston Storm making new friends to instilling confidence in younger players, it was part of a profound promise for greater days ahead in women’s sport. Such a rewarding day culminated with a chance to grace the field at one of New England’s most hallowed sporting venues.
Serving as the backdrop for the start of this day was the Glen Urquhart School in Beverly, MA, where a youth clinic was hosted, bringing approximately about 40 students ranging from elementary school to high school in attendance. Getting the opportunity to meet four members of the Boston Storm and learn about their experiences as elite female athletes was an empowering source of motivation and confidence.
Gretchen Forsyth, the Director of Upper School at Glen Urquhart since 2010 was pleased with the final outcome. In reflecting upon the clinic’s positive impact, there was a collaborative spirit. As the school aims to develop character people, the inspiring formation of UWLX and the early successes in its inaugural season provides a message of encouragement, one that sees young women pondering a positive future with many possibilities,
“At Glen Urquhart School, we pride ourselves on developing students who welcome challenge and strive to make a difference in the world, so it makes sense that we would partner with the Boston Storm. Not only are these professional athletes excellent role models, but the experience of being a part of history is an important lesson for our students.”
Among the Storm players that graciously shared their time with these jubilant students were Jen Russell, Colleen Magarity, Kara Cannizzaro, and Julie Wadland. Despite the conversation about sports, there was also time for levity, adding a profound element of friendliness. From fielding questions about their favorite classes when they were students, to their favorite ice cream flavor, the members of the Storm proudly represented their franchise and UWLX. The clinic also resulted in the chance to gather for passing drills, autographs, and photos, resulting in a seminal moment.
The feeling of fun at the clinic was not just one shared by the students in attendance. It was equally enjoyable for the players as well. While a significant aspect was the fact that the clinic added to the fan experience, allowing the students to see the members of the Storm as more than just elite athletes, but caring, articulate people, it allowed for a special opportunity. One that allowed them to be more than just a positive example for these students, but the prospect to become ambassadors for lacrosse, UWLX and their community.
Having established herself as a star with the University of North Carolina, graduating with 119 points (on the strength of 93 goals), Jen Russell was a real-life example of a local player that reached her goals and succeeded. Raised in nearby Andover, the chance to attend the clinic and don the Boston Storm jersey has served as a special homecoming for defender Jen Russell. Also a member of the United States national team, Russell’s heroics included a gold medal at the 2013 FIL World Cup, held in Oshawa, Ontario. For the students at Glen Urquhart, the chance to meet someone as notable as Russell is akin to meeting one of the star players on the US women’s soccer team or ice hockey team.
“One of the most important responsibilities we have as members of this league is to serve as role models for young lacrosse players. We have the opportunity to speak to girls at meet and greets and after games. I get excited talking to them about lacrosse because I know that when they are my age they will have so many more opportunities as the sport continues to grow. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the sport and for these girls.”
Selected by the Storm with their 10th pick overall in the 2016 UWLX Draft, Magarity flew in from Philadelphia, where she also serves as the Girls Club Director for Big 4 HHH Lacrosse, to participate in the clinic. Magarity’s presence and acumen were most beneficial, as she possesses a very strong coaching background which complements an exceptional playing career that saw her serve as team captain at Northwestern, winning an NCAA championship in 2011.
Currently the head coach for the varsity women’s team at William Penn Charter School, Magarity also spent three seasons as an assistant coach with the University of Colorado. In getting the opportunity to meet so many young players with their own ambitions, the feeling of inspiration was reciprocated upon Magarity, serving to reinforce her love of the game and the joy of teaching others.
“It was amazing to have the time to really talk and inspire these young girls and be role models for them. They had so many questions and really had the time to get to know all the players that were there. I hope that we were able to leave them with a few things to help them start their journey to one day play on the Boston Storm as well.”
In the aftermath of the clinic, iconic Fenway Park served as a venue to host several members of the Storm, providing more than just a big league feeling, but a sense of validating acceptance. Of note, Fenway has been an integral component to women’s sport in this decade. The first outdoor women’s ice hockey game in NCAA history took place at Fenway back in 2010. In addition, the Red Sox have graciously invited numerous female athletes (Mo’ne Davis, Ally Raisman, Meghan Duggan) to participate in the first pitch ceremony, raising awareness of the growing accomplishments in the exciting female sports community.
For a member of the UWLX family, Fenway holds special memories spanning several years. Prior to co-founding UWLX, Digit Murphy was one of the most accomplished American-born coaches in women’s hockey. When she led the Boston Blades to the 2013 Clarkson Cup, becoming only the second American-based team to do so, Murphy, general manager Aronda Kirby (who would also help form the UWLX) and the entire roster were invited for a pregame ceremony at Fenway, a landmark moment in franchise history.
Perhaps one day, a women’s lacrosse game shall take place at Fenway Park, truly elevating the sport to an even greater level of achievement. For now, one of baseball’s greatest shrines would occupy a different yet integral role. The Storm were treated to a treasured opportunity to be part of something special, gaining acceptance and acknowledgement for their amazing yet groundbreaking efforts.
Prior to the Red Sox taking on the Toronto Blue Jays, an eventual 6-4 final in the favor of the home team, Storm players were introduced to the fans as part of a pregame ceremony. Taking place before the first pitch ceremony (which unfortunately did not feature a member of the Storm), seven members of the Storm player roster, head coach Amy Patton, and the squad’s assistant General Manager were proudly in attendance. Undoubtedly, the jubilation of the event served as a seminal moment for the members of Storm, a great point of pride for Magarity,
“Having the opportunity to travel to Boston and get honored at Fenway park was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I will never forget. This particular stadium is such a staple in professional sports with so much history while we are pioneering the first ever professional women lacrosse league.
We could not be more thankful for this honor to be on the home field of the legendary Boston Red Sox and receive such support for the start of something great, the Boston Storm.”
Gracing the hallowed playing field, the stadium announcer graciously mentioned several minutes’ worth of content about the Storm’s exciting experience in professional women’s lacrosse. For the UWLX and the Storm franchise, the chance to be part of Fenway lore represented one of the true feel-good moments of the season, as the launch of the Storm has involved their acceptance into the Boston sporting community.
Since the dawn of the millennium, one could argue that Boston is truly America’s premier sporting city. As the only city to have at least one championship in all four of the men’s major league sports, the city also features championships in women’s tackle football (WFA) and ice hockey (CWHL, NWHL). The arrival of the Storm only adds to this remarkable city’s sporting legacy, while providing the female sporting community with a new group of heroes to admire.
Before the start of the UWLX season, the WFA’s Boston Renegades, which saw legendary quarterback Allison Cahill, win her 100th game with the franchise in 2016, showed a tremendous gesture of kindness by inviting a player from the Storm to participate in a pre-game coin toss. The result was the formation of a true sisterhood between two members of Boston’s growing female sporting community, one that could propel such remarkable athletes to greater heights, as the Renegades also enlightened the fans about the UWLX and the Storm with an informative public announcement.
In addition, the Storm have also received support from the members of Boston’s male lacrosse community. The Boston Cannons of Major League Lacrosse have invited the Storm to participate in a pair of events during the month of June, signifying a great feeling of collaboration and friendship between the two teams. This outpouring of friendship has only enhanced the experience of being among Boston’s homegrown sporting heroes for Jen Russell.
“The pregame ceremony with the team was an incredible experience for everyone involved. Growing up in Boston, I’ve always been a Red Sox fan so it was exhilarating to stand on the field before the game with my teammates.
We really appreciate the support of the Red Sox organization and their willingness to provide us with a platform to continue to spread the word about the league. The support from the Boston sports community has been pretty special. Several teams around the city including the Red Sox, and the Boston Cannons and the Boston Renegades have all reached out to show their support.”
For competitors such as Magarity, Russell, and the rest of the wondrous women blazing an exceptional trail in UWLX, the chance to be part of the first professional women’s lacrosse league in the United States, along with getting the opportunity to compete during a historic opening weekend, is a remarkable confirmation of all the efforts throughout the years to bring equity to sport in general. While the Storm have exploded for an undefeated start to their season, Russell explains how a bigger victory is taking place, one that is shared among so many,
“It is an honor to be a part of the first professional women’s lacrosse league. Since I began playing lacrosse, the sport has made so much progress, and it continues to evolve and change every year. This league is an important step for the sport, and I look forward to seeing its growth in the years to come.”
Considering that the progression of women’s lacrosse is a remarkable point of pride, another essential step in helping to make women’s sports viable, the opportunity to expand the perception of sports fans, allowing them to appreciate a new generation of athletic luminaries runs parallel to the significant meaning of opportunity. As Forsyth emphasizes, the courage shown to start a league from scratch and provide so many with a chance to collaborate and build something great is more than just a great example of teamwork, it is a tremendous source of admiration. Quite possibly, the league’s greatest legacy shall be defined by more than its efforts to build the game, but its optimistic message that grows stronger with every game that is played,
“As an educator and a parent of young daughters, the ability to tell young women they can be anything they want to be and having that be true is truly the dream the realized. The UWLX brings us a step closer to that reality. The Glen Urquhart School was proud to be a part of such a fantastic day and this historic moment.
The development of UWLX sends the message to young women that anything is possible. Even if it does not exist today, whatever they dream can truly become a reality. The power of that message is bound to make a difference in the next generation or athletes and leaders.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Special thanks to Jon Bird