By Shannon Smith, Head Coach, Hofstra University @Hofstra_WLAX; Alex Frank, Assistant Coach, Colorado University @CUBuffsWLax; and Brooke Matthews, Assistant Coach, Penn State University @PennStateWLAX
Many people have asked us why we chose to coach instead of play. The simple answer: injuries from college still plague us. So when we were given an opportunity to be a part of the United Women’s Lacrosse League (UWLX), the first professional league for our sport, without having to worry about whether we were going to be able to walk the next week, we jumped at the chance.
Never did we ever think the three of us would have the opportunity to stand on the sidelines together coaching, let alone lucky enough to be part of the first professional League, while working with the best players in the country. We are beyond thankful for the opportunity Commissioner Michele DeJuliis and Play It Forward Sport Foundation owner Digit Murphy gave us to be coaches in the league.
Most of the players dreamt of becoming professional lacrosse players ever since they were little, and the UWLX made that dream a reality this summer. The United Women’s Lacrosse League is giving the chance to players to extend their careers playing the sport that they love and enjoy, but also providing them the opportunity to be role models to the youth and high school lacrosse players in the country aspiring to one day be in their shoes.
The league is assisting the growth of our game and bringing excitement to our fans with the new rules showcased this past summer. The 90-second shot clock, free movement on whistles, quick starts, 6 versus 6 play in the goal area, and holding on the draw for possession allowed for the game to be quicker, faster, and more exciting and enjoyable to watch. The players competing in the league were able to showcase their pure athleticism and talent. Throughout the summer we received an enormous amount of positive feedback from the fans on how enjoyable the games were to watch. It would be amazing to see these rules eventually be adopted into the collegiate game as we believe it would help to get more games televised nationally due to the fact it will be faster, quicker, more exciting, and easier to understand!
As a coaching staff we had a blast working with each individual player on our team and with our General Managers, Danielle Gallagher and Kara de Paula Lynch. Both of them were absolutely awesome in getting our team anything we needed! It was a little strange at first coaching some of our best friends and former teammates from our college days, but we adjusted well to having to switch our hats around to who we were each time.
We fully believe the success of the Long Island Sound this past summer winning the inaugural Championship was due to our great team chemistry. It was a fun experience getting to know and meet the twenty players who each had different personalities and uniquely brought something different to our team. We’d like to highlight a few: Halle Majorana’s ball bag carrying abilities are unmatched; Erin Collins was a trooper when her dog George ate her game day shorts; and of course the time when the ball went up Shanna Brady’s shorts in the middle of a defensive set during a game – she handled it with class. But yet we think our favorite memory was when Alice Mercer texted Shannon what she was wearing while Shannon was outside the airport so that she knew what she looked like and didn’t miss her when she was picking her up. Really Alice?
At the end of the day we absolutely loved our team. We had the most competitive group of players who were laid back, easy going, loved playing the game of lacrosse, but ultimately wanted to have fun and win! Each player had a team first mentality (for instance when Devon Wills played field instead of goalie) and they were flexible and willing to adapt to any changes. It was awesome to see so many college rivals come together and join forces to become phenomenal teammates as part of the Long Island Sound. It is extremely exciting to see how far this league has come in just one season, and we can only imagine the direction it will be heading in the future.
The coaching staff of Shannon Smith (head coach), Alex Frank (assistant coach), and Brooke Matthews (assistant coach), led the Long Island Sound to the inaugural United Women’s Lacrosse League Championship on July 31, defeating the Boston Storm 13-8.