Women’s Box Lacrosse
My first experience of box lacrosse was in March 2018 when a friend invited me to play a scrimmage in Nuneaton. I left with two things on my mind: ‘Ouch’ and ‘That was a lot of fun.’ So, I went again a month later. The match-ups weren’t fair in terms of size or experience – 2 female players (myself and England Women’s Box Team Manager Anna Speight) and a lot of men’s players who were used to the physicality of the game from men’s field lacrosse - but it was still really fun. Fast-forward 5 years and I’ve been able to continue playing box closer to home at the Macclesfield facility with coaching run by Andy Downing. However, the big difference is that it is now women’s box, so we’re mostly on a level playing field in terms of box experience.
I often get asked ‘How different is box lacrosse to field?’ my answer would be that it is considerably different but the foundations of the game are the same as field and the same as any team sport. Pass, move, teamwork. Yes, there is more equipment, yes, it is more physical, but once you get used to these changes it becomes second nature like any other part of the game. The most obvious difference strikes when first picking up a ‘men’s’/box stick. Generally heavier (especially box sticks as they are built to withstand more impact) and with deeper pockets, the release point for passes or shots is different to a women’s stick. Therefore, throwing technique needs to be adapted, but it’s nothing that a bit of wall-ball won’t fix! Additionally, there are parallels to be drawn with the Sixes game in terms of number of players, subbing tactics, and shot-clock. All of these aspects were new to the game when Sixes was born, and the box game precedes Sixes. Furthermore, tactical plays can easily be transferred to the women’s field game. Pick-setting is a huge part of the attacking set-up of box lacrosse and an increasing knowledge base of how and when to set effective picks is something that I’ll definitely be using in my field game.
The idea of getting women’s box up and running in the North was to mirror the fantastic work that’s been going on in the South by ambassadors such as Lizzie Botrill. The South are on the verge of a women’s league which is set to debut at this year’s SBL (Southern Box Lacrosse) Winter Box League in December. The SBL Ravens (women’s box team) has been running since March 2022 and has attended European tournaments such as SheBox in Prague. Botrill recalls that she was ‘hooked for life’ as a result of attending the tournament.
Over the past six months or so, numbers have slowly been on the rise at weekly ‘helmet and gloves’ sessions in the north at Macclesfield, as well as at monthly(ish) sessions at the Oxford Academy in the south. Southern players (such as Botrill, Meredith Ingham-Clark, Izzy Keane and Alice Loughran) who have become passionate about the growth of women’s box have used field events as a stage to promote the box game. I can recall them parading around Bath 8s with a huge banner promoting women’s box!
The most recent event in Macclesfield was the Tasko Cup in July of this year. It was an incredible tournament and the first time that women’s box was played as part of the event (previously an annual men’s box tournament). Ravens players travelled up to play the northern ‘UKLacrosse’ team, with the northerners taking the win over a 3-game series. Since the seasonal close of the Macclesfield facility (as it is open-air), there have been several opportunities to play at the Oxford Academy. BoxLax 2023 was hosted there in September and saw players split between a ‘South’ team and a ‘Ravens’ team. It was a long, lacrosse-filled day with (if I recall correctly) 5 games being played between the two sides with South dominating the first two, and the final game coming down to a penalty shoot-out which went the Ravens’ way. Boxfest was an exciting day of women’s box lacrosse.
Meanwhile, the global box lacrosse community has been growing thanks to Michelle Bowyer who founded the Women’s Box Lacrosse Global Network. This global network’s goal was to identify official ambassadors for the sport. After submitting an application, I was selected as a Women’s Global Box Lacrosse Ambassador. Alongside others my role is to support the growth of women’s box through connecting with like-minded people and to raise awareness of the increasing growth of women’s box. It has been fantastic to get an insight in to the growth of women’s box outside of the UK and to see that it is also growing in other countries across Europe and in Australia!
Whilst all the above has been taking place throughout the past 12 months, there has been significant background development with the first ever Women’s Box Lacrosse World Championships set to take place alongside the Men’s Worlds next year (September 2024) in Utica, New York. To the delight of women’s box players up and down the country, England Lacrosse announced the official formation of a Women’s Box Lacrosse National Team in June of this year to compete at the championships. Since then, we’ve seen the appointment of Head Coach Rob Clark and Assistant Coach Scott Joyner and the first Team England trials which took place at the Oxford Academy in October. The trials were attended by over forty players over the course of the weekend and I think I can speak for all when I say it was an incredible experience in the comradery that was felt, the standard of coaching that was received and the progression that was made.
It is amazing to think how far women’s box lacrosse has come from having no more than a couple of women playing a scrimmage in Nuneaton five years ago, to the explosion of women’s box across England (not forgetting some Scotland-based players!) in the past eighteen months. The passion for the growth of this version of the game is unlike anything I’ve seen in my twenty-three years of playing lacrosse and every single player, coach, representative and supporter of women’s box is a credit to the game.
Team England Box Lacrosse Training Squad
Women’s Global Box Lacrosse Ambassador
Women’s Vice President – European Lacrosse Federation