New pro women’s lacrosse league, Athletes Unlimited, emerges

A collegiate Women's Lacrosse player is pictured. Via Flickr.

Beginning with the launch of the United Women’s Lacrosse League in 2016 and the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League in 2018, the sport of women’s lacrosse has recently witnessed the creation of a couple of different professional leagues.

Both leagues were essential in terms of elevating the sport to new heights. Not only did they give talented athletes an opportunity to continue their careers after college, but they also played a key role in inspiring future generations of female lacrosse players. As a result, the sport has experienced tremendous growth and is now reaching parts of the country where lacrosse was previously not as well known.

Both leagues have since ended, with the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League last April, effectively canceling its 2020 season. But in October 2020, the creation of a new league was announced: Athletes Unlimited.

The league has plans to begin play this summer, from July 19 to Aug. 22. Fifty-six of the nation’s most talented lacrosse players will now have an opportunity to continue playing the sport at a professional level.

“Women’s lacrosse is one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S. and incredibly popular among young players and fans,” John Patricof, Athletes Unlimited co-founder and CEO, said in an interview with U.S. Lacrosse Magazine. “Our leagues are all about excitement, storytelling and fan engagement, so lacrosse is the perfect addition to our network of pro sports leagues.”

Athletes Unlimited has a powerful and non-traditional mission to focus on elevating professional women’s sports, and provides athletes with a player-focused model to do so. Lacrosse will be Athletes Unlimited’s third league, adding to its professional softball and volleyball leagues.

Athletes Unlimited’s rules are different from the traditional rules. According to its website, games will be played in a “fast paced format consisting of eight-minute quarters, 9v9 gameplay and a 60-second shot clock all housed on an 80yd x 50yd playing field. Play will begin with draws at the beginning of each quarter as well as after every goal.” 

Additionally, Athletes Unlimited’s player-centered model allows team captains to rotate based on their performances. Team captains are an essential part of the league, as they draft their own teams prior to games. This means that players have more control, as there are no team owners or other entities that can make decisions for them.

Player performance is based on points given by Athletes Unlimited. These points also play a role in awards and bonuses. This will allow the league to remain competitive, while making it very entertaining to watch, as teams will constantly be changing according to players’ performances. The shuffling of rosters will allow for interesting new match-ups and player combinations, to an extent that has never before been witnessed in the sport. 

The AU Lacrosse Player Executive Committee is composed of very notable names in the sport: Amber McKenzie, Mira Shane, Kayla Treanor and Michelle Tumolo. Other notable players among the 56 currently listed include highly accomplished athletes such as Sam Apuzzo, Meg Douty and Katrina Dowd — just to name a few. 

Many of the players in the league are also members of the U.S. National Team, which has plans to play in the World Lacrosse Women’s World Championship that has been postponed until 2022. The inaugural Athletes Unlimited season will provide these national team athletes with an opportunity to play and prepare before the World Championship.

The league is also providing an exciting opportunity for the younger generations of lacrosse players, as it is also planning to have an Athletes Unlimited Futures lacrosse program. The selected athletes will play at a national summit in July 2021, which coincides with the professional league’s season.

The creation of this league has already sent a positive and inspiring message to its current players, future generations of lacrosse players and all female athletes.