Today, the U.S. women’s national team embarks on a journey to capture its third straight gold medal in the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Women’s World Cup in England. A majority of players and staff then continue on to debut in the World Games in Poland, an opportunity that they hope will usher lacrosse into the Olympics in the near future.

The heart and hustle of these players are unquestionable, and coach Ricky Fried’s passion and determination to lead these women into a new era for the sport are evident, but behind the scenes, the three U.S. assistants Amy Bokker (Stanford head coach), Liz Robertshaw (Boston University head coach) and Jess Wilk (three-time U.S. gold medalist) know firsthand the time it takes to reach the highest level of excellence, the long-term values and benefits of the U.S. program and the meaning of representing something bigger than yourself, wearing the American flag.

Bokker, Robertshaw and Wilk reflect on their experiences with Team USA in a three-part Q&A blog series, highlighting time, value and meaning.

As coaches, how would you define what the U.S. program stands for and what it means to be a part of it?

Bokker:

Being a part of the U.S. program is being a part of something way bigger than yourself.  You represent your country, your family, your institution, your teammates, your coaches – a ton of things before it gets to you.

You must embrace this to be part of our program. 

We take it very seriously that we get to wear USA on our chest and honor the American flag with our national anthem before every game.

This message is clear in everything we do.

Our players and coaches know that even when we are not together, we are together and you are representing this world-class program. Our current team has so much respect for this and wants to uphold what every athlete, coach and staff member before them represented as well. We want to set the standard on and off the field.

Robertshaw:

I think through the years and with different staffs, you may get different answers. But for our group, we’ve been pretty consistent with how we want the team to be seen. I mean it’s Team USA. You represent something so much bigger than anything you’ve done in the past.

So, in theory, I don’t think there’s much more you need to define, but knowing in today’s times, you can’t assume things.

These are my thoughts: Team USA is about doing things “the right way.” It’s being hungry for greatness while being humble in attaining it. It’s putting in the individual work day in and day out that nobody sees in order to play an amazing team game on display for everyone to see. It’s knowing that little eyes are watching and the future of the game is in your hands. It’s a sacrifice for all involved while at the same time the most overwhelming feeling of love.

I feel extremely fortunate to have had this opportunity for the past seven-plus years.       

Wilk:

The team is very mindful of the amazing opportunity they have getting to represent their country and wear the USA jersey and they are also aware of the responsibility that comes along with that opportunity. 

There are core values of the program that remain the same through the years, but it is really the players that define what each team stands for – a “your team, your time” if you will – that makes each team special and unique in their own way. 

What does this summer mean to you, coaching players that could be pioneers in the Olympic movement?

Bokker:

I think when the World Games and Olympic committees get one glimpse of these players out there crushing it on the field, they are going to be crazy to not want women’s lacrosse in the Olympics. 

The passion, energy and excitement these women play with, on top of the athleticism, skill and strength, I’m telling you, I get wrapped up in watching rather than coaching a lot of the times!

To be able to coach in England and Poland and watch how our sport has grown and where it is going is surreal. I think about my college coach, Feffie Barnhill, who has worked tirelessly to grow our sport and work toward this moment and she taught me to work for that and continue to push forward. 

I am beyond grateful to have this opportunity and we all hope we can say we help set the stage for a 2024 Olympic debut!

Robertshaw:

It’s so cool.

Selfishly, I want to be coaching Team USA in the Olympics because of my absolute love for the Olympics. Having been to a couple of the Olympic games, there is nothing like it – not even a soccer World Cup, which I’ve been fortunate to attend.

The spirit of the games, the pride in country regardless of the sport being played, the emotions of the events – they are so amazing, and to know that we may get lacrosse in there soon it really inspiring. 

So if Marie McCool or Gussie Johns are on the first Olympic team for lacrosse, here’s hoping they remember us and get us some tickets to the gold medal game!

Wilk:

We talk a great deal about the importance of the current team connecting the past, present and the future and this opportunity seems to embody that idea in such a unique way. 

It is truly inspiring to see this group of players as the pioneers in the Olympic movement paving the way for future generations of lacrosse players, the way so many of the women who came before them were innovators in their eras with the players and teams in the 60’s and 70’s spreading lacrosse across the globe or ushering the women’s game into the World Cup in 1982. 

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