Sue  Redfern

Lacrosse is at a critical juncture in the history of our sport. World Lacrosse's ambitions are bold and our vision is clear: for the sport to be recognised and played by all countries worldwide, and to be contested on the Olympic stage once again.

Whilst goals of that magnitude may have seemed well beyond our means less than a decade ago, we have now built the foundation necessary to make that vision a reality.

It has not been a process without challenges - almost nothing worthwhile ever is - but I can say without a doubt that World Lacrosse and our members are more aligned than ever, we are focused and we are taking actionable steps towards the achievement of our vision to make this sport truly global. 

Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic in the past 18-plus months, we achieved two of the most important milestones on our journey to Olympic inclusion.

First ­- in May, our Sixes vision came to life. We now have an on-field product that fits within today’s version of the Olympic Games and which will also play a major role in further developing the sport around the world.

 By making this move now, we not only have a much stronger chance of bringing lacrosse to the world’s largest stage and therefore exponentially growing our game, but we are also future-proofing our sport. We are wholeheartedly embracing progress, which is the only way forward.

Already our member federations have embraced this new concept, with an initial slate of five Sixes events in 2021 and a sixth just added in Hong Kong, allowing us to involve players on three continents in debuting this shorter and faster-paced version of the sport.

Last weekend we saw the world’s top teams compete in the supercharged discipline for the first time, during the Super Sixes tournament in the United States. In short, the action was non-stop, with 363 goals in 385 minutes of play. It was incredibly high-energy and a word we kept hearing over and over was "fun" - for the players, and for the fans.

The Super Sixes tournament represented a debut for lacrosse's newest discipline ©USA Lacrosse
The Super Sixes tournament represented a debut for lacrosse's newest discipline ©USA Lacrosse

Sixes blends many of the most popular aspects of traditional lacrosse disciplines, whilst introducing new elements that appeal to the next generation of athletes and fans. With the same rules across genders, it creates equality and consistency, while also offering greater accessibility and therefore better competition around the world.

A European Sixes tournament was already added to the programme for early next year, and programmes and leagues are currently being formed in multiple countries. Sixes is taking off in a major way, and the positive effects will be near instantaneous.

In addition to vying for inclusion on the Olympic programme starting in 2028, World Lacrosse Sixes will be featured in other multi-sport events, including The World Games 2022 in Birmingham, Alabama, next summer.

Secondly - in July, we made international sport history when the International Olympic Committee granted World Lacrosse full recognition. It was a momentous milestone for lacrosse enthusiasts around the world and the single most important step to date as we seek to become an Olympic sport.

 With this recognition also comes greater responsibility, and we are committed to serving as an active and engaged member of the international community and supporting our partners across sport. Some initial examples of that engagement include WL chief executive Jim Scherr becoming a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency Finance and Administration Committee at the end of last year, and WL technical director Don Blacklock recently being appointed to the International Federation for Sports Officials Board of Directors.

Lacrosse continues to be one of the fastest-growing team sports in the world. We are currently at 70 members, with more pending, and have an aim to reach 85 members in 2022. That would represent a near doubling of our membership base in just the last 10 years and is solid proof of the burgeoning interest in lacrosse around the globe.

World Lacrosse is lobbying to be added to the Los Angeles 2028 programme ©Getty Images
World Lacrosse is lobbying to be added to the Los Angeles 2028 programme ©Getty Images

Tomorrow, World Lacrosse will complete the second half of our 2021 General Assembly, the annual gathering of the global lacrosse community.

Our agenda is very aggressive as we continue to make strides in the evolution of our federation and growth of the global lacrosse community.

At the first session in early October, we approved an updated Strategic Plan through 2024 with a focus on five key priorities:

  1. Use 2022 and 2023 events to showcase the best of lacrosse and elevate the sport
  2. Grow the number of member countries to 85 whilst continuing to strengthen existing National and Continental Federations
  3. Develop new and diversify existing revenue streams
  4. Strengthen relationships with the Olympic family
  5. Continue to improve World Lacrosse effectiveness and governance

We also adopted diversity, equity and inclusion policies that will help enable World Lacrosse and the international lacrosse community to contribute to the betterment of global sport with increased participation by and protection for underrepresented groups.

Our sport was created by indigenous communities; it is a central part of our DNA. And as we grow and modernise, it must remain at our core to amplify the voices of people who have often been ignored, or worse.

We fought for the Haudenosaunee Confederacy to gain a rightful place in next year’s The World Games, and will continue to support their inclusion in future events.

Looking towards tomorrow’s General Assembly conclusion, we will be voting on the election of a diversity director to our Board, further solidifying the prioritisation of this area.

We will also be announcing the establishment of a Governance Committee and seeking member nominations to continue the important work of the Governance Working Group, which has already had a significant positive impact on the professionalism of our sport. And we will be hoping to pass a new structure and calendar for our World Championships that best positions World Lacrosse to maximise media, brand and commercial success, whilst expanding participation, and supporting elite athlete development and competition.

The recommendations put forth at this year’s General Assembly have been shaped by unprecedented member representation on committees, commissions and working groups, as well as active member engagement in more than two dozen webinars.

We will continue charting this new path forward, putting in the work necessary day by day, week by week, month by month.

Whether or not we are successful in realising our Olympic ambitions, we will still achieve significant acceleration of the growth and development of our sport in a very short timeframe, and that is a win for us all.