Flo Baque played box lacrosse for the first time last year in the inaugural She-Box Tournament. She was immediately hooked.
“My first thought was that I want to help, I want to be part of this,” she said. “Since then, I’ve been organizing events and started a local team.”
As the She-Box development coordinator, Baque has worked closely with fellow She-Box coordinator Brian Witmer in preparation for this weekend’s (April 22-23) second She-Box event, featuring eight teams from seven countries. Among the teams competing in Prague are Baque’s team from Germany and a team from Hong Kong.
Witmer undertook this project in 2019, hoping to provide an avenue for women outside North America to play box lacrosse. Of course, the pandemic abruptly stopped his work, but it allowed him time to connect with other lacrosse experts around the globe to gauge interest.
Working alongside František Klíma, the vice president of box lacrosse for the European Lacrosse Federation, the response pleasantly surprised them.
“We got this resounding yes,” Witmer said. “We were all surprised that we hadn’t thought of it before.”
Before launching the event, Witmer guessed that there had been little previous conversation about women’s box lacrosse in Europe, but after seeing the excitement around it, he and his team pulled off a successful first event in 2022.
“I do think we’ve accomplished something in a very short amount of time, and the fun part is we’re just getting started,” Witmer said. “I have no idea where this is going to go, but I’m excited to find out.”
Why play box lacrosse? At first glance, the enhanced speed of the game, facilitated by six-on-six play instead of 10-on-10 and a smaller field might seem like a big draw. But especially for women who play, it’s an opportunity for enhanced physicality, contrary to the way the women’s game is officiated in field lacrosse.
“It is the only opportunity that women have to play full contact lacrosse, and I think there is a desire to play contact sports for women,” said Witmer “In Europe and elsewhere we’re seeing that with American football and rugby.”
While Baque had experience playing field lacrosse in high school and college, box lacrosse could serve as an outlet into the sport for those with no prior experience. That’s a big point of optimism for Witmer for the future of the discipline.
“I think that you’re going to see a lot of women who might not even be interested in lacrosse otherwise, and that’s really the thing I’m most interested in,” he said. “Traditional women’s lacrosse might not appeal to everyone, and box lacrosse will have something for other women of different skill sets, like women who play rugby and ice hockey.”
It’s something Baque noticed as well. She noted the added barrier of needing to learn how to skate in order to play ice hockey, but with box lacrosse, it’s a similar style of game without an extra skillset needed for entry.
And as Baque experienced herself last year, it’s an easy game to connect with.
“I feel like if you fall in love with box lacrosse, you fall in love with it deeply,” she said. “There’s no such thing as, ‘Oh yeah, box lacrosse. Cool.’ You’re either obsessed or you don’t play.”
Michelle Bowyer, the co-founder of the Women’s Box Lacrosse Global Network, spent last weekend in England working with some of the players who will play in She-Box. Bowyer played box lacrosse in Canada 50 years ago, but is aware of how new the game is outside North America. She’s also impressed with how quickly it has caught on.
“It’s really quite something to see the evolution of the sport in such a short period of time,” she said. “They’re sort of the pioneers of the game, and they’re quite new, but a lot of them are coming from the field game. A lot of them have played at a fairly high level in the field game, so they’re bringing a skillset that is already engrained in them into the box game and just adding the physical component.
“I saw some tremendous skills over the weekend, and I’m excited to see them in Prague competing against other women that are sort of in the same boat.”
This weekend’s event will take place concurrently with the men’s E-Box (European box lacrosse) Tournament and serves as the latest chance to shine a spotlight on this newer aspect of the sport.
With the first-ever World Lacrosse Box Championship for women taking place in 2024 and the increase of events like She-Box, Witmer sees this as a golden opportunity to continue to accelerate the game’s growth for women.
“The athletes do have fun, and when the athletes have fun, they go out and they find additional players,” he said. “The growth is exponential, and as long as we make sure that everyone has a positive experience, they’re going to go back to their clubs and recruit on their own.”
The fact that a team from Hong Kong is traveling to Prague for such a new event speaks volumes of She-Box’s reach already. It also emphasizes the desire to have alternative avenues for athletes to become involved in lacrosse.
“I’m very excited to see the progress and the comparison to the last tournament because so much has been going on in the last year,” said Baque. “I think we will see it come to fruition at this main European event. It’s going to be beautiful.”