Q&A: Charlotte North is blazing the future for women’s lacrosse

·11 min read

Charlotte North is in the midst of a busy few months of lacrosse. The two-time Tewaaraton Award winner — given annually to the nation’s best lacrosse player — just completed her collegiate career at Boston College, where she led the Eagles to a national championship in 2021 and runner-up title in 2022. North is currently representing the U.S. at the 2022 Women’s Lacrosse World Championship, a quadrennial tournament that begins Wednesday night in Towson, Maryland. And at the conclusion of the tournament, she will play in the second season of Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse. 

On Her Turf caught up with North about her expectations for the 2022 Women’s Lacrosse World Championship, the current post-grad landscape, and her goal of seeing lacrosse included in the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. 

This Q&A has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

On Her Turf: This will be your first time competing at the Women’s Lacrosse World Championship. What does it mean for you to put on a USA jersey and participate in such a big event?

Charlotte North: It’s huge. And it’s kind of surreal. We’ve been in training camp, and now, heading to the actual (tournament), it still doesn’t really feel real… I’m just so grateful for the opportunity to be able to do this. I’m playing alongside a lot of the people that I’ve looked up to for as long I’ve played the sport. So it’s definitely a dream come true.

OHT: How long have the members of this year’s U.S. women’s lacrosse team known each other and been playing together?

North: The tryouts were at the beginning of last summer so we’ve been going through the process (of team building) for a little over a year.

(The team includes) people I’ve played against, people I’ve looked up, people I watched play in college when I was still in high school. It’s just so fun to see all of us come together on one field… Two of my former coaches are on the team: Kayla Treanor and Sam Apuzzo. I was always so in awe of everything that they did.

Same with Taylor Cummings, Molly Hendrick, Becca Block, Liz Hogan – there’s just so many, I could literally name all of them, because they’re all so talented.

OHT: The U.S. team obviously has a ton of talented players. But given that the amount of time you’ve all spent training as a group is still somewhat limited — at least in comparison to a D1 college team that spends months together — how do you make sure that individual talent translates into team chemistry? 

North: Totally, yeah. We definitely want to work on building chemistry and (putting) all these pieces together. Our coaches do such a good job of that; they’re just incredibly talented and they help us so much. And the older (players) are so good at bringing in the younger people like myself… Just showing us the way and teaching us.

(The international game) is faster pace, a higher level of IQ. There’s more adapting and adjusting… just playing off of each other. Practices have been so fun; we’ve been going full speed. We’re just learning each other’s tendencies and (figuring out) how we’re going to fit those pieces together.

OHT: Given that there aren’t a lot of international competitions, how does scouting opponents work? 

North: Our coaches pull film from wherever they can and break it down. (And then during the tournament), our games are pretty fast. Once you play a game, you have to get ready to scout another team… so we’ll study all the film that we can and get to know kind of what (teams) run and their players’ tendencies.

OHT: You mentioned how you are excited to play with your U.S. teammates, but are there any international players you’re especially excited to play against?

North: Yeah, I think Canada has so much talent. Dana Dobbie played at Maryland; she’s just been incredible for so long… Her stick handling has always been something I looked up to. I’m excited to get a chance to play against her.

OHT: Are there any specific elements of your own game that you’re hoping to focus on and improve during the tournament? 

North: Yeah, definitely. I think the level of IQ on the offensive end is just so high. I just (try to) take a step back and learn all that I can from all the greats around me who are older. It’s been really fun just to see inside of their brains and watch what they’re doing and try to emulate that.

OHT: You’ll certainly be playing a lot of lacrosse these next few weeks — between the World Championship and Athletes Unlimited — but come the fall, do you have a sense of what you’ll be up to at that point and how lacrosse might fit into it?

North: I’m not quite sure exactly what I’m doing yet, but hopefully I’m going to be involved in the sport as much as possible, whether that’s coaching or more on the professional side, we’ll see. But I hope to stay involved as much as possible.

OHT: Did you ever have a moment in high school or college where you realized that because you play lacrosse — and not soccer or basketball — that your post-college playing options might be more limited than women in those sports? Obviously lacrosse has seen a lot of recent growth, but it’s not like it’s at the same level as leagues like the WNBA or NWSL.

North: Yeah, totally. It’s so cool to see how lacrosse — from when I started playing in high school and had the goal to play in college — has just grown from then to now. But obviously it’s not as big (as it could be). There’s been more international growth in lacrosse, (which is) what we need to put the sport at the next level and in line with all those other sports you mentioned. It’s challenging, but it’s a fun challenge to work on.

You hope to inspire the next generation of players and pave the way for everyone that is going to follow you (so they can) have a really cool life after college and continue to play the sport they love. We credit all the people who came before my generation, who are playing in the pro league and still playing on the national team. (They) paved the way for us to now be able to open this door. Hopefully we’ll just continue to grow (the sport).

OHT: One of the things I appreciate about covering a variety of women’s sports is that I get to compare and contrast what different sports and leagues are trying, but I’m never sure how much individual athletes in those sports are able to connect and share ideas. I was curious if you’ve had a chance to talk athletes in other sports? Like women’s softball players, given that they’re trying to get back into the Olympics in 2028? Or women’s hockey players, who are looking to accelerate the growth of the professional game? 

North: Totally. I’ve talked to a lot of women’s hockey players about how their professional landscape has transformed over the years, (which has been) really interesting to me. Hopefully they’ll just continue to grow.

Same thing with soccer… This spring, we met the Washington Spirit (NWSL). That was pretty cool just to take a step back and see where they are in the professional ranks… To talk to them about what (playing pro soccer) year-round looks like. It’s inspiring and I also think it’s achievable for our sport.

Our national coaching staff is so adamant on just inspiring the next generation and (helping us) be those role models to little girls… We talk about the 99ers a lot (because) they were that for us when we were little. We want to do the same thing for lacrosse.

OHT: While some sports have very clear gender disparities, lacrosse is interesting because… it’s not like men’s lacrosse is in the Olympics, but women’s lacrosse isn’t. Both sides still have a long way to go. What’s your sense of how the two groups are working together in terms of their shared goals? 

North: Yeah, definitely. I think both (men’s and women’s lacrosse) are working as hard as they can to come to a format that will be submitted to the Olympics. There’s a new format called “Sixes,” which is an international format that that has been developed to (more closely) align the rules between men and women. Because, as is, men’s and women’s lacrosse are very different in terms of rules, how many people are on the field, obviously, and men wear helmets and pads. And I think (organizers) are just working very hard to do whatever it takes to get into the Olympics, which is awesome and I’m excited to see it happen.

OHT: Given how different men’s and women’s lacrosse are, as they are coming up with a proposed new format, are there any women’s lacrosse rules that you definitely wouldn’t want to see change as a result of the process?

North: I’m not sure. It’s hard because they are two very different games. I hope that the Sixes format gets into the Olympics, but additionally, I hope the pure sports of women’s lacrosse and men’s lacrosse both make it as well, because, you know, it’s just beautiful to watch.

OHT: I’m also curious to get your thoughts on increasing racial diversity in the sport. According to the NCAA statistics, only 3% of women who play D1 college lacrosse are Black. What do you think needs to happen to make lacrosse more diverse? 

North: I think about this a lot. It starts at the youth level and just making lacrosse more accessible across all of America. It’s traditionally been an East Coast sport and only been in certain areas, but it needs to continue to expand and grow.

And the way to do that is to make it accessible, from the grassroots level up. It’s (starts with) getting sticks in kids’ hands. There are so many organizations out there working (on increasing access). I actually worked for one — Bridge Lacrosse, in Dallas, Texas, where I’m from — which is serving underprivileged communities and giving (kids) an opportunity to try it out and see if it’s something they love.

Lacrosse takes a little bit more (equipment to get started): you need a stick and goggles and a ball and a net — and if you’re a men’s player, you need a helmet and gloves. It’s a little harder to access those things than to play basketball or soccer with your friends. So I think just putting in a lot more effort towards (accessibility) is going spark change.

We also have so many great role models in the sport right now who are just showing those kids that it is possible to be a part of the lacrosse community.

It’s just so important and it’s something that definitely needs to change.

OHT: Transitioning a little bit… I was reading through the NCAA reports on gender equity that were released in the last year. The first one focused on basketball, but the second one looked at gender disparities across all NCAA tournaments, including lacrosse. And I hadn’t realized before that the men’s lacrosse championship includes all three NCAA divisions together, while the women’s tournaments are staged separately. I think the plan is to combine the D1 women with the D1/D2/D3 men’s tournament (beginning in 2025). Do you have any thoughts on that change? 

North: Yeah, I think it’s cool to be able to combine (the tournaments) and get all eyes on this high level of lacrosse at once. But this past year, we played in the national championship at Johns Hopkins and it was sold out.

What I really want to see that change is (women’s lacrosse) in a venue that can host even more people. (This year’s championship) was televised on ESPN for the first time, and we had half a million viewers. It was just so cool to see that, when (the sport) is given the chance to be on a stage like that, there are a lot people who want to watch and will come support, which is amazing.

OHT: That attendance figure was one of the takeaways from the report. While women have historically sold out the smaller venue, the men’s championship game at the larger stadium has been half full. It feels like a risk is being taken on the men that isn’t being taken on the women, even though the women have clearly shown there is a demand. It also is so strange to me — as a former D3 field hockey player myself — that the men’s NCAA tournament includes all three divisions. Do you have any thoughts on whether you’d like to see D2 and D3 women included in the future, too? 

North: The fact that they do it like that (with all three men’s divisions), I think (the D2 and D3) women should definitely be included. I don’t really understand why the men have it all together. Maybe it’s because of that venue being a little bigger and they can host more more teams?

It’s definitely something the women’s (tournament) should incorporate. The (D2 and D3) women aren’t as accessible as the division one games, especially on television. So I think just bringing it to the same location, same venue, so aspiring younger players, can see the different levels. It would just shed light on how much talent there is across all divisions.

2022 Women’s Lacrosse World Championship: Tournament overview, how to watch, USA roster

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC

More Women's Sports News

Venus Williams to make singles return at 2022 National Bank Open Video: After Olympic gold, Valarie Allman follows up with historic discus... Mom-of-three Nia Ali aiming for another victory lap at 2022 World Track and...

Q&A: Charlotte North is blazing the future for women’s lacrosse originally appeared on NBCSports.com