Lacrosse trailblazer Merrifield backing innovative new format to propel sport to new heights

·3-min read
Merrifield, 34, is one of the greatest British players of all time
Merrifield, 34, is one of the greatest British players of all time

By Tom Harle

Supermum Laura Merrifield has blazed a trail like no other in British lacrosse and believes a new ‘sixes’ format can help the sport go stratospheric.

The St Albans native, one of the greatest British players of all time, was the first to cross the Atlantic and navigate the heartlands of the Native American sport.

Having been scouted at the 2007 Under-19 World Cup in Canada, Merrifield became the first English player to receive a prestigious lacrosse scholarship from Maryland University.

“It was like another world,” the 34-year-old remembers.

“Some of my team-mates would genuinely be nervous to go and play at Duke (University), whereas I’d be like ‘what’s Duke?’

Merrifield became the first English player to receive a prestigious lacrosse scholarship from Maryland University
Merrifield became the first English player to receive a prestigious lacrosse scholarship from Maryland University

“It was such an amazing experience with the professionalism of it and the sheer amount of time you get to train with 33 of your best mates.

“I was used to playing in front of my Mum and Dad and the dog but then I was playing in front of thousands of people, I had no idea what I was walking into really.

“Coaches tried to prepare you for it but I was so naive I never felt the stress of it.”

Glass ceilings are never safe when Merrifield is around and such limits simply don’t exist for the current generations, with a clutch of British players now at college stateside.

She has been named in world All-Star teams and led England to medals at World Championships, almost single-handedly changing the game.

It’s a testament to Merrifield’s impact that Great Britain head to the World Games in Birmingham among the favourites to reach the podium.

“I was always so proud to be British and I’d say people definitely know about us as a lacrosse nation now,” she said.

“When we come together as Britain on the world stage we are a real driving force and I can’t wait for more people to see what we’ve got. We’re ones to watch out for.”

The next phase of Merrifield’s athletic career is as a mother to two-year-old Riley, combining family life with part-time PE teaching at a school in Surrey and representing Great Britain.

“Being a mother has made me appreciate every moment,” she said. “When it comes to training, I’m much more efficient at getting that done with the time I have.

“I play for Riley now, not just for myself. I want to make her proud and show that you can have a family and still continue to play. That was really important to me.”

Riley has jetted out to join her mum at the World Games which marks one of Great Britain’s first appearances in a multi-sport mega-event.

Merrifield led England to medals at World Championships, almost single-handedly changing the game
Merrifield led England to medals at World Championships, almost single-handedly changing the game

The Games, the biggest showcase for non-Olympic sports held a year after the Summer Olympics, will see the international debut of a revolutionary six-a-side format.

‘Sixes’ is a fast-paced, shortened form of the traditional ten-a-side stick and ball sport, that organisers and players alike feel can catapult lacrosse to a place at the LA 2028 Olympics.

“It’s so fast and high-scoring, it makes it really exciting,” she said. “I can’t wait to hear what people think of it and how much they like watching it.

“It’s quite closely linked to how basketball is. There’s no breathing room to stop between goals, it’s really dynamic and everybody has to be able to do every skill possible.

“Playing at the Olympics is always your dream as an athlete. For lacrosse to be on that stage would be a dream come true, for sure.”

British Lacrosse is the national coordinating body for men’s and women’s elite lacrosse in Great Britain with a vision to inspire and generate enthusiasm, participation and pride in lacrosse across the country. For more information, visit www.britishlacrosse.org

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