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When Your Biggest Lax Role Model Becomes Your High School Coach...

In most sports, you don’t see pros or national team athletes coaching high schoolers and college kids. Lacrosse is different – elite-level athletes consistently invest in the next generation, coaching and mentoring young players on a daily basis.

One of the best things about lacrosse is the unique sense of community that comes from the collective desire to grow the sport.

Wycombe Abbey, a boarding school for high school girls in Buckinghamshire, England, is a perfect picture of this unique effort. The school is working to grow its lacrosse program with a renewed emphasis on participation and enjoyment of the game. In fall of 2016, Laura Merrifield, senior midfielder for Team England (and most recently named to the 2017 World Cup roster!), came on board as head lacrosse coach.

We flew to England for the team’s season culminating four-day national tournament: The Rathbones National Schools Lacrosse Championship. Here’s a peek:

We then chatted with some of the Wycombe girls about their tournament experience, team dynamics and what it’s like to have Laura as their coach.

Best part of the Rathbones national tournament?

Ice baths…kidding! Playing alongside friends I’ve had for the last five years, growing closer as a team, and representing Wycombe one last time. - Emily, Wycombe defender

We had a real sense of togetherness that was missing from our team before…it really felt like every person belonged and we were all close friends. The atmosphere in the tent and the excitement after we won the Plate were probably my favourite things. - Bea, Wycombe midfielder

From hanging out in the tent, to giving it 100% on the pitch, to going back to the hotel for an ice bath, it was so much fun to have several full days with the team, playing the sport that brings us together! - Claudia, Wycombe goalkeeper

Tell us about the team experience and getting pumped for a big game:

To pump up before a big game, we usually sing songs together…Nicki Minaj’s Superbass became our Nationals’ pump-up song because we were impressed with Merrifield’s lyric knowledge and rapping skills. - Emily, Wycombe defender

We usually play music (Superbass!) and have lots of loud communication in our warm-ups. We shout things like “I’ve got your back” or “I’m on your right” to each other and it gets us super pumped. It also shows the competition that we mean business! - Bea, Wycombe midfielder

Everyone has a specific buddy on the team who we make cards for before every match. That’s something that builds my confidence and gets me excited! - Claudia, Wycombe goalkeeper

Best part about having Laura Merrifield as a coach:

Bragging about it! Also, you know you’re learning from the best and that’s pretty cool. She’s really positive, enthusiastic, and up for a laugh, but also knows when to get down to business. - Emily, Wycombe defender

Having Merrifield is a bit like having David Beckham coach your high school football team. We really know we have the best of the best. She never says a negative word on the sidelines, and her criticism is always constructive. Everybody on the team genuinely wants to make her proud. - Bea, Wycombe midfielder

Her coaching style is very well-suited to our team dynamic. Every training session is really fun…we always have a laugh, but at the same time, there are serious learning elements woven throughout to help us improve. It’s really inspiring to be coached by someone who's achieved so much. It motivates me to try my hardest and go far in lacrosse. - Claudia, Wycombe goalkeeper

The inspiration goes both ways. After the tournament, Laura noted that she was particularly proud of the girls’ attitude and performance. They narrowly missed out on the Championship Division, and instead of getting discouraged, they stepped up their game and dominated the Division 1 section, coming out as winners.

Laura’s big takeaway from the season and tournament - positivity and team cohesion is the key to success!

If you spend your weekends at lacrosse tournaments and events too, you’ll definitely relate to these 15 things.