One of the few positives to come out of the coronavirus pandemic has been the gift of time.
Many have struggled to fill that void at one point or another, but WPLL players are using this period to connect with fans more than ever before. For WPLL Pride midfielder Mollie Stevens, this means using Instagram and other social media to motivate and communicate with young players.
“I feel like I’m busier now than before when I was coaching and working,” Stevens said.
Beyond individual efforts, Stevens has been teaching a shooting, dodging and cutting clinic through the WPLL+ Digital Training program. This new initiative served as the league’s answer to the cancellation of their 2020 season.
“Not being able to see the fans this summer and them not getting to watch us play is a bummer,” said WPLL Pride midfielder Sydney Pirreca. “But being able to engage virtually and digitally is such a great alternative.”
These digital trainings allow youth, high school and college lacrosse players to train and learn from professionals in the comfort of their own backyards. Players spend the majority of the 45-minute sessions going through drills, but the pros factor in time for extra interaction through a Q&A at the end.
“They always want to know if I like getting hit with a lacrosse ball,” WPLL Pride goalie Molly Wolf laughed. “But actually, they are always asking what they can do to get better. They are dedicated to improving and itching for guidance.”
More recently, WPLL+ added 4Square, sessions featuring four pros—Dana Dobbie, Michelle Tumolo, Katrina Dowd and Hannah Nielsen—teaching together. Dobbie explained that each player leads a portion of the training while the other three give feedback and answer questions posted in the chat. This makes the session a truly collaborative experience for the players and the pros.
“We jumped on a facetime after last Thursday’s session, and we were like ‘I don’t know who is having more fun, us or them.’” Dobbie said.
Leading these clinics digitally instead of in person has challenged the pros to try different teaching methods and get creative. After her first session, Stevens learned that she can’t jump into drills as quickly and needs to take time breaking down every aspect of a skill. Wolf has created drills that focus on reaction time, muscle memory and footwork since reps at saving shots are nearly impossible when training alone. Even 4Square requires extra coordination and planning to ensure the players are not overwhelmed.
Despite this, the WPLL has seen an international reception to its digital training program as players from England, New Zealand and South Korea tune in for sessions. This is a similar reaction the league is hoping for with its latest initiative, the Dream Stream.
Dana Dobbie was inspired to propose the Dream Stream when one of her favorite singers, Matt Nathanson, performed in a 12-hour Facebook Live donation event that featured over 40 musicians.
“We don’t have lacrosse right now, so we should do this to teach lacrosse players around the world new skills and drills and motivate them,” said Dobbie. “There is no reason we can’t come together.”
This free, seven-hour stream aims to unite the lacrosse community across gender barriers as it brings together players from all professional leagues while also raising money for various charities. Personally, Dobbie also hopes that the Dream Stream earns the WPLL better recognition as women’s sports continue to fight for better representation in media coverage.
“Let’s not wait for it. Let’s just put ourselves out there,” Dobbie said. “We may not have the camera, the editing, the marketing of the PLL, so it isn’t going to be perfect. But the message and the reason with supersede the production.”
The WPLL continues to encourage its players to build their own brands, but the league’s growing digital presence raises awareness for women’s lacrosse as a whole. Expect the league to launch more initiatives throughout the summer.