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move of the then-Dartmouth senior during a Team USA clinic at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va. Johns called her over, asked Wills for her autograph and reveled at the poster in her possession. She still has it today. “There aren’t that many active goalies, at least when I was recruited,” said Johns, who played boys’ lacrosse from ages 4 to 14. “That was a huge draw, to be able to come and learn from someone who’s the best in the world. She’s been such a great role model to me.” Yet, as the USC duo turns to attack the


World Cup in England this summer for a record eighth world title, Wills, a two-time gold medalist, has begun reflecting on her career. With 14 years under her belt with Team USA, she heads to Guildford after recovering from surgery on a torn labrum in her hip. “This could probably be it,” Wills said. “My body can only take so much. ... It’s time to start settling down and thinking about family.” Will Wills retire? She will decide following the


World Cup and World Games, the latter being a multi-sport event where 15 U.S. players will compete with hopes of catching the eyes of the Olympic committee. But for now, she’s thankful for all the meaningful relationships the U.S. program has given her.


“It’s been a crazy journey. It’s definitely one of the programs, even if it’s just a short time, that you meet people that you would have never met,” she said. “This is a really amazing group. A lot of these people that are on the team are young — and they will be the faces that take it to the Olympics. It’s really cool to be a part of that, get that experience with them and then kind of step back and watch them grow the sport.” Fried said it would be “sad for the game” if Wills retires, but he finds solace in knowing that she will never leave the sport. She may never take full credit, but Wills, herself, has already grown the game tenfold. “People respect what she’s done,” Stuart said. “She’s a shoo-in, obviously, for the US Lacrosse Hall of Fame in the future. I’m sure anything she wants to take on in the lacrosse world is at her doorstep.” USL


“THIS IS A REALLY AMAZING GROUP. A LOT OF THESE PEOPLE THAT ARE ON THE TEAM ARE YOUNG — AND THEY WILL BE THE FACES THAT TAKE IT TO THE OLYMPICS.”


THE WORLD IS WATCHING


Why the World Games might be more important than the World Cup BY MATT HAMILTON


Team USA will head to Europe for the FIL World Cup, which takes place in Guildford, England from July 12-22. But most of the roster won’t head home after the competition is over.


Instead, 15 players will travel to Wroclaw, Poland, for the 2017 World Games — where lacrosse is appearing for the first time in its history — for a four-day tournament from July 27-30. Based on the progress the Federation of International Lacrosse has made to date and the trajectory of former World Games sports, the inclusion of lacrosse into the Games is a major achievement in the quest for Olympic recognition.


Almost a decade ago, the Federation of International Lacrosse laid out the plan that, it hoped, could get lacrosse into the Olympics by 2024. Part of that plan included joining organizations required by the International Olympic Committee, like Sport Accord — the umbrella organization for international sports federations — the World Anti-Doping Agency, and the International World Games Association.


Since 1981, the IWGA has hosted the World Games the year after the Summer Olympics in cities around the globe. The event features non-Olympic sports looking to get extra exposure as they attempt to take the next step to Olympic recognition.


Six nations — United States, Canada, Australia, Great Britain, Japan and Poland — will send women’s lacrosse teams to this year’s World Games. It’s the first time lacrosse has appeared in a multi-sport world competition since it was last included in the Olympics in 1948 in London. “Playing in the World Games in Wroclaw is going to be exceptional,” said Shelly Maher, FIL director of women’s lacrosse. “For us to be able to have six women’s teams there for the very first time displaying the best women’s lacrosse that we can put on will be a tremendous opportunity to show other sports what lacrosse is. We’re going to take the opportunity to promote women’s lacrosse and therefore lacrosse to a wider audience than we’ve ever had the chance to do before.” Numerous sports, like badminton, beach volleyball and


triathlon, appeared in the World Games before becoming official Olympic sports. The path is clear for a sport like lacrosse, but it will have to compete against the rest of the sports appearing at the World Games — including dance sport, squash, tug of war, sumo and karate. “[The World Games are] regarded as the Olympics for non-Olympic sports,” said Ron Balls, FIL men’s competition committee chair. “We have to be there, competing with great teams and great play, because there will be IOC members watching those games.” The World Games exposure could be crucial now that the FIL has submitted an application for provisional recognition by the International Olympic Committee. Even the president of the IWGA, Jose Perurena, labeled his Games as “complimentary to the Olympic movement.”


Whether it will lead to


lacrosse’s recognition by the IOC is yet to be determined. Judging by the requirements set forth by the IOC itself, inclusion into the World Game is a big step — potentially the biggest yet.


USlaxmagazine.com


May/June 2017 US LACROSSE MAGAZINE


37


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