Women’s lacrosse at UW-River Falls may become varsity sport
The UW-River Falls women’s lacrosse club team is beginning the process of becoming a varsity sport.
Recently, the university administration approved funds to hire a coach, the first step of many in the process.
Interim Athletic Director Crystal Lanning said nothing is officially set in stone just yet, but the pieces are in place.
“We made one step in the process towards adding a varsity program, and we’ll be using the next couple weeks to figure out what the timeline might be if we do get the approval to actually launch a varsity program,” she said.
Going from a club to a varsity program takes a lot of planning. The athletic department is working to set up the building blocks.
“The first step was making sure that we were going to have staffing,” Lanning said. “You wouldn’t want to start a varsity program without having support, to have a staff member. The next step will be formulizing what operation costs might be and finalizing how we can fit them into our sport module, who they would play, where they would play, all those different types of details. So that is where we will be working, probably through the rest of the spring semester.”
Funds have been allocated to hire a coach, but no one has been chosen for the position just yet. In addition to coaching, the new hire will have to handle other tasks to help the team move forward. Discussions taking place in the next few weeks will help to make the job requirements more clear.
Multiple factors led to the women’s lacrosse team being chosen rather than the men’s. Lanning said the athletic department has been exploring women’s lacrosse for several years. The sport is progressing rapidly in the area.
“It’s a growing sport in our region at the high school level, in the Twin Cities area. At the collegiate level, there are some new women’s programs in our competitive regional area,” Lanning said. “There are three Division III programs in the Twin Cities area, there is two in Iowa, there is a whole conference on the eastern side of the state and the primary focus is on women’s lacrosse. With men’s lacrosse, we wouldn’t have regional competition. Schools are adding women’s lacrosse first.”
The potential new lacrosse program puts female athletics at the forefront of a charge for diversity and inclusion.
“We are also looking at it as a potential way to increase our participation numbers for female athletes, which is something we’ve been looking to do with our Title IX compliance numbers,” said Lanning. “This would be an opportunity for us to add some quality, high-level competition opportunities for female athletes.”
Jordan Johnson, a senior at UWRF, is the president of the women’s lacrosse club team. She said that the sport was not offered at her high school, and she began her lacrosse career at UWRF as a freshman.
“I’ve always loved sports and being active and thought lacrosse would be a great new challenge and a good way to escape from school and work,” Johnson said.
As a club team, the group has relied heavily on the work of members like Johnson to keep the program running and progressing.
“Right now, as a club team, the officers of the team do everything ourselves,” Johnson said, “from making our own schedule, handling the finances and leading practices.”
Johnson said she is confident that the team would be able to make the transition from club to varsity.
“The women’s athletics at UWRF is very strong, and I’m proud to say we have a lot of amazing athletes on our team that would be a great addition to varsity sports on campus,” she said.
UWRF currently has nine women’s varsity sports.