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Lacrosse Pioneer Michelle Bowyer Says Warriors’ Builders of the Game Night ‘Great Way’ To Elevate Women’s Game

Michelle Bowyer has had a passion for box lacrosse since she suited up and took the floor for her first practice. 

She’s a pioneer for women in the sport and armed with that love of the game and years of knowledge, she’s helping lead the charge to continue to grow the women’s game. 

Bowyer played on the first female box lacrosse team in Port Coquitlam in 1972 and was a member of the Burnaby Kirby’s Klippettes that won league, provincial and Canadian championships. In field lacrosse, she played with the BC Selects and represented Canada at the World Championships in 1982, 1986 and 1989. 

She was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2021 as the third woman to receive the honour. 

“I’m 67 years old and I feel like I’m a kid when I’m around the game, I still enjoy it and I love the fact that girls are starting to get more opportunities in the game,” Bowyer said. 

She was recently part of a group of female lacrosse players celebrated at a Vancouver Warriors game and said it was a great way to make connections with young girls starting out in the sport and getting them excited about it.  

“Celebrating women builders in the game, girls playing the game, and doing a lot to elevate visibility on the girl’s side of the game is great. Having nights where you really want to make girls and women feel welcome, bring teams in because you learn a lot by watching and it just elevates the excitement around the game across the board,” said the lacrosse legend. 

Bowyer got to chat with young girls around 10 years old and got to ask them what they love about the sport. 

The answer was unanimous, “every last one of them said the hitting,” she said with a laugh. 

“I love seeing little girls have opportunities in this game that I and others never really had. It gives me unending joy to meet those young girls at the game the other night, they were all so excited to be there and be hosted by the Warriors.” 

Growing up, she watched box lacrosse in Port Coquitlam, going to Poco Saints and Adanacs games with her family. She’s been watching the Vancouver Warriors since they were the Ravens and says it’s a great atmosphere to for a great game. 

“The energy is electric in there, it’s like going to a party and a lacrosse game breaks out. It’s crazy fun,” she said. 

There’s still a lot to be done to bridge the gap for equity in box lacrosse and Bowyer says Warriors’ forward Kevin Crowley is doing a great job through his company, Fusion West Lacrosse Club, to provide girls and women equal opportunity to play and coach. 

“He’s an awesome guy who gives so much to the game and is an ally for the women’s game,” Bowyer said.  

Having coached at the provincial and national level, Bowyer says Crowley is a player young lacrosse players should model their games after. 

“I refer to him as a player that a lot of young girls coming up in the game should watch for how he plays the game. Even though he’s an offensive player, he plays it from almost a defensive side of the game. He’s very aggressive offensively and he’s a good player for people to watch,” she said. 

Bowyer has made guest appearances to help coach at Crowley’s clinics and has been able to connect some of the attendees with other people in the lacrosse community. She connected a young goalie who has dreams of playing men’s box lacrosse with Rachel Vallarelli – the only woman currently playing pro men’s box lacrosse. 

“Those are the things we’re trying to do. Create community and help people make connections with each other. It is about the game itself but it’s also beyond the game – it’s about the friendships,” she said. 

She’s helped women’s box lacrosse take even bigger strides over the last few years. 

During the pandemic, she was the chair of a working group under World Lacrosse that researched women’s box lacrosse worldwide. They looked at barriers to entry, ability to continue play, interest in the sport, and what the potential could be for the sport.  

The group created a report and recommendations on international competition and shortly after, World Lacrosse announced the first Women’s Box Lacrosse World Championship taking place in Utica, New York September 2024. 

Bowyer is also the Co-founder and Executive Director of the Women’s Box Lacrosse Global Network (a spin-off of their working group) to help elevate the profile of the women’s game and to advocate for more opportunities to get into the game at all levels. They have more than 120 global ambassadors in roughly 15 countries around the world.  

“We felt it was critical at that temperature around 2022 to get women’s box on the landscape and get people revved up for the World Championships. We knew that we needed to elevate the profile of the game globally and one of the main barriers women cited in that report for World Lacrosse was lack of information, lack of ability to communicate and access to information,” she shared. 

World Lacrosse capped the number of teams participating at the inaugural Women’s Box Lacrosse World Championships at 10 teams, but Bowyer said it’s a great start and the demand is there to have more teams at the Championships in the future. 

This Global Network allows female box lacrosse players to support each other and help gain access to resources. Crowley has donated equipment to one of the Global Network ambassadors that started the first co-ed box lacrosse league in the UK just north of London. 

Bowyer continues to champion equity and growth in the sport with the hope that one day women will have the same opportunities as men in box lacrosse.  

It’s come a long way since she started playing and she says support from the Warriors and players like Crowley all help in taking the women’s game to new heights. 

Vancouver Warriors