By Erin Walters-Williams
We went into the World Cup ranked 5th in the world and gunning for a medal; we were on top form and hungry to win. In the end, our medal dreams were dashed by a loss in the quarterfinals. This was an obvious disappointment, and any high-performing, elite team will not be happy with a loss. Our World Cup 2017 journey certainly included heartache. But we don’t play just for the scoreboard. We play for each other, for the privilege of creating magic with our best friends, for our enjoyment and empowerment. We have purpose and we have memories. Sport is about lessons, and applying them across all areas of life.
The build-up to this summer’s World Cup took off in 2015, when we won our second-straight silver medal at the European Championships in the Czech Republic. Additions to our coaching staff brought new perspectives and new ways of winning. We had monthly, and then fortnightly squad training camps, at which we pushed our lacrosse skills and bonded tightly as a team. We are an incredibly close team. Wales does not have a large player pool from which to select, so those of us in the system work hard to build each other up.
In the time between squad camps, we balanced full-time work, study, and family responsibilities with daily training. In our day jobs, we are doctors, teachers, bankers, students, consultants, media professionals, business owners, university management, and mums. We are not full-time athletes; we’d love to be, but lacrosse doesn’t have the professional infrastructure to support that. Instead, we pay for the privilege to play for our country. This is a sacrifice we are happy to make, and it’s also why we are very grateful to have the support of Proskins as we go along our journey.
Alongside our squad training, we go on competition tours to the USA, playing collegiate and club sides there to get the best match experience possible before major tournaments. In our last tour to Maryland and Pennsylvania last February, we beat Penn State University — a big win which sent us off very nicely into the World Cup.
Our World Cup featured some memorable performances: Laura Warren’s buzzer-beater goal which gave our lead over Scotland an extra cushion; our unit defense and goalkeeping which kept the world’s best shooters at bay; Sophy Coombes-Roberts’ goal to give us the lead over eventual champions USA; Phoebe Smith’s entire World Cup debut. There were plenty more brilliant moments (there’s simply not enough space to list them all!), and each of us walked away from the tournament with pride.
Because of that, World Cup heartbreak comes from collective suffering but equally is healed by our unity. When we lost, I wasn’t just sad for myself — I was heartbroken for my teammates. I’ve seen them work so hard these past four years, and I wanted to see that rewarded with on-pitch glory. I know they thought the same about my own hard work too. But what made us so strong is how we came together after the loss. We watched TV together in our accommodation common area. We checked in with our amazing Sport Psychologist and received incredible messages of support from family, friends, former players, our U19 squad, and supporters from all over Wales and the world. We made each other cry, then laugh, then cry with laughter. And ultimately, we beat New Zealand to end the tournament on a high. That resilience is something we are very proud of, and something that solidifies the legacy of the World Cup 2017 team.
Next step: win gold at the European Championships in Israel, 2019. The entire Wales family carries on, #strongertogether and stronger than ever.