The WPLL is the first and only women’s professional lacrosse league. Michele DeJuliis is the CEO and founder of the league. On April 14th, the league announced that it was cancelling its 2020 season due to the coronavirus. The season was originally intended to begin on June 13th. Below, DeJuliis discusses what went into that decision and why she remains optimistic regarding the league’s future.
For an earlier interview with DeJuliis on both her own professional background and the challenges of starting a professional sports league, click here.
Leading up to our decision to cancel the 2020 WPLL season, we were doing everything we could to see how everything with the virus was playing out. We didn’t want to make the call too early. But as you can imagine, the changes in the announcements that were coming from the government and local agencies each day looked grimmer and grimmer. First and foremost, we had to think of the safety of our players, fans, officials, and staff. On top of that, we were planning to play games at venues and universities that are out of commission for the summer because of the pandemic. And then there were our sponsors, who are going through furloughs and layoffs themselves. They’re hesitant to spend money given all the uncertainty surrounding our season and the economy.
We thought about it, but a big part of the excitement is playing in front of fans and having our players interact with fans. If we can’t do that, that’s not great. So we just felt like for the safety of everyone involved, it was the best decision to cancel. And now this means we can push our efforts full throttle into 2021.
All of our sponsors were in full support. We have a couple of really big champion sponsors that we’re excited to announce over the next couple of weeks that are standing by us and we know that they will thrust us into a great 2021 season.
We wanted to give players the opportunities to stay connected to their fans, to coach/mentor younger players and to make money. The WPLL+ is just that. Via these online training sessions, our athletes are able to connect with fans and younger athletes, which is even more important and valuable during these difficult times. We know that sharing an hour with a mentor can mean the world to these young athletes who have been stripped of their spring opportunities.
We’ve been consulting with youth and club colleagues in the industry and there’s a lot of excitement around what we have planned. Our athletes love giving back to the next generation of talent and WPLL+ was designed as a means for our athletes to engage with our fans. We are also taking registrations for group programming with one-on-one and coach-to-coach programming. Despite the cancelation of our 2020 season, there are a lot of exciting things to come for our league.
The lacrosse community is so tight, everybody knows everybody, and people are supportive and people want to see the women’s game grow. They want to see women’s pro lacrosse stay. We have gotten a lot of feedback from fans and supporters saying that they understand the decision we made is the right decision and that they believe we will be back stronger. These are things that just motivate all of us to be better and give us an opportunity to really get our ducks in a row for a killer ‘21 season.