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Colleen Magarity of the WPLL: Who Says You Can’t Go Home?

The Women’s Professional Lacrosse League (WPLL), headquartered in Pennington, NJ, recently completed their first season of play. We recently caught up with lacrosse star Colleen Magarity, and talked the sport with this local Philly legend.

Colleen is a graduate of Germantown Academy in suburban Philadelphia, where she excelled at both lacrosse and basketball. She was the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Athlete of the Year in 2007. She went on to win three NCAA Division 1 Lacrosse Championships while at Northwestern, represented the US with the National Team, has had a successful collegiate coaching career at Colorado, and founded her own franchise of lacrosse camps. And in addition to being a tenacious defender for the Philadelphia Fire of the WPLL, Magarity is Associate AD and head women’s lacrosse coach at Penn Charter prep school in Philadelphia.

We began by asking Colleen about her beginnings in the sport, and uncovered a very interesting fact: she did not begin playing lacrosse herself until the age of 14!

Colleen told us, “Playing basketball was my main focus throughout my grade school and middle school years. I was only told about lacrosse through a good family friend who had older siblings play lacrosse. I showed up with a boys stick to my first practice because I did not even know there was a difference! But the basketball fundamentals and especially the defensive tactics of the game helped me quickly pick up the sport of lacrosse. When I would try out for lacrosse teams coaches would always say I can tell you play basketball by the way you play defense. “  Colleen elaborated on that aspect saying “ The way you see the ball and your girl in basketball is second nature. Basketball players pick up that principle a lot easier then those who do not play basketball. The aggressive pressure on ball in lacrosse is the same way I played in basketball. I was the one person that would always have to full court press the other point guard in the games. I really coach my girls to be very aggressive and play a similar style of team defense to basketball.”

As Colleen was finishing up her record setting dual sport career at Germantown Academy, she began to think about her collegiate options. The one she chose was Northwestern. Here’s what she had to say about that, “I chose Northwestern as my college after they won their first National Championship. I went to their summer camp and learned more in 48 hours then I did over my course of playing lacrosse prior to that. I loved the innovative style of play and fast paced game. Driving along lake shore drive in Chicago was an added bonus to that choice as it was beautiful and the school is a TOP academic university. I grew up obsessed with Notre Dame, and my grand father still did not understand how I can choose Northwestern over Notre Dame. As  an Irish Catholic family it was an extremely tough decision!!!”

Colleen’s lacrosse epiphany continued once she donned the purple and white for the Wildcats, but she acknowledged other significant influences in both her playing and coaching careers. She revealed that,  “The biggest influence to me as a player was probably Kelly Amonte Hiller – my college coach. She was able to push me physically and mentally in ways that I did not think I could get to. My father is also a huge influence in my life. He has by far been my biggest fan since day 1 and knew how to support me, help me reach my goals and care for me in a way that I never ever felt pressure that I had to succeed. As a coach my biggest influence would be Ann Elliott who I Coached under at the University of Colorado. She taught me how importantance of every single decision and how much planning and thought go into every aspect of the team. Taking it one day at a time and winning each day.”

Since she is currently, playing, coaching, and serving as a school administrator locally, and running her camps in the metro Philadelphia area, we asked Colleen to comment on the lacrosse culture there, and what she experienced in other sections of the country. Obviously, Maryland has always been an historic lacrosse hotbed, but Colleen revealed several other.  She offered, “Philadelphia is growing into one of the bigger power houses in the country for lacrosse. There are 4-5 girls representing the USA U-19 Training team form Philly which is awesome. Chicago was definitely in the growing stages but it is growing very fast especially with Northwestern having so much success. Lacrosse seems to be growing faster in areas where there are College programs ….USC, Cal, Stanford, Oregon, Colorado, Michigan, Northwestern.”

One of the most thought provoking topics we discussed was the phenomena of young girls progressively losing confidence as they matured, and how sports can help remedy that. Colleen explained, “Girls in general have confidence issues especially throughout high school. That mental battle in college and high school is very important in correlation to their success. BRAVE a new organization focusing on the confidence in HS and College players is starting an amazing company to help raise the level of confidence and making sure that does not go away” Colleen also commented on steps that the WPLL has taken to help resolve this issue. She explained “WPLL futures is the only camp that has a section set apart to help instill leadership, confidence and the overall characteristic traits that matter for female athletes. Most showcase and camps just focus on the lacrosse training. You show up, play lacrosse, learn a few things about the game but never do they tap into their mental toughness of building BRAVERY! The biggest thing for girls to focus on going from HS to College is the level of fitness thats expected of them. YOU need to be fit when you get to college else or you will spend your time running and in the gym getting fit in order to get on the field rather then having more fun playing lacrosse.”

Colleen responded to our question about her own camps by telling us, “I started HHH Girls 3 years ago and I am about to be in my 4th year with the club. I moved back to Philly after coaching at Colorado and was very interested in getting involved with the club market to help train and coach the HS and grade school girls in ways that I coached the college girls. I wanted to help fundamentally coach the girls so they can be as prepared as possible for the next level. We practice out of Penn Charter and Germantown Academy on Sundays throughout the year and 2 days a week in the summer leading up to their tournaments.”

Wrapping up our conversation with Colleen, we solicited her comments on the WPLL with one season now under it’s belt. Colleen offered, “The WPLL is a huge step for women’s lacrosse and for the girls to get to watch the best play in a league that they can dream of playing in one day. It really helps show the sport in a fast paced, fun and exciting style that is sometimes not always the case in HS with the amount of penalty calls and the rules. We have a goal to make the sport more “user friendly” to watch so that parents and girls and boys are excited to watch the sport and not confused by the rules and the game. Personally I adjusted to this level the same way I did to college by elevating my fitness level and making sure my stick work is the best it can be.

You can follow Colleen and the rest of the WPPL on Twitter @prowomenslax or on  Facebook or Instagram

You can get more information about Colleen’s Club HHH here:

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