Courtney Waite coached and taught in England following her graduation from North Carolina. A recent tour gave her a chance to return to the country and play the sport she loves.

England Tour a Homecoming for WPLL's Courtney Waite

Following the third exhibition game of a Women's Professional Lacrosse League touring team in England on Sunday, Courtney Waite acted as a tour guide for some of her teammates.

“I felt a little bit like a local,” Waite said.

The WPLL Fire defender spent a year in England teaching and coaching after graduating from North Carolina in 2015, and she was happy to show Kara Mupo, Shelby Fredericks and Allie DaCar around London to cap their long weekend as the U.S.-based squad helped England tune up for the European championship while getting a unique opportunity on a trip funded by US Lacrosse. She took them to Covent Garden, found a good spot for dinner, and showed them Lancaster Square and Piccadilly Circus.

“Within a short walk,” said Waite, “you’re seeing very different parts of London.”

Waite spent Saturday morning reuniting with friends and former co-workers at the Godolphin School in Salisbury, about an hour from the Aldershot Garrison Sports Centre that hosted the three exhibition games, and about an hour from Guildford that hosted the 2017 World Cup won by the U.S. It was Waite’s first trip back to England since leaving in the summer of 2016.

“It was a cool opportunity,” Waite said. “As soon as I saw that, it was two-fold for me. One, I could play at a high level against the English national team and on the other hand, get back to England to an area I know really well. It’s also a beautiful part of the country. I didn’t know where we’d be at first, but I had my fingers crossed that there would be a time to meet up with people.”

"it’s also really cool to see them have the opportunity to just play and participate in so many different things and learn how to put in their own time to get better because their formal practice opportunities were limited."

Waite had hoped to be back in England for the World Cup in 2017, but she was the final defender cut from the U.S. team that went on to win gold.

“That hurt a little,” she said of being cut. “It’s always going to be a sore spot, but at the same time I look at the defensive unit they brought and I can’t argue. They picked such a good team for the World Cup in 2017.”

Waite continues to play at a high level in the WPLL, but is not a member of the current U.S. national team pool that is overseen by head coach Jenny Levy, her coach from UNC.

“I would absolutely, if I got invited back, jump at the opportunity,” Waite said. “I leave that to the coaches. I know they’re looking at players, looking at chemistry, looking at a lot of different factors. I’m loving playing with the Fire.”

With an off weekend for the WPLL, Waite made the most of every minute she had in England. She returned to Salisbury on Saturday, watched a parade through the town, then visited Godolphin and reunited with members of its physical education department, including Leslie Banks, who had been head coach of the school’s lacrosse team when Waite served as an assistant coach. Godolphin won the U15 Rathbones National Schools Lacrosse Championships in 2016.

“I didn’t get to see too many of my students,” Waite said. “There were a few there for tennis matches. It was a relatively short visit because I had to leave again at 12:30 to catch a train. It was good to see them again and catch up and see who’s where and doing what.”

The rest of the visit to England was spent on the lacrosse field. Waite and the U.S. won the first and third games handily. Mupo scored five goals in an 11-4 win Friday. England rallied for a late 11-10 win Saturday afternoon. The U.S. closed with a 10-3 win Sunday to take the series, 2-1, but came away knowing they had to work for their wins.

“I was impressed,” Waite said. “They were really strong defensively. If you watch our attack from the games, they moved the ball so incredibly well and so quickly, and England recovered and moved with that. Their 1v1s were really strong and they’re team movement was really, really impressive. Off the draw, all 50/50 balls, they’re such a gritty team they go after it and they were tough to beat in those. They definitely impressed me and as a whole team, they had some fast players and good dodgers on attack. They put together a really impressive performance.”

Waite had faced England as part of the U.S. touring team in 2016 as her teaching commitment was ending at Godolphin, and the defender from the WPLL’s Fire played later that year against England in the first Fall Classic in Sparks, Md.

“I definitely think it has grown there,” Waite said. “When I was over there, I helped with one of the tryout sections for the U19 team. They’ve always been incredibly fast and quick and a great team and that has not changed. From the beginning, they brought the fire and energy to go after the ball. I was incredibly impressed with their defense on this trip. That has really grown and become such a good unit. They move really well. I wasn’t there long enough this weekend to see the school lacrosse team or to go to their nationals to see their overall level, but looking at them as a team, they have grown and they’ve always been athletic and fast and have good skill sets. We’ll see if every time we play against them if they’re improving.”

Waite is among the American players that can take some credit for helping England, which won the bronze medal at the 2017 World Cup. She followed two UNC teammates to England to be a part of a program organized by the English Lacrosse Association that brings in Americans to coach at a scholastic level.

“You’re placed at a school to essentially be a lacrosse specialist,” Waite explained. “You’re a teacher also. You help grow the game over there. We bring our experiences and our knowledge of lacrosse to help grow the game. I’d seen both of them do it and have the ability to travel with the way the school system works over there. I thought it was a really cool opportunity. I love traveling and I wanted to study abroad but with lacrosse being a full-time commitment, that wasn’t a realistic opportunity for me in college. I was also lucky where I had support and encouragement from my parents to do that after.”

Waite helped Godolphin’s lacrosse program, but as a P.E. teacher, that wasn’t her only sports responsibility. She also taught netball, rounders and field hockey, none of which she had any prior experience.

“I had to pick up those,” Waite said. “It was eye-opening just to see a very different way of organizing school or sports. That was unique. With America, in high school you do one sport a season and do that every day and do that three months or so and if you’re a multi-sport athlete, you move on to the next sport. Over there, the seasons are longer and instead of playing one sport, the girls can do all the sports.  In the fall term, most of my players did lacrosse, netball and field hockey, so I’d only have maybe two practices per week and they’d be short and they’d move on to the next sport or drama or music. They’re expected to excel in a lot of different things.

“As a coach it was frustrating to not get the time I wanted, but it’s also really cool to see them have the opportunity to just play and participate in so many different things and learn how to put in their own time to get better because their formal practice opportunities were limited.”


US Lacrosse funded the trip of WPLL players that competed against the English national team in a three-game exhibition series to help England prepare for the European championship.

Returning to England was Waite’s big trip for this summer, but she’s also hoping to get to Peterborough, Canada, for a few days of the FIL Women’s U19 World Championship next month. There, Waite hopes to lend a hand to Kenya, whose co-founder Storm Trentham is a former Godolphin head coach that Waite befriended and offered her help with the Kenyan team during her year in England.

“I want to get up there and support her and that team and then also Godolphin is sending a team to a tournament there for high school aged kids, kind of alongside the World Cup, and Leslie and Sara Pokai, the head of the P.E. department, will be there for a few days,” Waite said. “I wouldn’t be going back to England, but I’d be seeing the same team, a lot of the same girls that I coached, and I could support the Kenyan team so I’d be killing a couple birds with one stone. It’d be a neat opportunity. I’m trying to save some vacation days for that this summer.”

Waite already has had one great trip this summer. It was short, but the long weekend in England rekindled the excitement from her year spent coaching and growing the game.

“It’s an opportunity I’ve been hoping for for a couple of years,” Waite said. “I got to play at a high level, which I love to do at any opportunity now that I sit at a desk much of the day. It was a chance to go back. I loved everyone I worked with over there. When you live there and work there, you become very close so it was tough not seeing them and I’m not the best at staying in touch. It ended up being the perfect weekend for me. I played lacrosse. I got to see old friends. I got to return to a place that was a home for a year. It was perfect weather, and a beautiful weekend, and I got to hang out with old teammates, a lot of whom I’d played with before. From every perspective, it was a wonderful opportunity.”