More Than Words: Behind the #LaxEmoji Movement

Amid the constant chatter across the lacrosse community about the lack of a #laxemoji or #lacrosseemoji, Nicole Bohorad was readying her pitch.

The need for a lacrosse emoji — a small image on electronic devices that helps express emotion — was evident, but no one had taken the initiative to find out how to make the idea a reality. Bohorad, senior manager of social media enablement, technology and analytics at Under Armour, took it upon herself to find out.

"As we've seen with Facebook's latest Messenger app update, people just want to use more imagery, whether that's photos or emoticons or whatever," " Bohorad said of the emoji craze. "It's just a way to more creatively express yourself."

In just over a month, Bohorad put together a proposal for a lacrosse emoji — equipped with support from US Lacrosse President & CEO Steve Stenersen and Tewaaraton Foundation Executive Director Sarah Aschenbach — which was submitted to the Unicode Consortium, the non-profit organization that receives proposals from all over the world and standardizes text like emojis for global software use.

News of the proposal went public Dec. 15 and the lacrosse community lit up with support.

If accepted (sometime next year), the earliest a lacrosse emoji could appear is in the Unicode 11.0 update, which is scheduled for the summer of 2018.

"Everyone kept complaining online, which gave me plenty of good research for me to use to show the committee that people wanted it," Bohorad said. "It wasn't just tweeting at Apple and asking them why they haven't done this; I learned there's a process to officially requesting an emoji."

The process began with Bohorad in November, after she read about the world's first emoji convention on Nov. 4. Leaders of the Unicode Consortium, like president and co-founder Mark Davis, spoke about the process of submitting an emoji proposal.

Bohorad, who had worked with lacrosse content at Under Amour and previously with Capital One's NCAA sponsorship, reached out to Unicode to see whether a proposal had been submitted on behalf of the sport. She was shocked to hear that it hadn't and immediately began researching how to submit a proposal.

With her background in social media distribution, operations and analytics, Bohorad knew she had the wherewithal to research and complete the proposal. But she wanted support from some of the sport's leading figures.

She reached out to US Lacrosse and the Tewaaraton Foundation in November and each was ready to support the mission.

"Clearly there was a need for [a lacrosse emoji]," Aschenbach said. "It was like, 'Why didn't we have this before?' Nobody like Nicole had taken the time to go through the process."

With that support, Bohorad went to work, compiling research to fulfill the requirements set forth by Unicode — likelihood of fans/people using the emoji, how many people were searching for it, whether the emoji could represent something other than lacrosse and whether it fit the newest cultural and global emoji trends.

"I just kept digging where I didn't have the answers," Bohorad said.

Bohorad had almost finished the proposal when she began reaching out to designers to create a mock-up of how the emoji could appear. That's where Aschenbach offered up a name — Mike Freudiger. Freudiger had played lacrosse with Aschenbach's husband, Tristan Zaia.

Freudiger, who played at Limestone from 2002-2006, got the request on a Friday, worked through lunch and started sending ideas to Bohorad that day. He tweaked his design five or six times — removing a white head, tape on the stick and changing the color of the wooden stick — until he came up with the final designs that were OK by all parties that Sunday.

One was a generic lacrosse stick (which fit NCAA regulations, of course), and the other was a traditional wooden stick.

"I've played in some national championships at Limestone and I played in some big games in high school, so this is a funny way to move the needle for lacrosse a little bit," Freudiger said. "It would be great if it [gets accepted]. I'll definitely use it a lot if it does go through."

Bohorad and her team had all they needed to submit the proposal, and off it went to the Unicode Consortium for review.

"I think [a lacrosse emoji] will enhance conversation socially," Bohorad said. "It shows legitimacy of the sport in that it would have an emoji in the Unicode set of emojis. It could really show the sport has made it and will have more global attention."

"It adds color to something that would have just been words," Aschenbach said. "It would be great."

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