Take Me Back: Underdog Stories with Lauren Gilbert and Kate Ratanaproeksa


Lauren Gilbert was an All-American at Northwestern before joining Athletes Unlimited.

This article appears in the March edition of USA Lacrosse Magazine. Join our momentum.

“Take Me Back” connects today’s lacrosse stars with the next generation of players from their hometowns.

This month, Kate Ratanaproeksa, a 16-year-old attacker with the Oregon Pride and sophomore at Grant (Ore.) High School, interviews Athletes Unlimited pro Lauren Gilbert, who rose to college stardom at Northwestern after growing up in Oregon.

KATE: What was it like growing up on the West Coast, where it’s not a big hotspot for lacrosse? What was it like trying to get recruited?

LAUREN: I didn’t necessarily know I was coming from a weaker area. Ignorance was bliss. I didn’t know the level I would be getting myself into at Northwestern. I didn’t know what I was competing against in terms of recruits from Maryland, Long Island and other hotbeds.

KATE: What was the biggest adjustment when you got to Northwestern?

LAUREN: On the field, the intensity and pace of play — everyone’s going to practice to beat each other for starting spots. It’s a weird concept, competing so hard with people on your own team. I was used to being in Oregon and never really having too much trouble achieving success. That was a big challenge for me my freshman year, reflecting on my shortcomings as a player. Off the field, learning how to deal with that competitiveness and build strong friendships with those girls I was trying to beat for playing time.

KATE: How have you noticed West Coast lacrosse changing from when you were younger?

LAUREN: I’ve noticed a ton of growth. Your team, the fact that you are all looking to play at the next level and you’re nationally ranked, we didn’t have anything like that.

KATE: I can almost guarantee that all the West Coast girls, especially Oregon girls, want to be the next Lauren Gilbert. What’s your advice on how to get to where you are?

LAUREN: Focus on your own journey. Create milestones that are not related to external things. Going to play at the next level is a big decision. Make a decision that’s right for you. If you’re not going to a high-level Division I school, you’re not a failure. Working hard and having unwavering belief in yourself will get your far. I always had a chip on my shoulder.

KATE: Everyone loves an underdog! What’s it like in Athletes Unlimited?

LAUREN: It’s surreal. We get paid to play the game we love. It helped me transition out of college. I had a hard time with that ending. It was my whole identity. I’m still in the game.

KATE: Favorite pro lacrosse moment?

LAUREN: Being able to play in Palm Springs [in January], I helped spearhead that event. To see the reaction from the girls who came — that’s the type of impact that keeps me going.

KATE: If not lacrosse, would you have played soccer in college?

LAUREN: I still love soccer. It’s so big in Portland. We had to write letters to ourselves at the end of eighth grade that we’d read at the end of high school, and mine was like, “You will now have fulfilled your dream of becoming a Stanford soccer player.” Ironically, now my sister, Katy, plays lacrosse there.

KATE: Soccer’s very West Coast. My friends on the East Coast are field hockey and lacrosse.

LAUREN: Yes, definitely. This has been awesome. Thank you so much!

KATE: Thank you!

Want to interview a lacrosse icon? We'll make it happen. Email freeplay@usalacrosse.com.


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