As anticipation builds towards the second season of UWLX, the newest chapter in this exciting sporting odyssey consists of an individual whose impact in lacrosse is manifold. Appointed to the position of interim commissioner, Gary Gait not only brings great awareness to the budding league, but helps increase its prominence.
Refusing to be sustained by legend alone, Gait has only added to his lacrosse legacy since retirement, with an enthralling legacy as coach that runs parallel to his playing career. Inheriting the position from Michele “DJ” DeJulius, who helped navigate UWLX during its successful inaugural season, Gait is poised to build on her contributions, while supplying strong leadership, running parallel to the aspirations of the sport in general.
Considering that the second UWLX season shall see the league engage in a collaborative effort for this year’s NCAA lacrosse championships with Gillette Stadium, home of the NFL’s New England Patriots, Gait’s presence only adds to the major league feeling surrounding the league’s aura. Although this newest role sees Gait in his first at the executive level, his solid work ethic and dedication over multiple decades has prepared him for such an exciting opportunity.
Raised in Victoria, British Columbia, where his twin brother Paul also played alongside him, Gait’s position as UWLX interim commissioner adds another unique Canadian connection to the league. In 2016, Guelph, Ontario native Dana Dobbie became the first Canadian-born player to be drafted into the league, suiting up with the Baltimore Ride.
In regular season play, Dobbie would lead all players in scoring. Both Gait and Dobbie have played for the Canadian national team. As a side note, other Canadians to have competed in the inaugural UWLX season included Bowmanville, Ontario’s Kaylin Morrissette with Philadelphia. Raised in Suffern, New York, Crysti Foote, whose father is in Ontario’s lacrosse Hall of Fame, was born in Toronto and competed with the Baltimore Ride, playing alongside Dobbie.
During the 1990s, Gait’s superstar status in lacrosse not only made it comprehensible for the sporting novice, but he made it matter. Akin to Wayne Gretzky in hockey or Michael Jordan in basketball, Gait’s countless lists of achievements were secondary to the spectacle, culminating as a member of the charter class to the National Lacrosse League Hall of Fame.
Surprisingly, the latter half of the 1990s saw Gait balance his playing career while experiencing his first foray with women’s lacrosse. Serving as an assistant coach with the University of Maryland Terrapins, his presence resulted in four undefeated seasons and seven straight national championships.
Having also coached at the men’s level with the Baltimore Bayhawks, which has seen the city also host one of the UWLX founding clubs, along with the Colorado Mammoth, Gait’s efforts as a women’s coach were clearly evident during the inaugural UWLX season. Only the second head coach in the history of the Syracuse Orange women’s lacrosse team, several of his star players were among the first round of the inaugural UWLX draft class, including the likes of Liz Hogan (Boston Storm) and Michelle Tumolo (Philly Force). Other Syracuse alum that would compete in UWLX play included Becca Block, Kailah Kempney, Alyssa Murray, Katie Rowan and Kayla Treanor.
Gait’s acumen and encyclopedic knowledge of the game did more than just raise the quality of play at Syracuse. His tutelage transformed players such as Hogan and Tumolo into All-American players and IWLCA Award winners, while emerging as franchise players for their respective UWLX clubs.
Among the prodigious talents that Gait had the opportunity to coach at Syracuse, perhaps none shone brighter than Kayla Treanor. The first four-time All-America selection in Syracuse women’s lacrosse history, Treanor emerged as the Boston Storm’s catalyst on offense in 2016, leading them to the UWLX Finals. Her no-look pass in late June play during the Storm’s inaugural season would not only gain recognition as one of ESPN’s Plays of the Week, it would serve as a seminal moment in UWLX lore, bringing the league into the national spotlight.
With a golden touch that has resulted in championships as a player and coach at the collegiate, professional and international levels, Gait’s body of work, of which many subsets exist, speaks for itself. Such a distinct presence is poised to make ideas flourish, while working towards making professional women’s lacrosse more than viable, but a necessary component of the sporting landscape, which may serve as his greatest contribution.