Ally Mastroianni is spreading the gospel of lacrosse – one stick at a time.
Mastroianni, a midfielder for Athletes Unlimited Pro Lacrosse, has traveled the United States and Europe, handing out lacrosse sticks to girls and young women, playing catch on narrow ancient streets, and generally raising the profile of a sport she holds dear.
Let us allow Mastroianni to be our tour guide and show us what happens when lacrosse meets the curious eyes of the world.
“I’m sponsored by Gait Lacrosse,” she began. “They’re awesome, and they gave me a bunch of sticks. I told them I was going to Amsterdam and Italy to do some lacrosse. I trained the Dutch national team. It didn’t work out timing wise to train the Italian national team, but I was able to kind of just walk around the streets of Rome and Milan and hand out sticks. If I saw a little girl that might be interested in lacrosse, I went up to her and I gave her a stick, and most of them were very confused with what I was handing to them.”
But it didn’t take long for things to click.
“I met this one girl in a Nike store,” Mastroianni said. “Her name was Micola. She played soccer. She played a bunch of sports at school, but she had never heard of lacrosse. So when I handed her the stick, she and her mom were asking me all these questions. I was showing her some clips from AU, actually, and she was just amazed. The second I showed her what a goal looked like, an example of a goal, her eyes lit up and I could see that she was just so inspired.
Photo: Ally Mastroianni & Micola.
“We had literally a catch in the streets of Rome and the amount of people that just stopped and looked at us and watched us, they were very confused, but they were so intrigued, and just more and more people started coming up to us asking questions. Other little girls started going up to Micola. We gave her an extra stick to bring to school so she could show her friends. She just loved it, and she picked it up so quickly, which I think is so great about the sport of lacrosse. If you just have the passion and the drive and athleticism, you can pick up the sport.”
Mastroianni’s own passion, drive and athleticism took over once she discovered lacrosse as a child while watching her brother play. She wound up being a national champion at the University of North Carolina. Along the way, she also developed a passion for “philanthropy and giving back to this world.” Those values dovetail nicely with Athletes Unlimited’s commitment to philanthropy and social justice.
“I’ve always had such a passion for community outreach and using my platform to make a positive impact on this world,” she said. “So anytime Athletes Unlimited is running some sort of campaign or giving back to the community, I’m all for it, and I’ll do whatever I can to get involved. I’m super passionate about supporting all their missions and everything.”
In addition to starring on the lacrosse field at North Carolina, Mastroianni majored in media and journalism with a focus on advertising and public relations, as well as communication studies. She earned her master’s degree at UNC’s Hussman School of Journalism at Media in strategic communication.
Her graduate thesis, cleverly titled, “Growing the Game, (L)across(e) the World,” explores ways to incorporate social responsibility and philanthropy to help make the game of lacrosse more diverse, accessible and inclusive worldwide. She also is developing an app, which together with her thesis, is aimed at guiding “the sport of lacrosse toward a better future.”
In her thesis, she writes: “Lacrosse is far more than just a sport. It’s more than scoring goals, cradling down the field, scooping up ground balls, passing to teammates, and competing on the highest stages. To many, it’s a way of life. To me, it practically is my life.
“This sport has shown me what it means to dream. How to work toward accomplishing those dreams. And the overwhelming rush of joy, fulfillment, happiness and gratitude once those dreams become a reality.”
Not surprisingly, Mastroianni aced her thesis.
“I really wanted to find a way to combine my education with my life of lacrosse and find a way to put those two passions together and find a way to combine corporate social responsibility and philanthropy and philanthropic communications, which is what I studied at school, into growing the game of lacrosse all around the world, making it more accessible, inclusive, diverse, all around the world,” she said. “This game has given me so much. So I wanted to find a way to give back to it.”
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Before long, Mastroianni will embark on another season of AU Pro Lacrosse, where she has been among the leaders in points scored during her first two seasons.
“I was drafted after my season with UNC, and I just thought it was awesome,” she said. “I mean, we get to play professional lacrosse. That’s something that you dream of, and when I was kid, you didn’t really even know that would ever be a possibility. So the fact that we get to continue playing this sport that we love at the highest level alongside the best players in the world on TV to inspire kids all around the world is pretty amazing. I’m grateful to be a part of it.”
And before long, the travel bug will bite, and perhaps Mastroianni will be able to reconnect with that curious young girl she met on the streets of Rome.
“I definitely will be getting back to Europe,” she said. “I want to see Micola and her school, hopefully, and back to Amsterdam. I’m traveling a bunch kind of around the country going back out west to run some clinics.
“I’m heading to Japan and I’m going to extend a little bit go to Bali and Singapore and just see as much as I possibly can while I’m over there.”
Get ready, world. Lacrosse’s best salesperson is coming your way – one stick at a time.
Bruce Miles has covered sports in the Chicago area for 45 years, covering baseball, hockey, football, college and high school sports, and Athletes Unlimited Pro Softball. You can follow him on Twitter @BruceMiles2112.
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