Lacrosse Trailblazer: Maeve McKenny
Travelling from one country to another to juggle a career with sport is what comes naturally to Maeve McKenny. We chat to the pharmacist and lacrosse player about how she manages her life to stay at the top of her game
London-born Maeve McKenny admits that her early years were spent causing terror like a Tasmanian devil, leaving a trail of destruction behind her. But when she discovered lacrosse aged 11, she began to channel all her energy into the sport, which has become a huge part of her life. Nowadays, not only having a busy career as an NHS clinical pharmacist, Maeve plays for Blues Lacrosse club in Surrey and represents Wales at country level, which explains her 100-mile an hour lifestyle. We chat to the exuberant advocate for women’s lacrosse about what the game means to her, dealing with the highs and lows, and why it is a game for all.
Glorious: When did your interest in Lacrosse begin?
Maeve McKenny: It was whilst I was at boarding school as a tiny 11-year-old, not yet 120cm, when I was introduced to lacrosse. I loved the game instantly; the fast and physical aspect drew me in, as it allowed me to harness my natural speed. The next few years were spent honing my skills and tactical aspects of the game.
Glorious: You are English, but play lacrosse for Wales, so how did that come about and how do you manage to juggle your time between different countries?
Maeve McKenny: I studied for my undergraduate degree in Pharmacy at Cardiff University and these were some of the best 4-years of my life. Attending a Welsh University made me eligible to play for Wales. Life is always 100 miles an hour, my entire life has been a juggling act, but much more so in the latter years as I became more competitive within the Wales set-up. Time management is an essential skill and early morning gym sessions or late-night run sessions are something I have to do to enable the dream of playing at the highest level. Though some things have to give, and I would say I eat more toasties than are good for me, although I do have toastie making down to an art!
Glorious: As well as managing a busy sporting schedule, tell us about your working life and how do these two lives compare and are the attributes similar?
Maeve McKenny: I work as a Clinical Pharmacist in the NHS and I am based in GP practices in Tooting in South West London. My day-to-day involves chronic disease management and polypharmacy, improving patient outcomes but ensuring safe prescribing. I am also back at university studying for my postgraduate prescribing qualifications with a specialist interest in the menopause and hormone replacement therapy. It has been really insightful and I have enjoyed deep diving into women’s health which is comparatively so under researched. I think working within the NHS and playing high-level lacrosse have many overlaps.
Glorious: You are clearly a team player, is that important to you, the friendships and camaraderie you share with your teammates?
Maeve McKenny: It’s hard to put into words what my teammates mean. They push me to be the best version of myself, they pick me up when I’m down and temper my chaotic energy. Without them I would be half the player I am today. We can only do great things when we play together. That’s why it is a true privilege to pull on that Blue or Welsh jersey and step out onto the field next to 9 of my teammates.
Glorious: What has lacrosse taught you that you can translate into your work life?
Maeve McKenny: So many things, sometimes it is hard to imagine myself not having played lacrosse, it has been such an integral part of my life and how I identify myself over the years. For me, the journey to being an international player has not been straightforward or easy. I have had to develop many character traits and behaviours along the way, many of which I directly translate into my work life. I think the mental resilience that I have built up is something I lean on daily.
Glorious: For those that are unaware of the skills that are required to play lacrosse, would you say that it is a game for anyone of any age?
Maeve McKenny: Absolutely! To the onlooker it looks like a very skilled game but fundamentally all you need is hand-eye coordination and with some practice the rest will come. Additional skills and layers of complexity are added in over years of play. Honestly, I was pretty rubbish when I first started playing but I was drawn to the fast physical nature of the game. Lacrosse is gaining momentum and becoming more popular in the UK, I am seeing younger and younger boys and girls picking up sticks and trying lacrosse. Many clubs have junior setups which feed into seniors and run alongside the regional and national programmes.
Glorious: Since you started playing lacrosse, what developments have you observed in the sport?
Maeve McKenny: The Lionesses historic European Championship win really punctuated women’s sport and I feel that a new era has begun and more investment is being made across the spectrum. And now the Wales men and women’s football teams will be paid equally to represent their country. As far as lacrosse is concerned, there have been such positive moves rippling through and it fills me with hope that one day, not in my playing career, that girls can play lacrosse professionally. There have been steps forward in lacrosse, England Lacrosse have created a new tournament, The Fly, which is free to players – as we all currently pay to play international lacrosse.
Glorious: Tell us about your lacrosse highlights
Maeve McKenny: I went to the lacrosse World Cup last summer in Towson, USA. It was an utterly amazing experience but equally difficult as I narrowly missed out on selection and went as an alternate. That is the way of elite sport, sometimes decisions go your way and sometimes not; It was a hard decision to take. Initially, I felt embarrassed and like I had let down a lot of people who had supported me along the journey to get to that point. That being said, I am truly glad that I went and experienced a World Cup, maybe not in the capacity I wanted or expected. I returned from the World Cup with my batteries drained and feeling grateful for the experience, but also dejected to have been so close only to have fallen at the final hurdle and with the next World Cup feeling so far away in 2026. I took some months off from lacrosse and training, which I truly needed.
It took a long time for me to find joy back in playing. I have to be thankful for that experience because I am my most mentally resilient and this is an essential component of any competitor. In September, I headed out to Barcelona with my club Walcountian’s Blues Lacrosse for the European Club finals where over 2 days of well-fought competition the team was undefeated and crowned victors. It was a great moment for me, I’d got my flame back and was excited to get back on a lacrosse field and all of the behind the scene accoutrements that come alongside.
Glorious: If you weren’t a lacrosse player, what other sport would you like to excel in and why?
Maeve McKenny: I train with the extremely knowledgeable team at Arete Performance who help me with running mechanics and change of direction. The training sessions take place at Richmond Rugby Club and I think rugby would be a lot of fun.
Glorious: If you could choose four inspirational women to join you on a lacrosse pitch, who would they be and why?
Maeve McKenny: Billie Jean King, a true legend, who has done so much for women’s tennis. Serena Williams, a trailblazer and a fiercest competitor. Mary Earps, a Lioness legend and brick wall. Dina Asher-Smith, Olympic legend with unreal speed, which would definitely come in handy!
Glorious: What’s next for Maeve?
Maeve McKenny: I’m really looking forward to getting back to international competitions, Home Internationals are in April in Nottingham and with my club, Blues, heading back out to Barcelona to defend our European Club title. In 2024, competing in Welsh jersey, fighting it out for the European Championship, which will be held in Portugal.