Hilary Meyer is the SVP of Impact at Athletes Unlimited and a former college lacrosse player. | USA Lacrosse

In honor of Pride month, USA Lacrosse is partnering with Athletes Unlimited and Outsports to share the stories of players, administrators and leaders of the women’s professional lacrosse league that are proud members of the LGBTQ+ community.

We hope to shine a light on the ways the league is helping foster an inclusive environment, while showcasing the unique perspectives of those that will take part in the league this summer.

Hilary Meyer is the SVP of Impact at Athletes Unlimited who has dedicated her life to work in social impact, hoping to enrich the lives of those less fortunate. She played lacrosse and field hockey at Colgate, and joined Athletes Unlimited in 2022

Lacrosse is a game for all. USA Lacrosse is committed to fostering a national lacrosse community that encourages understanding, appreciation and acceptance of all. We believe that broad representation and participation, through accessibility and availability to everyone, add significant value to the lacrosse experience of each of us.

USA Lacrosse: We would love to learn more about your background. Where did you grow up and how did you get into lacrosse?

Hilary Meyer: I grew up in a Boston suburb — Wayland, Mass. The girls lacrosse team at our high school was very popular, in part because it’s an awesome sport, and in part because the head coach — Laurie Griffin — was such a wonderful person and leader that people wanted to play for her.  

What was it about lacrosse that made you continue playing?

I played ice hockey growing up and when I got to high school and started playing lacrosse, I was amazed at how similar it was in the pace, constant movement and the excitement of the game. 

What was your experience as a dual-sport athlete at Colgate? What did you learn about yourself while playing collegiate sports?

I love competing and being in-season year-round really suited me. One of the most critical things I learned, though, was the importance of time management — finding the time to study or get a workout in on otherwise tight schedules. 

Why did you decide to attend law school? What has inspired your career choice?

For as long as I can remember, I have been very justice-oriented. I care deeply about human rights and fighting on behalf of those who aren’t getting a fair shake. I started my career in the mental health field, working both in-patient and out-patient, and while I knew I was making a difference for those individuals, I was compelled to want to make broader, institutional changes to make people’s lives better. I went to law school knowing I wanted to eventually get into the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. 

What is your coming out story?

My coming out story is not particularly unique. When I was in college, I fell in love with a woman and realized that I felt for her something I had never felt for anyone else. Realizing I was gay, I stayed very closeted in college — only coming out to a few close friends and teammates. I wasn’t able to fully connect and develop deep friendships with so many people because I had a guard up — this big secret I was always hiding – and that limited my college experience. When I graduated, I decided that no matter how difficult it felt, I was going to be out of the closet with any new people I met as I moved into my post-college life. And truly, I have never looked back. 

You’ve spent a great deal of your career serving those in need, from low-income families to the LGBTQ community fighting for their rights. What has been your mission as you’ve progressed through your field?

Always help. That’s my personal mission. Do whatever I can to help change people’s lives for the better. 

Why did you decide to join Athletes Unlimited in 2022? Was this a full-circle moment for you?

When I knew I was ready to move out of nonprofit management and try something a bit different, I was searching for an opportunity that still felt impactful and driven by justice, but in a different space altogether. I had followed Athletes Unlimited from the beginning and when I stumbled upon the opening for someone to lead their public benefit corporation mission, I was all in. 

Athletes Unlimited is an organization that boasts many members of the LGBTQ community. How do you go about making sure AU is as inclusive to those communities as they pursue professional sports?

One important objective is to lift our athletes’ voices to highlight diverse experiences to our fans. Finding ways to help athletes tell their stories, talk about their lives, and celebrate our athletes as individuals is a core tenet. In so doing, we can bring our LGBTQ+ athletes’ stories to the forefront so fans — and other athletes — can learn from each other. We also find ways to offer messages of support to folks in our community who are struggling with their LGBTQ+ identities. 

I am particularly proud of our transgender and nonbinary athlete policy which allows TGNB athletes to compete professionally in our leagues. Last year, we offered training to every athlete, staff, medical staff and broadcast talent, about this topic. In our basketball season, our player executive committee decided to broadcast a regular, visible message of support to the transgender community in every one of their games. 

What would you say to someone who is struggling with their identity as a member of the LGBTQ community, whether they are figuring out how to tell their loved ones or facing negativity for living as who they are?

Do what you need to do to survive. There are some great resources for people of all ages — The Trevor Project for younger folks, SAGE for older folks, GenderCool, and lots more. For as many people you see who are trying to knock you down for who you are, there are many more who want you to succeed. We see you and you’ll be OK if you find the right people and resources to lean on.

Matt Hamilton is the content marketing manager at USA Lacrosse, having served as a staff writer for four years. This story originally ran on USA Lacrosse and has been edited for length.