Skip to main content
Hilary Meyer is the SVP of Impact at Athletes Unlimited.

Hilary Meyer: A Life Dedicated to Inclusion in Lacrosse

June 7, 2024
Matt Hamilton
Athletes Unlimited

In honor of Pride Month, we are partnering with Athletes Unlimited 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.

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

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 basically 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 out 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 made the decision 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.

As SVP of Impact, what are your main areas of focus? How have you seen the league develop in the past two years?

Athletes Unlimited is boundless in the ways we work to create impact. As a company that runs pro women’s sports leagues, the company’s core existence is creating more opportunities for women athletes, and fans of women’s sports. But we go so much deeper.

  • For example, every athlete earns an equity stake in the league – and the more they play, the more equity they earn. They carry that equity for 20 years, so that the athletes who are building the leagues as they grow in popularity now, will eventually see that translate into earnings years from now.
  • The leagues are player-driven in every respect. The company’s senior leadership meet with the Player Executive Committees of each of the 4 leagues every week to discuss countless details ranging from building a positive player experience, recruiting (the PEC chooses who they will draft and sign for upcoming seasons), what off-field/court programming they want to see, where the leagues will compete, and all sorts of other details in between. The athletes have an unprecedented voice in these decisions.
  • The policies that govern the league are designed to put athletes, and their own autonomy, first. For example, athletes decide if and when to disclose a pregnancy to a team doctor or league employees, and pregnancy does not impact a player’s future contracts. Athletes receive 100% of their base compensation if they take pregnancy-related leave. Additionally, we offer childcare support for athletes with kids – to make sure that being a parent doesn’t have to mean ending their pro athlete careers.
  • We also work closely with athletes in our Intersectional Equity Working Group — a self-selected group of athletes, staff and senior leadership who meet every three weeks to develop opportunities to empower action within Athletes Unlimited communities, promote intersectional equity, reduce bias, and highlight diverse voices and perspectives.
  • We run a program, #BecomingUnlimited, which highlights the talents of BIPOC girls and young women in sports by celebrating players who are not only talented in their respective sports but also active leaders on their teams and in their communities. The program is eligible for girls 11 - 18 years old. The winner will get three tickets to an AU game of their choice, a meet and greet with their favorite player, = a gift card to the AU Pro Sports shop and are profiled in our social media channels.
  • In recognizing that female pro athletes often have causes they care deeply about but do not always have the resources to contribute to them, our Athlete Causes program provides capital and a fundraising platform for our athletes to play for the causes they care about most. At the end of each season, Athletes Unlimited, powered by Give Lively, makes a grant equal to 100% of the athlete’s end-of-season win bonus to the non-profit of the athlete’s choice.

I could go on and on but suffice to say there’s so much we do, and so much more we continue to strive to do. Take a look at our 2023 Impact video to see more.

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 are able to 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 made the decision 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 okay if you find the right people and resources to lean on.