Q&A with Unleashed All-Star Sammy Jo Tracy: Sixes, fashion and her relationships with Greg Gurenlian and Trevor Baptiste
By Lauren Merola | Feb 6, 2024
Sammy Jo Tracy is an Athletes Unlimited attacker and Unleashed All-Star playing in the women’s Sixes exhibition game during the Premier Lacrosse League’s 2024 Championship Series on Feb. 17 at The St. James in Springfield, Va.
The Sixes format debuted in The World Games in 2022 when Tracy suited up for Team Israel, one of the eight countries invited to to play under the new format in preparation for the then-potential, now-accepted bid into the 2028 Olympics. Team Israel’s roster was composed of both Israeli players and members of the Jewish diaspora.
Sixes simplifies the traditional field game in many ways, but most uniquely in the competitive balance it lends toward men and women. Both play under the same field conditions and rules. With no long poles used in the men’s variation, the main difference is the level of physicality allowed.
“Hopefully I won’t end up on my butt, but I think the strategy is the same,” Tracy said. “The movements and the two-man game are very similar, as is utilizing X and those fast breaks. Sixes has really blurred the lines between men’s and women’s play.”
From Bedford, N.Y., Tracy played it all as an attacker, midfielder and draw specialist at UNC. She won two national championships with Carolina, her first being an overtime win against Maryland in 2013 and the second again over Maryland in 2016. Her father Dan was a three-time All-America lacrosse player for the Terps from 1983-86.
After graduating, Tracy worked alongside PLL legend Greg Gurenlian to put on faceoff/draw clinics. Her lacrosse career, much different from the one in fashion she anticipated pursuing in college, took off from there.
She may not have her All-Star Game outfit on lock just yet, but she “will not disappoint.”
“I promise you that,” she said.
Tracy dishes more on it all below.
This conversation was edited for clarity and brevity.
What did you initially think of the Sixes format back in 2022?
Sammy Jo Tracy: I’m a huge fan of Sixes. It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s creative. I don’t think people understand there is a huge strategy behind it.
When I played for Israel, I definitely think the more you play the more you understand it. We took a lot from other teams while we were all learning. We watched Team Canada run lines and shifts where we decided not to. We went one, two, three and then get off; going hard and taking a big break. I thought it helped a lot with our fast break and utilizing the fast break is important in Sixes.
What was your experience playing on Team Israel?
SJT: It was probably one of the most special moments in my career. I got to learn so much about where I come from and at The World Games, we were able to see other sports and meet other athletes from Israel, so that was really special being a part of that group that played for the World Games, alongside Team Canada, U.S. and Japan, and learned about Sixes and how important it is going to be for the growth of our game.
[I played for Team Israel because] I phased out of the U.S. training pool and I believe in our sport and the growth of it. I just think how cool it is to play for another country that means so much to me and my family and learn about where I came from.
How have you seen lacrosse change in the last few years? With Sixes helping lacrosse get back into the Olympics and the development of new leagues like Athletes Unlimited, there are new pinnacles that young athletes can aspire to reach.
SJT: That’s so spot on. There’s no better time to be a lacrosse player than now. We have all the momentum on our side. With the new game, Sixes, it helps us reach masses that we couldn’t before so it’s really helping grow the sport. And then there’s the fact that we are part of the Olympics, which is the pinnacle of every sport.
You went to college expecting to work a more traditional 9-5 job after graduation. What did you study and what was your original career plan while in college?
SJT: I thought I’d move back to New York City and work in fashion. I was a communications major, but Greg [Gurenlian] rerouted my course.
I wanted to work as a fashion buyer. I love studying trends and growing up around New York City, I loved the creativity and constant evolution of the city. That is still one of my biggest passions as well … but for now, I stick to my own style and maybe help out my teammates.
How did you and Greg Gurenlian meet?
SJT: Greg is one of the biggest reasons I am where I am today. He saw my potential in college and that’s where we were connected, specifically in the New York Lizards locker room.
During my fifth year, not only did he help me break my own records but, post college, how to market myself, run awesome clinics and be an entrepreneur. If I have any issues or any business questions, I always look to him. We still are always connected … I think that’s the power of lacrosse, the PLL and how they support women. I’m so lucky to have a mentor and big brother in Greg Gurenlian.
What has been rewarding about teaching lacrosse to others?
SJT: The people I have met and the places I've been and am still going. [New York Atlas faceoff specialist] Trevor Baptiste is one of my closest friends and we met in San Diego doing a faceoff [clinic]. We trained together and have a lifelong friendship. Everybody needs a dose of Trevor. He’s always the key piece. Everybody needs a good laugh and that’s what he delivers on.
What do you admire about Trevor’s game?
SJT: I think we look at Trevor and think the pinnacle. Being his friend, I know how hard he works and how relentless he is. He’s never satisfied. For me, some days I'm down or I'm at a standstill and he’s somebody you can turn to because he’s so resilient and helps fuel your fire.
Being a former draw specialist, how do you feel about the limited draw opportunities in Sixes?
SJT: I have a soft spot for the draw, it is super unique and showcases stickwork and agility. I am a little bummed but at the same time we still have it and it’s a great way to start each quarter. Setting the tone is the most important thing. To be able to win the draw and set the tone each quarter is extremely important.
Who are you most excited to play with on the South squad and against on the North team?
SJT: I’m so excited to be on Lizzie Colson’s team. You don’t want to be on an opposing team from her, and I feel like I usually am. She’s going to be super helpful with the draw and with her speed and athleticism, it works really well in Sixes.
We have Taylor Moreno. Everyone knows she’s a cheat code when it comes to lacrosse. It’s always nice to have that extra boost of confidence [with a goalie like that] in a game where if you miss, it goes the other way. If we get a save, you can get it out for that fast break. And I think we’re all pumped to watch Dana Dobbie [on the South team].
You’re a lacrosse player and coach, but you’re also a yoga teacher in Boston. What pose best represents you?
SJT: My favorite pose to teach is tree. When you stand there and open your arms and you open your chest and heart, you take up space. It’s really important because it gives you a wave of confidence and reconnection back to earth. I want people and myself to be aware of where they are and where they are growing. Are you the mountains, a palm tree near the ocean, are you still in quietness or is the wind shaking you around? Taking a moment to open up your heart and find a place in this world that makes you feel good, supported and where you’re able to put down roots is exhilarating.
Where do you want to plant your roots?
SJT: In a perfect world I’d end up in Jackson, Wyo. I think it’s a place that is hard to describe for me because it’s beautiful, it’s exciting, it’s calming. I got to get Trevor out there!
But it’s still unwritten, I don’t know where I’ll end up yet. Right now I’m still grinding, but that might be my pinnacle.