Lacrosse is an extremely fast-moving sport, with a lot of emphasis on positional play.
In this article, we'll cover a few common questions about which positions are more dominant, how the different players are rated, and what their responsibilities are.
It's a little more complex than explaining the basic lacrosse rules or answering simple questions like "how long is a lacrosse game" - hopefully, you'll find this useful if you have an interest in the sport.
What are the different positions in lacrosse?
Positions in men's lacrosse can be divided into four areas of play:
The attacking players have one main purpose, scoring goals. Speed and precision are key to this position, and attackers will often use feints, tricks, and stick skills to outwit and bypass the opposition's defense to get into a scoring position.
Building a successful attack requires perfect co-ordination with the midfield players, who attacking players rely on to feed the ball forward, and quick thinking to identify opportunities for a shot on the goal before the opposition gets a chance to block them.
Midfield players, or middies, are responsible for controlling the field between the two ends and they switch roles to support their own defensive or attacking players as necessary.
A solid midfield will maintain excellent communication with the players ahead of and behind them while anticipating the movements of the opposition. They are vital in moving the ball upfield to build attacks, as well as providing an initial defense against counterattacks.
The midfield positions involve covering a great deal of distance per game, so stamina and strength are key attributes for a middie.
The key role of defensive players in lacrosse is to prevent the opposing team's attackers from getting a shot on goal. Successful defense in lacrosse requires excellent coordination between all members of the defensive team, as well as the goalie, to co-ordinate their movements and avoid being outflanked or overrun.
Defensive players will usually use a longer stick to improve their ability to block shots and passes between the opposition players.
The goalie is the final defensive player, responsible for guarding the goal against any attacks which make it past the defense. They need extremely fast reactions, as well as a strong physical presence.
The goalie will usually have the best overview of oncoming attacking players and may take the lead in ordering defensive players into the best positions to repel or block opposition attacks.
Positions in the women's game are slightly different, as we'll discuss later in this article.
Differences between men's and women's lacrosse field positions
There are a few significant differences between the men's and women's games when it comes to positions.
The most obvious is that in women's lacrosse, an extra two attacking players are fielded. This means that in women's lacrosse offensive plays are carried out by 5, rather than 3 players, which can make for more versatile plays.
Another clear difference is that men's lacrosse is a contact sport, allowing checking, but this is not permitted in the women's version. Because of this women's lacrosse does put players into a face-off position. Instead of a face-off after scoring they have a draw so that there is less physical contact between the players.
What is the hardest position in lacrosse?
You can take a poll of players on lacrosse team formations, and you'll find a pretty even split between votes for offense and defense positions.
Recent polls found that attack positions came in as a most difficult position, with 34.7% of participants seeing it as the hardest role. Middies gained 11.3% of the vote, while 5.4% of those asked considered defense to be the easiest position on a team. There was one position, however, which overwhelmingly took the honor of the toughest position: 34.7% of all those asked thought that being a goalie presented the largest challenge.
Why is this? We often assume that the guys doing all the goal-scoring are working the hardest, but it seems that those saving the day deserve this glory.
This is actually logical because being a goalkeeper requires an individual level of skill and concentration which differs from the other positions on the field. Out of all of the men's lacrosse positions (and equally, positions in women's lacrosse), it is the only position where you're totally on your own.
What is the most important position in lacrosse?
In our opinion, the most important role on the lacrosse field is probably that of the short stick defenders; these guys are the unsung heroes of teams, and their role forms a crucial element of what lacrosse players do.
Although they rarely score goals and get very little of the individual praise heaped on successful attacking players, they form a vital part of the team's defensive strategy, playing off the ball, spotting attacks before they are fully formed, and shutting down scoring opportunities.
How many players are on a lacrosse team?
As pointed out above, this depends on whether we're talking about men's or women's lacrosse.
Lacrosse positions (men's)
Men's teams include 3 attacking players (known as attackmen), 3 midfielders (lacrosse middies) and 3 defensive players (defensemen) as well as 1 goalie, for a total of 10 players on the field at any one time.
In men's lacrosse, midfielders can play both attacking and defensive roles.
Lacrosse positions (women's)
There are 12 girls lacrosse positions, with teams made up of 5 attacking players, 6 defensive players, and 1 goalie.
The attacking players are separated into different positions, first home, second home, and third home, plus two general attackers.
The women's lacrosse defense is similarly divided up into a center, two wings, one cover point, and one "third man".
What is an LSM?
In lacrosse, middie refers to a midfielder, and within that category, LSM (long-stick midfielder) refers to a middie who can play in multiple positions. They may be substituted on as an offensive or defensive player, or come on simply to complete a face-off or draw and then be subbed back out.
These players are flexible; they have the necessary mix of offense and defense skills to handle multiple roles and may be deployed by the coach to increase the team's attacking power or defensive strength depending on the flow of the game.
Lacrosse positions takeaway
If you are new to the sport, hopefully this position introduction will help you understand the game a little better.
Though you will see a few differences between men and women's lacrosse, they follow the same basical rules and, in general, have the same types of positions.