Lacrosse is an extremely fast-moving sport, with a lot of emphasis on positional play. We've answered 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 detailed than explaining the basic lacrosse rules or answering simple questions like "how long is a lacrosse game" - hopefully you'll find it useful if you have a real interest in the sport.
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 defense and get into a scoring position. Building successful attacks requires perfect co-ordination with the midfield players, who rely on to feed the ball forward, and quick thinking to identify the narrowest of opportunities for a shot on goal before being blocked.
Midfield players, or middies, are responsible for controlling the field between ends, switching 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've discussed below.
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. This means that women's lacrosse lacks a face-off position. Instead of a face-off after scoring they have a draw involving the two center players.
If you ask the majority of lacrosse players, you'll find a pretty even split between votes for offense and defense positions, but in our opinion, the position of goalkeeper is the hardest one to master.
It requires an individual level of skill and concentration which differs from the other positions on the field, as it's the only of the men's lacrosse positions (and equally, positions in women's lacrosse) where you're totally on your own - i.e. there are no other players with exactly the same role.
The most important role on the lacrosse field is probably that of the short stick defenders.
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.
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 three attacking players (known as attackmen), three midfielders (lacrosse middies) and three defensive players (defensemen) as well as one goalie, for a total of ten players on the field at any one time. In men's lacrosse midfielders can play both attacking and defensive roles, and so need versatile stick skills.
Lacrosse positions (women's)
In the women's game, there are five attacking players, six defensive players, and one goalie, for a total of twelve. 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".
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 and then be subbed back out.
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.