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Introducing the Players of Field Lacrosse

While box lacrosse is played mainly in Canada, an outdoor version of lacrosse is more popular in the United States. Field lacrosse is most popular in the northeastern U.S. (though since the 1980s, the game has spread throughout the U.S.) and differs from its box brother in many ways.

Though a summertime professional outdoor league called Major League Lacrosse (MLL) started in 2000, the most popular form of field lacrosse has always been played in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The collegiate field season starts in late February and runs through May. It is played by roughly 250 U.S. colleges and universities, spanning the Division I, II, and III, and junior college varsity levels. The International Lacrosse Federation sponsors a World Lacrosse Championship once every four years between countries around the world.

Because of the significantly larger playing field (110 by 60 yards as opposed to 200 feet by 85 feet in box lacrosse), a field lacrosse team, well, fields a few more players than a box lacrosse team. A men's field lacrosse team includes nine players, plus a goaltender; a women's team has eleven players, plus the goalie. The rest of this article introduces you to the field participants and the roles they play.

Though field lacrosse teams have more players on the field at once, each team is allowed a maximum of six players (plus the goalie) on one-half of the field at any one time. That is, when in their offensive zone, a men's field lacrosse team must keep three players (plus the goalie) behind the midfield line. Of course, it's not six on ten for them, as their opponent can only have seven players defending the zone (plus the goalie) at the same time.

This so-called field split in outdoor lacrosse forces more specialization in playing positions. The four main positions are attackmen, midfielders, defensemen, and goalies, though each position includes even more specific roles. Teams employ lines of three attackmen, three midfielders, and three defensemen.

  • Attacking the goal: The attackmen are the primary offensive weapons looking to feed and score. They create most of the offense and generally do not play defense, serving as three players kept on the opposite side of the midline while the ball is at the other end. It's not uncommon for the attackmen to stay on the field the whole game. Many attackmen have the ability to both feed and score, but some focus on only one of those offensive elements.
  • Playing both ways: Midfielders play offense and defense, following the flow of the game and getting involved at both ends of the field. Midfielders, or "middies," are crucial to a team's transition offense and defense. Teams generally run three lines consisting of three midfielders each. For example, some midfields may be defensive specialists, coming on the field only in certain situations, while others may only play faceoffs and then run off the field. However, many midfielders also run regular midfield shifts, and a select few are dangerous offensive weapons. Although the three field players with longer sticks play defense, a fourth long stick can be used in the midfield.
  • Creating a first line of defense: The defensemen generally stay on their half of the field while their team is on offense, though they are allowed to cross the midline in transition as long as an equal number of midfielders stays back. The role of the defensemen is generally to stop the opposing attackmen from scoring or creating offense. Occasionally, they will be dispatched to cover a dominant opposing midfielder.
  • Keeping the ball in play: Goalies in field lacrosse have to be more athletic than those in box lacrosse because of the larger goal (6 by 6 feet, as opposed to 4-3/4 by 4 feet in box lacrosse). Goalies play with their sticks held upright and the head pointing skyward, unlike the hockey style used in box lacrosse. In addition to stopping shots and getting the ball out of the defensive end, goalies are also responsible for directing the defense.
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