So, you’re new to lacrosse. If you are like most people you are probably pretty unfamiliar with the game of lacrosse. Perhaps you’ve read about it, perhaps you’ve seen a Swarm game, perhaps you’ve caught a glimpse of a college game on TV. Perhaps your son or daughter has a friend who plays and now you’re faced with the prospect of driving to a season’s worth of practices and games, buying equipment, and being baffled by a game that seems as foreign as quidditch. The game is exciting, fun and a little strange. It looks a little like hockey, a little like soccer, a little like Irish hurling, For whatever reason, it captured your child’s imagination. We’ve collected a little information to help ease your transition into the country’s fastest growing sport.
So, Lacrosse, What’s That?
It’s not just a game where kids get to hit each other with sticks, though that remains one of the most popular reasons kids want to play. Lacrosse is our country’s oldest sport, developed and played by Native Americans for centuries and modified by European immigrants. The modern game of lacrosse has been played since the mid 19th century- largely on the east coast and Canada and is now played extensively throughout the USA. The game is also played in Europe and many other countries. Lacrosse was an Olympic sport during the early modern games but was discontinued. It is now played at the World Games and plans are to include lacrosse in the Olympics again as early as 2020.
Learn more here: History of Lacrosse
Today lacrosse has developed into different forms – box (indoor, on a hockey rink with 5 players + goalie, more pads and a smaller goal) and field lacrosse (outdoors, usually, on football sized field, 9 players + goalie, shorts sticks, long sticks and a larger goal for boys and a modified but similar 12 player game for girls). They are both fast-paced, require skill, stamina, athleticism and a willingness to get in front of a small, hard ball travelling at speeds of close to 100 mph. Lacrosse players are crazy.
Why is the Game Different for Boys and Girls?
Well, as you already know, girls are tougher than boys. Boys play on a larger field, have sticks (the crosse) with a deeper mesh/pocket, wear mouth guards, pads and helmets and play with a slightly harder ball. Girls, meanwhile, wear a mouthguard, strap on some safety glasses and say “we’re good”.
The boy’s game is a contact sport in which some amount of checking is allowed increasing with age level. The girl’s game is a non-contact game because believe me no one wants to get hit by a girl. Boys have 10 players on the field and girls have 12. As you might expect, there are different rules about where players can be and what they can do.
Feel free to investigate this further – and let us know what you learn.
Why Do Some Players Have Long Sticks?
Starting at U13, the boys’ game allows defenders to use longer sticks similar to the claymore swords of old. It allows defensemen to have a longer reach while having to run backwards and results in slightly less physical contact between players. Slightly.
So, There are Different Positions?
Yep. Much like Hot Vinyasa Yoga, there are different positions the players may assume on the field.
The boys have a goalie, three attack men, 3 midfielders and 3 defensemen. The attack players stay on the offensive side of the field, the defenders stay on the defensive side of the field (mostly) and the goalie stays in the goal unless he wants run around and scare everyone. Middies get to run up and down and all over the field without a care in the world. If you hear people yelling “Middie Back” it means that a defenseman has possession of the ball and is running it into the offensive side of the field. In this case, a midfielder needs to stay on the defensive side of the field because the rules state you can only have 6 players (per side not including the goalie) on the offensive side of the field at any time. You may also see a long stick middie (LSM) on the field from time to time. As the name suggests, this is a midfielder carrying a long stick. This is usually done at face offs or when the coach wants more defensive positions on the field or intimidate the other team.
The girls have similar but different positions on the field. The girls’ game has 12 players on a side, six at defense and six at offense. The girls’ defense is made up of a goalie, point, cover point, third home and right and left defensive wings. These players must stay on the defensive side of the field at all times. The offense is made up of a center, left and right attack wings, first home, second home and third home positions. These positions help spur our economy. Everyone on the field needs to be quick, have good footwork, pass well and have good field vision – being able to see the field of play and who is open to create scoring opportunities while running at full speed.
Which Position Should My Child Play?
What position do they want to play? What position does the coach or team need them to play? Generally, new players try all the positions and may rotate between different positions during the course of a game. As they develop as players, most players will gravitate to the position at which they find the most success and that makes them the happiest. Coaches will often ask players to play different positions depending on what the team needs. Be open. Every position requires skill, athleticism and a team oriented attitude. It may look like the middies and attack players get all the glory (because they score the most goals) but some of the best athletes and players on the field are the defenders and goalies. The best goalies and defenders are able to dominate and control the game, becoming an impenetrable wall of frustration and fear as they bedazzle their opponents with flamenco based footwork and laser like passing.
Why Did the Ref Say That?
No one knows, really. It’s important for all of us to remember that referees speak an entirely different language and see a very different game than we do. Sometimes they’ll tell us what the call they just made means and our understanding of their culture gains a little clarity with each game. Our best guess is that they may have made a call for possession, cross check (as opposed to happy checks), off-sides, warding, loose ball push, crease violation (please iron all jerseys and shorts before the game) or illegal procedure (a catch all phrase when the ref wants to call something but isn’t sure what). Some of these calls are penalties, some change possession, some just stop play for a bit.
Rest assured your player will no doubt serve at least some time in the naughty box for doing something whether they think they deserve it or not.
Where Can I Buy Gear?
There are a few good places to buy gear around town. If your child is a first time player you’ll be tempted to purchase the least expensive gear you can find in order to minimize your investment if they decide the sport isn’t for them. If that’s the case, check out SPYLA’s rental program. You will still need to buy a mouth guard or two and a stick somewhere, but we have pads and helmets available to rent for first time players.
Otherwise, try places like Craigslist, Play it Again Sports (Roseville), Sport’s Authority, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Lacrosse specific stores like Lavin (Rosemount) or NorthStar (Hopkins and Roseville). The NorthStar Roseville store is owned and operated by St Paul Lacrosse High School coach Ben Mooney. All St Paul players get 10% off at NorthStar Roseville on any gear, any time.
What is Wall Ball?
Wall ball is practice. It builds eye/hand coordination, speed and reflexes. The pros do it every day. It involves playing catch with a ball against a wall. As simple as it gets. You just need a stick, a ball and a wall (NOT a window).
Where Can I get more Training Tips and Playing Opportunities?
The internet is awash in lacrosse training tips.
If you are looking for training camps and other opportunities – especially during the off-season – there are some very good local resources available. Don’t worry, they will find you. You can also talk to other parents on the team and see what they’ve done.
Saint Paul Lacrosse tries to organize teams for off season play in the Fall and Winter. Sometimes we get enough interest and sometimes we don’t. If not, interested players can sign up as free agents and play with another team.
Homegrown Lacrosse has a great many camps, clinics and leagues throughout the year for the development of your child as an athlete and person. There are other camps and clinic offerings as well, but Homegrown has some of the best basic and most affordable. As your child progresses, they might receive some invitations to elite or select camps, clinics and team tryouts. Check those out too. They can be great for your player’s development and skill level. Attending camps, clinics and off season play also allows your child to get to know players from other teams and form solid friendships they can take with them on and off the playing field.
Our SPYLA Philosophy
Not that we are trying to create a new Kant Imperative, but we do have a Philosophy of sorts.
It has three primary components:
Teaching the fundamentals of lacrosse, including;
- Individual stick skills
- Using these individual stick skills in conjunction with the fundamentals of team play
2. SPORTSMANSHIP AND FAIR PLAY
We are supportive of our teammates and will not “trash talk” another player, team, coach or official.
3. “EQUAL PLAYING TIME” FOR “EQUAL PARTICIPATION”
Game playing time is dictated by a few key factors. If all players are equally participating and putting forth equal effort, then game playing time should be equal, however we know this is not always the case. Equal participation has several facets:
1. Practice Attendance: Coaches take practice attendance
2. Practice Participation and Eagerness to Learn: Is the player generally engaged and ready to learn at practice?
3. Practice and Non-Practice Effort: How much effort does the player put forth in practice, and away from practice on stick skills, conditioning and other fundamentals? We can tell.
Coaches take all of these factors into account when making playing time decisions in games.
Now that we’ve said our piece, you are free to ask:
Why Isn’t My Kid Getting as Much Playing Time as Others?
Your child’s coach will try to give equal playing time to everyone. Everyone gets a chance.
That said, everyone has different skill levels and abilities and every once in awhile, a coach may decide to keep certain players on the field for longer periods of time in critical moments of the game – especially at the older age levels.
Players at attack and defense usually stay on the field for longer periods of time than middies do because middies do a lot of running. Middies switch in and out of the game in a fairly constant pattern throughout the game. Attack and Defense also switch out, but less often.
Playing time is sometimes determined by attendance or attention paid at practices so please, show up to practices, participate and focus. Your team wants to know who you are and be able to rely on you.
Remember, this is your child’s journey, not yours. Be a supportive and encouraging parent. If you think your child isn’t getting the playing time they deserve, talk to your child about how they feel about it first. They may be quite happy with their playing time. If they’re not, ask them to schedule a meeting with their coach and discuss how they might see more playing time on the field during games. You can attend that meeting as an observer, but the conversation should be between your child and the coach.
How Can I Cheer for My Player?
Please don’t try to coach your player from the sidelines. The only coaching advice they should hear is from their coach. The only thing our children need to hear from us is positive encouragement and feedback. None of us need to be “that parent”.
Here are some good tips:
What Does the Scorer and Timekeeper Do?
As the name suggests, they keep score and track of the clock during games. At each home game, we are responsible for keeping the running time of the game and penalties at the direction of the referees. We also help keep track of the score at both home and away games. Very easy! You will be asked to do this at least once during the season.
What’s a Chill Manager?
It’s just one part of the grill and chill experience at DQ. Do you see that fellow with the cool shades and fedora sitting in the lawn chair reading a book? Well, right next to him is a mom with a pile of knitting in her lap. They are each watching the game and having a good time. Either one of them could be a chill (sideline) manager. At every game, each team provides a chill manager. The chill manager position is simply a way to have each team Honor the Game. Parents shouldn’t berate the officials, players or other parents during the game. It’s just common sense and courtesy.
How Can I Help?
We are very glad you asked. There are a great many things big and small that need doing in and around the field both on and off season. If you can help organize carpools, bring ice and water to games, manage equipment, line the fields, help with the summer BBQ, do a little fundraising, take photos or video of the team during practice or games, keep stats, make calls, stuff envelopes, deliver fliers, etc. Our association will be all the better and stronger for your involvement. Like so many others, St Paul Lacrosse is an organization that is entirely self-supported, volunteer run and desperately needs continued support from players and families in order to provide opportunities for your child to play lacrosse, meet and maintain friendships and develop as a player and person. Please give some of your time each year to assure that our organization remains successful and strong. Contact your Team Manager (or volunteer to be one), board member or attend an association meeting (check out our website) to learn more.