Lacrosse is a rapidly growing team sport played by over 1 million athletes globally. To newcomers, the fast pace and flurry of activity can make player positions and responsibilities seem ambiguous. But lacrosse actually has well-defined roles that each contribute to a team’s success.
In this guide, we’ll explain the main lacrosse positions and what each player’s duties are on the field. Understanding the basics helps fans better appreciate the strategy and nuances that make lacrosse such an exciting game.
The Four Core Lacrosse Positions
There are four primary lacrosse positions that serve as the foundation of a standard lineup at all levels of play. Let’s overview the main purpose and responsibility of each:
- Location: Inside the crease around the goal.
- Responsibility: Protect net and block incoming shots.
Goalies are the last line of defense. They wear extensive protective padding and utilize a larger stick to block shots within the crease area. Goalies are focused solely on preventing scoring.
- Location: Defensive end of the field.
- Responsibility: Defend against offensive advances.
Defensemen operate primarily in their own end of the field. They work together as a cohesive unit to defend against offensive pushes. Defensemen carry long sticks which they use to throw checks and intercept passes.
- Location: Entire field.
- Responsibility: Transition between offense and defense.
Midfielders cover the entire length of the field as play transitions between offense and defense. They play both ways, so conditioning is paramount. Midfielders shuttle the ball up-field and direct offensive sets.
- Location: Offensive end of the field.
- Responsibility: Create and convert scoring chances.
Attackers operate mostly in the offensive zone. They stay on their half of the field with the aim of generating scoring opportunities. Excellent stick skills are vital for attackers to create shots and pass effectively.
Memorizing each position’s purpose and location on the field is key for new fans to understand gameplay flow and strategy.
Read in depth about how many lacrosse players are on the field?
Specialized Lacrosse Positions
Beyond the four essential roles, there are also some specialized lacrosse positions that teams utilize for additional strategy:
A player specifically skilled at taking faceoffs after goals or periods. Having a dominant faceoff specialist gives a team more possessions.
Short-Stick Defensive Midfielder (SSDM)
A midfielder focused primarily on defense. SSDMs are very adept at one-on-one defending all over the field.
Long-Stick Midfielder (LSM)
A midfielder who carries an extended stick for extra defensive prowess in both ends. LSMs combine defensive abilities with midfield endurance.
An attacker who specializes in operating around the goal crease area to finish scoring opportunities.
Understanding these specialty roles allows fans to appreciate the nuances teams utilize within lacrosse’s standard positions.
Men’s Vs. Women’s Lacrosse Positions
The basic lacrosse positions remain very similar between men’s and women’s lacrosse. However, some minor differences do exist:
Number of midfielders – Women have 5 midfielders while men have 3. This promotes more off-ball movement and passing options.
Addition of a “Third Man” – Women play a midfield defender called the “Third Man” who provides extra defensive support.
Different field dimensions – The wider women’s field and different markings impact positioning.
Checking rules – No contact checking in women’s lacrosse changes defensive play.
While the framework of goalie, defenders, midfielders, and attackers remains consistent, the women’s game incorporates some modifications that keep the action creative and fast-paced.
Lacrosse Goalie Equipment
In addition to having a very specialized role, lacrosse goalies also utilize unique protective equipment:
- Chest and shoulder pads – Provide cushioning from shots.
- Helmet with facemask – Protects the head from balls.
- Throat protector – Guards neck area.
- Goalie gloves – Offer padding across hands and fingers.
- Arm pads – Absorb impact from close-range shots.
- Shin guards – Protect lower leg.
- Athletic cup – Worn by male goalies.
This specialized gear allows goalies to defend the net against blistering shots from short distance. While optional for field players, goalie equipment is absolutely mandatory.
Lacrosse Field Player Equipment
For all other field positions, the basic lacrosse equipment includes:
- Helmet with facemask – Protects the head.
- Mouthguard – Guards the mouth area.
- Protective gloves – Added layer of hand padding.
- Shoulder pads – Cushioning on shoulder and chest.
- Elbow pads – Shields the elbows.
- Athletic cup – Worn by male players.
Field players have the freedom of mobility to cover the entire field, so their protective gear focuses just on vital body areas while maximizing movement.
The Proper Gear for Each Position
Having the right gear for your lacrosse position keeps players safe and optimizes performance:
- Goalies require extensive specialty padding from head to toe.
- Defensemen add rib pads and thicker gloves to endure physical play.
- Midfielders wear minimal gear for maximum running.
- Attackers equip lightweight padding for quick dodging.
The Variety of Lacrosse Sticks
In addition to equipment, the stick used by players also varies based on position:
- Goalies wield oversized sticks with wide heads for blocking.
- Defensemen carry longer sticks (up to 72 inches) for poke checks.
- Midfielders use a midpoint sized stick for all-around handling.
- Attackers favor shorter sticks (40-42 inches) for tighter stick work.
The pockets and head shapes also impact performance. Understand how sticks suit each role develops deeper lacrosse IQ.
This overview of the primary lacrosse positions provides newcomers a helpful guide to better understand this exhilarating sport. Learning the roles, equipment, and responsibilities for each spot on the field unlocks a deeper enjoyment of lacrosse.
Use this reference as a starter guide and then get out and see these lacrosse positions in action yourself. Watching the teamwork and coordination between complementary roles develops an appreciation for lacrosse’s intricacies.