In lacrosse, the specialized crosse stick is a player’s most important piece of equipment. It’s essential for handling, passing, catching, and shooting the ball. So why do you see lacrosse players intentionally dropping their sticks so often?
There are strategic reasons behind this frequent maneuver. Let’s take a closer look at why lacrosse players release their prized sticks.
To Draw Penalties
The main reason lacrosse players deliberately drop their crosses is to draw penalty flags from officials. Forcing opponents into illegal stick checks and holding fouls puts the ball back into play quickly.
Defensively, when an offensive player drops his stick, defenders need to allow him a step to pick it back up. Swiping at a dropped stick risks an illegal procedure penalty.
Offensively, deliberately dropping the stick when a defender makes body contact baits holding and pushing fouls. Veteran offensive players use this to earn man-up opportunities.
To Maintain Possession
Another reason lacrosse players drop their sticks is to maintain possession when being legally checked. Defenders can check sticks but not hands.
By quickly dropping the cross when checked, offensive players keep control of the ball with their hands alone. The checker is left only touching the discarded stick while the player rolls away stickless.
This legal play allows advancing the ball despite pressure when cradling through traffic. Once past the defender, the player picks their stick back up.
To Reset Play
Dropped sticks are also used strategically to reset the play scenario. For example, if the offense gets stalled or trapped by defenders, they may intentionally hurl sticks away to get a restart.
This resets the play quickly without committing a turnover or shot clock violation. By dropping their sticks, new offensive approaches become available from the ensuing restart.
To Defend The Goal
On the defensive end, players may toss sticks towards the goal mouth to block passing and shooting lanes as a last resort when out of position.
Even absent defenders, floating sticks can block the goal and force offensive players to dodge the discarded equipment. At elite levels, defenders will toss their sticks towards the goal if suddenly forced to double-team a dodger.
To Feign Injury
Unfortunately, some lacrosse players improperly use dropped sticks to feign injury and stop play when a quick whistle would benefit their team.
By dropping their stick and lying down while grabbing a body part, the false appearance of injury tricks officials into blowing the play dead prematurely. This tactic exploits referee instincts but violates the spirit of the game.
Of course, sticks are sometimes dropped purely by accident due to equipment failures. Strings breaking, heads warping, or handles snapping all cause unintentional stick drops throughout games.
So while the intentional, strategic stick drop is deeply ingrained in lacrosse technique, not every cast-aside stick carries motive. Faulty gear often forces sticks free as well.
Fundamental Motor Skill
Intentionally dropping the lacrosse stick seems counterintuitive. But drilling this unnatural move teaches an important motor skill.
With enough practice, players can train their hands to release immediately on instinct when advantageous in game situations. The ability to drop the stick on cue gives lacrosse athletes a real strategic edge.
So while it may seem odd to outsiders, discarding the main piece of equipment is a calculated tactic. Lacrosse players drop their sticks often by design, as both an artful skill and competitive play.