It seems like people often draw a connection between lacrosse and field hockey. They are both played with a stick and have roughly the same number of players on each team. These similarities lead parents to wonder between the two sports which one they should choose for their child. That said, they bear more differences than similarities, so in this post, we will compare and contrast these two popular sports to understand which one you should choose.
At a glance, here are some major differences between field hockey and lacrosse:
- Lacrosse stick and field hock stick are wildly different
- Lacrosse ball is lighter than a field hockey ball
- Lacrosse players wear more protective gear
- Field hockey has very similar rules for both men’s and women’s
- Lacrosse sticks can vary depending on the position
- Lacrosse game is shorter
Now let’s dive into the details at length and learn how you should choose between these two sports.
Which sport is more popular
Lacrosse and field hockey both have strong representation and popularity in the US and Canada. In fact, the term “field hockey” is primarily used in North America to differentiate it from ice hockey, commonly called “hockey”. That said, field hockey a.k.a hockey has a more international reach. South Asia, Australia and Western Europe have a considerable amount of hockey enthusiasts. Because of this wide adoption, field hockey is the 4th most popular sport in the world, behind soccer, cricket and basketball (source). Which also makes field hockey a commonly featured sport in the Olympics.
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It’s safe to say at the international level, field hockey is much more popular and penetrated into almost every corner of the world. But if we only look at US and Canada, lacrosse reigns supreme by a margin. Lacrosse has more high school participants and a more developed collegiate program. Field hockey as of 2022 only has a women’s NCAA championship whereas lacrosse has both men’s and women’s.
Similarities between lacrosse and field hockey
If people make the connection between the two sports, there have to be some similarities that led to the belief. So in this section, let’s take a look at some similarities.
Both games involve a fast paced offensive strategy and require a lot of running across the field. Because of this nature, field hockey players and lacrosse players share many similar qualities, such as endurance, agility and strength.
Both games have an outdoor and indoor version. Indoor lacrosse is also called box lacrosse. Indoor field hockey is simply called indoor hockey.
Both sports are played on a wide and open field with similar markings on the ground. At the high school level, lacrosse and field hockey share the same field which could cause people to think they are similar sports. Plus, they both have a similar number of players on each team. Lacrosse has 10 players and field hockey has 11 players.
The mechanics of both sports is the same. Who manages to get the ball into the goal more than the other team wins the game. Therefore, both sports require a goalie from each team to protect the goal.
Differences between lacrosse and field hockey
If you compare a lacrosse stick and a field hockey stick side by side, you immediately notice their differences. A field hockey stick is a single piece “L” shaped wooden stick. A lacrosse stick is made of two parts, a head and a shaft. The head also has a hook shaped net attached to it.
The different designs are made for a reason. The “L” shaped hockey stick allows the ball to run on the ground without ever flying above a player’s waist. The pocket in each lacrosse player’s stick allows the ball to be hurled up into the air.
Due to the different flights of the ball, field hockey doesn’t require a full body protective gear besides shin guards, gloves and gum shields. Lacrosse, however, needs players to wear a full body of protection, specifically in men’s games.
Based on this, you can take notice that lacrosse is more intense and prone to physical contact and impacts, making it fundamentally different from field hockey which has bare minimum protection.
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Field hockey matches are longer than lacrosse games. Field hockey runs a total of 70 minutes, two halves of 35 minutes each. Lacrosse game is 60 minutes long, 10 minutes shorter with 4 quarters of 15 minutes each.
Lacrosse and field hockey are played in different seasons during the year. According to NCAA, lacrosse is considered a spring/summer sport; field hockey is a fall sport.
From a regulation perspective, men’s and women’s field hockey share more similarities than men’s and women’s lacrosse. Many people even argue men’s and women’s lacrosse are two different sports.
Which sport is harder to learn
The difficulty level is an important factor to consider when comparing and choosing between sports. Since you are on a lacrosse site, take my answer with a grain of salt as it could be biased! In my opinion, lacrosse is a more exciting and intense game as lacrosse also appears to be harder and more challenging to get good at.
To begin, to be a good lacrosse player, you will have to get used to the fast-paced nature of the game. Oftentimes, in a blink of an eye, the ball has already gone from one side of the field to another. Players must be on high alert and quick to take action.
Moreover, lacrosse requires the ability to perform complex maneuvers to skirt around defense in order to protect the ball. Whether it’s cradling, dodging or fighting for possession, players have to be versatile and quick on their feet to stand a chance against their opponents. In contrast, since the ball rarely leaves the ground in field hockey, there are less complex maneuvers involved. Field hockey players are limited to using only the flat end of the stick to hit the ball and some basic movements to shield from opponents.
Another factor that makes lacrosse more challenging is the lacrosse ball. Lacrosse ball is lighter in weight which makes it more unpredictable and harder to maintain possession. In addition, the lighter weight also makes shooting challenging since other factors like weather and win could also affect its direction of travel.
How should you choose between lacrosse and field hockey
Well, so now we have an understanding of how lacrosse differs from field hockey. It’s only fitting to make a final observation and answer the most important question, which is which sport suits you better.
If you are a natural for speed and agility, I would say lacrosse will suit you better. To be great at lacrosse speed and endurance are the most important qualities. Moreover, to be great at lacrosse, you’d also need good hand-eye coordination. Compared to field hockey players, lacrosse players don’t necessarily have to be big rather light and nimble.
As a women athlete, another thing to consider is the gender difference. If you are playing women’s lacrosse there’s limited body contact permissible. Essentially you are playing a very different version of lacrosse from men’s. This also speaks to the fact that there’s an existing gender gap in the sport. In contrast, field hockey is a primarily women-dominated sport. There are a lot more female field hockey players in US high schools. At the collegiate level, so far there’s only a women’s field hockey championship.