At some point in every beginner laxer’s career, they will ask themselves this question, what position should I play in lacrosse, or is the position I am playing right now the right one? Personally, I asked myself this question several times throughout my career, and I think it’s the most important question every laxer should be asking faithfully.
If you happen to be one of them, you are in luck because, in this post, I will show you the roles and expectations of each position as well as the required skills each position needs so that you understand what type of athlete you are and what position you should choose.
Whether you are an attacker, middie, defender or goalie, it’s vital to understand if the current position suits you the most.
Note that this guide is for field lacrosse only (youths and adults). I’ll cover box lacrosse positions in some other article very soon.
I hope that at the end of this article you’ll have a clearer idea of what type of player you are and how you can maximize your potential.
Let’s get started.
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Men’s Lacrosse Positions for Goalies
Just like in any other sport, in lacrosse, it is the goalie’s job to protect the net. Goalie’s vantage position as the last line of defense enables him to have a wide perspective of the field.
This way the goalie can see the offense approaching the goal and should, therefore, be vocal in alerting fellow teammates of the incoming attackers, calling checks and relaying the ball’s location.
After making a save and while having possession of the ball, the goalie has 4 seconds to pass the ball or at least take it out of the circular goal crease.
As far as the goalie stick goes, it’s of normal length but with a wider head for a larger surface area. The goalie is also required to wear extra protective gear: a throat guard, goalie pants, goalie gloves and a chest protector.
What Makes A Great Goalie
A great goalie has very fast reflexes and excellent hand-eye coordination.
You have to be keen on the game, pay attention to the location of the ball and attackers at all times and be quick in decision making. Good defense stems from open and constant communication, so being a goalie requires your ability to make effective communications.
Also because goalie has a very unique position with a lot of pressure, you need to have a good mental ability to resist stress and block out noise and self-doubt. 50% of what makes you a great goalie has to do with the mind. The best way to strengthen and unclog your mind is through meditation.
Besides that, a goalie must be able to courageously stop high-velocity shots and just as well, should bear the ability to quickly recover from past mistakes.
Below is a great video that goes through some best goalie drills you should be doing:
Men’s Lacrosse Positions for Defenders
The primary role of the defenders is to keep the attackers from scoring.
To do this effectively, they need to be sharp and vigilant, constantly trying to read the offensive attack and be a step ahead of them the entire time.
There are 3 defenders in a game and so they should all work in unity staying in communication with each defender and being aware of their defensive assignment at all times.
Defenders use a longer stick meant to keep attackers at bay. This length also allows them to throw checks without risking getting hit.
Defenders are allowed to check by hitting the opponents’ stick and arms but nothing else. Hitting anything else will warrant a penalty.
Body checking is also allowed, but hits should only be straight on and never from behind.
What Makes A Great Defender
If you ever played defense, you know this phrase, “defense is played with your feet, not your stick”. What this means is pretty simple, the biggest assets of every elite defender are great footwork, coupled with a sense of positioning.
It also goes without saying stick skills are equally as important. Elite defenders are very strategic and thoughtful of going for stick checks so that they don’t give up their positioning when going for one.
Being very effective in the clearing game is also a must. A great defender is also a great passer always looking for the next pass up the field or throwing it over to the weak side to create space and offensive opportunity.
More often than not, defenders are the biggest and strongest guys on the team, but this may not always be the case. Someone small and agile could just be as good a defender.
Below is a great video that goes through some footwork drills you should be doing: (For more, check out my beginner guide on practicing defensive footwork)
Men’s Lacrosse Positions for Midfielders
Midfielders are always on the move because as opposed to defenders and attackers, middies are able to move around the field freely on either side of the centerline.
This position requires the player to play both offense and defense, and so the athlete must establish congruency between the two positions.
Majorly, middies are responsible for controlling possession of the ball such that it is in favor of their team. Other roles include clearing saved shots and retrieving loose balls. For these reasons, middies often look for the most versatile and advanced heads for their various responsibilities.
One rule midfielders need to pay particular attention to is the offside rule. At all times, there must be 4 players on the defensive side of the field and 3 players on the offensive side.
It is up to the middies to keep the team in check constantly ensuring that this balance isn’t breached.
What Makes A Great Midfielder
If you have great endurance and love running, you got a good shot at becoming a great midfielder. As mentioned, the dynamic nature of this role requires middies to be exceptionally fit because they should outlast every other player on the field.
On top of that, the player is required to be very quick on their feet and bear impressive stick skills. Effective stick skills lie in the ability to shoot the ball powerfully and with accuracy.
In addition, don’t forget about the defensive part of the job. Since middies basically cover every aspect of the game, you can’t ignore the importance of having decent defensive skills as well.
Men’s Lacrosse Positions for Attackers
Primarily, the attacker’s job is to score, and this is done by creating most of the offense through threatening moves.
It is up to the attacker to see scoring opportunities that others do not see, and part of this requires them to find players left unnoticed by the defenders.
Besides scoring an attacker also needs to be great at making passes in a timely and accurate manner.
There are no charge rules applying to the attacker, and so this player can move in whichever direction and use any amount of force.
However, unlike other lacrosse positions, the attacker is not allowed to clamp the ball on their stick using their chest, thumb or helmet.
Also, “warding” isn’t allowed which basically means the attacker cannot use their arms or hands to hit or push the defender’s stick.
What Makes A Great Attacker
An attacker should possess impressive ball-handling skills. This also comes with being good strategists as they attempt to make the most of their ball possession.
Speed and agility are also added advantages as these players need to be good at dodging defenders who are often stronger and bulkier.
Maneuverability, great footwork, and perfect hand-eye coordination are equally important to have as a good attacker.
Check out this lacrosse shooting drills video that can take your shooting skill to the next level:
What Position Should I Play?
Now we have established the basics, it’s time to answer the question of how to choose the position that suits you the most.
Choosing a lacrosse position is overwhelming especially if you’re just starting out with lacrosse. Part of it has to do with the lack of experience; part of it has to do with getting a better understanding of what your strengths and weaknesses are.
Therefore, it’s recommended to try all the lacrosse positions to understand each position’s specifications and challenges. Doing so will help you decide which lacrosse position suits your skills and body type.
Here are the main criteria that you want to consider when deciding which position to play:
Lacrosse is a sport just like any other, and as all sport requires, all players need to be athletic at least to a certain degree/extent.
Of course, this simply translates into physical fitness as well as good coordination. In this sport, however, some positions require players that are a bit more athletic than others.
Take a position such as midfielders for instance. Middies require great endurance because these players last longer than any other players on the field. Endurance comes with superior athleticism, therefore, requiring such players to be exceptionally fit and sturdy.
If you find that your athletic ability is a bit wanting, then you might want to play in positions such as defense which might require physical strength rather than speed. Then again this also depends on your body type because a good defender will either be big and tall or short and agile.
Every lacrosse position requires the use of a lacrosse stick, and the type of stick varies with the position being played, but the bottom line is that every player should have a stick and know how to use it.
Not just use it but use it fairly well because good stick handling skills are a great added advantage even when the position does not particularly demand it.
While goalies need to have impressive stick skills coupled with great hand-eye coordination, defenders may get away with having less impressive stick skills.
Therefore depending on your stick handling skills, you can choose a position suiting your abilities.
It goes without saying that speed is a key requirement in lacrosse. The game itself is pretty fast-paced, and so the players need to be just as fast, along with having great footwork and good hand-eye coordination.
It is worth noting that not all positions will require impressive speed. For instance, defense requires strength rather than speed.
On the other hand, speed is largely demanded from attackers and midfielders whereas goalies are required to have quick hand-eye coordination.
This is one of the criteria that used to be important a few decades ago. But, now as lacrosse evolved into a more fast-paced sport, the body type doesn’t really matter a lot anymore.
Some may argue that a goalie for example should have a big body so that he can be able to cover most of the net. However, we see today many successful goalies that have more of an average body. This means that there are other criteria that have a much bigger impact than the body type.
As for middies and attackers, they’re normally required to have a small body to enable them to be quick and agile. But, we can see that some players in this position can actually use their big bodies to get an advantage over the opponent’s defenders. Again, it all depends on your style of play.
As a defender, having a big body can help you scare attackers but on the other side, it will make you slower in your movements. We’ve seen so many small body-type defenders who excel at defending because they’re very quick.
Still Confused Which Position is Right For You?
As I mentioned earlier, sometimes you just need to go out there and test them out yourself. That’s maybe the only way you can be sure that a lacrosse position is right for you. So, go try them all in a training session and see how things turn out. Especially when you are just starting out, it doesn’t hurt to try different positions.
Besides, you can always ask for advice from your coach or someone who knows well your skill level in lacrosse. They can be able to help you decide which position to go for.
The bottom line is don’t focus too much on the skills or the criteria yet. Just go with the position in which you feel the most natural and comfortable with. That’s usually a good sign.