As you begin your journey in lacrosse whether as a beginner or as a fan, you realize this is a sport with many unique characteristics. Not only is it fast-paced but also keeps fans on the edge of their seats when turnover happens.
One fascinating aspect of the sport that leads to interesting dynamics between offense and defense is that different players utilize different sized lacrosse sticks. Unlike most sports where defensive and offensive players use the same gear, in lacrosse you use a specific stick based on your position. This is one of the basic attributes beginner players must understand.
So to answer the question, why do some lacrosse players use long sticks?
Defenders and LSM (long stick midfielders) use long sticks in lacrosse because they act as equalizers on the field to allow defenders to cover larger areas and deliver effective checks from afar. This design feature aims to reduce the offensive advantage that comes innately with ball possession.
In a gist, it’s a balancing act. That said, there are many additional benefits you should be aware of in order to maximize the power of your long stick, so in this post, we will go in-depth to help you become a commanding long stick defender.
How many players are allowed to use long sticks?
Every team can have 10 players at a time on the field, 3 attack, 3 middies, 3 defenders and 1 goalie. In total, there can be 4 long poles on the field for each team. So the common setup is to have 3 long pole defenders and 1 long-stick midfielder.
This means if you are a defender you will be using a long pole. If you are an LSM, you will also be using a long pole. In the next two sections, let’s learn the benefits of using long poles as a defender and an LSM.
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As a defender, why do you use a long stick?
As a defender, you will be no stranger to a long stick, so it’s important to fully understand how you should take advantage of it over a short stick.
Larger Defensive Coverage
As mentioned earlier, the most obvious and primary reason for defensive players to use long poles is to increase the likelihood of a successful interception. Because in lacrosse, whoever wins the possession wins the game, which puts the defensive team at a great disadvantage.
Moreover, offensive players are free to use different dodging techniques or pure speed to zip past their opponents. Elite players would also utilize one hand cradling to separate the opponent using their body. If defenders don’t have a longer stick to be able to reach over and create disruption in the cradling, it’s virtually impossible for defenders to place enough pressure on the attackers.
Thus, allowing long poles equalizes the balance. From there, defensemen are now able to put enough pressure on offensive players that could lead to mistakes for interceptions.
The most effective defensive technique defensive players utilize is throwing checks. Hitting right and center at the opponent’s stick, a good check is able to knock the ball loose.
Compared to a short stick, a long pole generates more power when keeping all factors the same. In physics, this can be simply explained by the idea of torque. The longer the length of the stick, the greater the torque. This torque directly translates to the amount of power your opponent will feel when you throw the check.
Thus, a long pole has greatly improved the efficiency and success rate of checks. In addition, this creates a psychological effect on your opponent. Instead of charging straight at you, an offensive player will think twice before making a move due to the fear of painful checks. By exploiting this fear, many elite defensemen constantly throw forceful checks to scare away attackers and eventually generate turnover opportunities.
Watch this clip below that demonstrates how effective checking is properly utilized:
Bigger Margin Of Error
One of the most difficult things about being a defender is that mistakes have high stakes. The margin of error is dancing on thin ice. Hence, this is another great reason to have longer sticks, the ability to recover.
Once a defender is beaten in a 1-v-1 situation, the “hot man” must quickly slide in to block the open pathway to the goal from the attacker. Having a long stick allows the hot man to get there a split second earlier. This split-second advantage is enough in lacrosse to make a difference between a goal and an interception.
Moreover, the defensive player who lost his position can quickly turn around and lay a possible trail check with a long stick. This will simply be impossible to do with a short stick. Thus, the extra length again levels the playing field as slipping past a defenseman doesn’t entirely clear the danger due to the possibility of trail checks. As a result, scoring goals isn’t as easy as dodging past a defender and then shoot.
If we combine the two benefits together, defensive players are given a bit more freedom when out of position. It’s part of human nature that people make mistakes. Allowing a degree of margin of error makes the game more exciting and unpredictable.
Playing mind game is a big element of lacrosse. Remember that your action is directly controlled by your brain. There are many ways to demonstrate intimidation. As a d pole, you have the perfect weapon to assert your power and position over your opponent.
There’s one tip I learned while playing at college, which is to make your first check hard and powerful to set the tone. Especially if you are against an unfamiliar team, you want to make the first impression as good as it can be by being aggressive. Doing so will not only make the opponent hesitant next time when you are near but also allows the official to understand your playing style.
So next time on the field, be sure to display intimidation with powerful checks and forceful defensive moves with your long pole.
Read also: Best Defense Head
As an LSM, why do you use a long stick?
At every game, there is normally one LSM from each team. It speaks to the uniqueness and importance of this position. So in this section, let’s find out why and how the LSM benefits from using a long stick.
Early Interception In the Midfield
Although it’s great defensive players are able to gain some ground using long poles, it’s also necessary to do some damage and disruption early in the development of an offensive play.
Applying all the benefits we mentioned for d poles, LSM is able to utilize the long stick to interfere with the opponent’s transition. By locking down one of the three opposing midfielders, the defensive team has a better shot at disrupting and blocking passes.
There’s another scenario that proves LSM to be absolutely crucial is when the offensive team is steamrolling. It will be too late to stop the momentum when attackers are already inside the defensive zone. So the LSM must provide the first line of defense to slow down the opponent’s speed as much as he can.
Long stick midfielders are key to winning the battles for ball possession, especially during faceoffs. After the whistle is blown, face-off players set the ball loose. It’s time for LSMs to sprint to the ground ball and fight for the possession.
You might ask why a long stick has a better chance of winning. First, the additional length allows LSM to reach the ball faster than short sticks. Second, once the LSM scoops up the ball, the extra length further separates the ball from other players for ball retention. Lastly, right before the opponent is going to scoop up the ground ball, you can easily slash his stick to interrupt his movement with a long stick.
Thus, having these benefits justifies the importance of a long stick midfielder and why the LSM is a key player on every side of the field.
Read also: What’s LSM in lacrosse?
The measurement of a long stick
After learning all the benefits of a long stick, you are probably ready to get yourself a long pole for this season.
In order to select the correct one, you might wonder how long a long stick is exactly. So the standard range of a long stick goes from 132 cm (52 inches) to 183 cm (72 inches). Typically you want to pick a stick that is the same height as you.
Can you play offense with a long stick?
Although long poles are designed for defensive purposes, players are able to play offensive with a long stick, specifically LSMs. As a key player traversing both sides of the field, LSM can appear at every position.
That said, long poles more often than not remain on the defensive side. Compared to short sticks, long poles are heavier and are easy targets for checking. This is why long poles don’t have the advantage over short sticks in the offense.
I hope this post gave you a clear understanding of why using long sticks is a necessary feature in lacrosse. The design of long poles helps to maintain the balance between the offense and the defense.
So if you will be playing defense this season, it’s vital to get familiar with a long pole and learn to use it effectively.