How To Play Lacrosse
Learning how to play lacrosse isn't terribly difficult, though learning to play it well is of course a different story. If you've played soccer, ice hockey, or even basketball, there are elements of those sports shared by lacrosse. Lacrosse is a Native American game whose origins are a little murky but variations of the sport appear to have been played by the natives of Central America as well as those in North America.
Put The Ball In The Net - The objective of the game is to but a ball into a net, the goal. The ball is carried in a small basket at the end of a stick, so in learning how to play lacrosse you have to learn how to pass and catch the ball, shoot the ball on goal, or pick the ball up from the ground (scooping), using the basket on the stick (called the crosse). You are not allowed to touch the ball with either hand at any time, the only exception to this rule being the goalie may touch the ball.
A Contact Sport - Lacrosse is a contact sport so wearing of protective gear is required. The lacrosse player needs to be protected from the ball, which is rubber and weighs about 5 ounces, but when passed from one player to another or shot towards the goal, can travel at a high speeds. Most of the protection though is designed to protect the player against swinging sticks.
As is the case with ice hockey, it isn't permissible to purposely hit another player with the stick, but it can and does happen. Most of the danger comes while in the act of checking, that is hitting an opponent's stick with your own, to try to dislodge or capture the ball. If in the process of checking, you hit your opponent, you may be called for a foul. If you hit your opponent on purpose, it's a personal foul and you risk being ejected. Of course, tempers have been known to flair, so the helmet and other protective equipment, such as padding and a mouthpiece, are necessary, in fact mandatory.
The Positions - There are 10 positions on each team during play, and in learning how to play lacrosse you'll need to learn the skills and assignments of at least one of these positions, and probably more than one. There is the goalie, three defenders, three midfielders, and three attackers. When you are on the field, the half of the field in which your team's goal is located is your defensive half, and the other half of the field where the opponent's goal is, is your offensive or attacking half. If you are a defender, one of the rules states that you must at all times remain on your defensive half of the field. If you are an attacker, you are constrained to the offensive half. If you are a midfielder, you can roam the field at will. Players can rotate or exchange positions during a match, but once in an assigned position must stay in one or the other halves of the field, unless of course the position is that of midfielder.
Legal Contact - One can make contact with an opponent in the process of body checking. Similar to the block in football, body checking must be from the front or the side, never from the back. You can only check an opponent who has the ball, or is going after a loose ball.
Offensive And Defensive Strategies - Once you've learned what your assignments would be at any of the positions, the next step in learning how to play lacrosse would be learning the strategies of the game. Defense may be a zone defense, or man to man. Offensive strategy often revolves around set positions, where players are aligned in a certain way in preparation to making an attack on the opponent's goal. An offensive line up would include the attackers and the midfielders, perhaps aligned in a 2-3-1, or a 3-2-1 fashion. If a team is short one player due to a penalty, their defensive strategy would likely be to "collapse" the midfielders into the defensive side of the field to protect their own goal until the penalty time has elapsed.
Besides passing, catching and scooping, in learning how to play lacrosse well, you'll need to learn to play as part of a team, and know both your offensive and defensive strategies and tactics. Lacrosse is an exciting game to watch, band fortunately is becoming more popular with each passing day.