How to Play Lacrosse: What You Need to Know to Get Started

Lacrosse is a sport that is often forgotten about internationally because it isn’t as popular as soccer, basketball, or baseball. As a result, not many people learn how to play lacrosse. However, many might enjoy the sport if they ever had the opportunity to play.

Lacrosse is a free-flowing game where each team is trying to score on the opposing team’s goal. Although hockey doesn’t stack up to soccer internationally, both are way more popular than lacrosse worldwide.

It’s a strange phenomenon because lacrosse is like both those sports, so you’d think it would at least compete with hockey in terms of popularity.

Since lacrosse isn't as well known as many other sports, many kids are growing up without even thinking of it as an option to play.

However, many of the kids would have lots of fun with it if they ever learned how to play lacrosse.

What Is Lacrosse?

Lacrosse is a team sport. Players use sticks with nets on the end to try to get a rubber ball into the opposing team’s net for a goal. Since it’s a free-flowing game, lacrosse is a very athletic sport, and it’s a great test of speed and endurance.

The History of Lacrosse

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Before you learn how to play lacrosse, we think you must learn a little bit about the history of lacrosse. Lacrosse is one of the oldest sports in the world and the oldest in North America. Additionally, learning a bit of the history may give you a greater appreciation for the sport as a whole.

Origins

The first people to play a form of lacrosse were Native Americans in what is now the United States and Canada. Before official rules were established, it was common for hundreds of players to be on the field at a time. Back then, it was known as stickball.

When lacrosse was still known as stickball, the game was much more violent than it is today. Passing was looked down upon because it was seen as cowardly to try and dodge an opponent.

It was also relatively common for players to die in the giant mob of players that surrounded the ball as it slowly made its way down the field.

Early on in Europe

Although lacrosse dates back further in North America, there are accounts of lacrosse that dates back to the mid-1600s in Europe. And although there isn’t evidence that the reports of lacrosse back then are the exact same sport of what exists today, they were certainly similar.

However, a more modern version of lacrosse was brought over to Europe in the early 1800s by a missionary who spent time in Montreal in Canada. The missionary spent so much time playing lacrosse that it interfered with his attendance at church.

The first game between anglophones and Native Americans took place in 1844. Then in 1856, the first lacrosse club was created, the Montreal Lacrosse Club.

The club wasn’t what you’d think of as a professional league today, but it was organized. In fact, the club hosted a match between two indigenous teams when the Prince of Wales visited Montreal in 1860.

Becoming a modern sport

Within one month of the Prince of Wales’ visit to Montreal, a young dentist named William George Beers wrote down the first set of written rules for lacrosse.

That made it possible for someone to officially learn how to play lacrosse for the first time. Before this, there were no written rules, and they would change from game to game.

Additionally, Beers changed the ball from a deerskin one to a hard rubber ball. As a result, Beers is now known as the father of lacrosse.

In 1867, lacrosse made its first official appearance in Europe when Captain W.B. Johnson organized an event in London. The event included 16 paid players from Kahnawake and amateur players from the Montreal Lacrosse Club. There were 2 subsequent tours in 1876 and 1883.

The place where lacrosse is the most popular worldwide is Canada. Although Canada is known for its love of hockey, there is a lot of love for lacrosse. It hasn’t reached the height of hockey, but it is popular enough that in 1994, it was named the national summer sport of Canada.

The biggest lacrosse league in the world is the National Lacrosse League or NLL for short. It was founded in 1986 and currently consists of 13 teams. There are five teams based in Canada and eight in the United States.

What Do You Need to Play Lacrosse?

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Before you learn how to play lacrosse, you need to purchase the equipment. If you don’t want to play in a league and only plan on playing recreationally, the only equipment you need is a stick and ball. However, if you want to join a league, you will need some more stuff.

Firstly, a helmet is an essential piece of equipment for any lacrosse player. Lacrosse is a dangerous sport where you can get hit in the head by a stick or ball easily. As a result, a helmet is essential, and you won’t be allowed to play in any league without one.

Furthermore, a mouthpiece is vital for protecting your teeth. The last thing you want is to have your teeth knocked out because you didn’t wear one.

Additionally, you will need protective gloves to keep your hands safe every time an opponent tries to steal the ball from you. All players are also required to wear shoulder pads, arm pads, and rib pads. All players also wear protective cups and athletic supporters.

If you plan on being the goalie, you will also need a throat and chest protector. The helmet you wear also may have a slightly different design than the other players.

How to Play Lacrosse

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Now that you have some background knowledge of the sport and know what you need to play, you can learn how to play lacrosse. Here we’ll take through the basics of how to learn lacrosse. We’ll discuss the essential skills you need to learn, as well as the basic rules of the game.

What are the essential skills?

There are several skills that you need to learn as a lacrosse player. However, there are four skills than stand out from the rest, cradling, passing, catching, and shooting. We’ll discuss all four in detail, and we’ll also briefly touch on some other skills you should consider.

Cradling

The first skill you need to learn when learning how to play lacrosse is how to cradle the ball. Cradling is the equivalent of dribbling basketball or soccer. You cradle to control the ball and make it difficult for your opponent to knock the ball out of your stick.

To learn how to cradle, you first need to know how to hold the stick properly. If you’re right-handed, your left hand should be an inch or two from the bottom of the shaft, and your right hand should be about four inches from the head. If you’re left-handed, then you do the same thing but reversed.

Now that you’re holding the stick correctly, you can learn how to cradle the ball. To practice cradling, place the ball in the pocket of your stick. Then move your wrist in a curling motion to move the ball back and forth.

You should start by practicing standing still, but when you feel comfortable, you can start practicing while running around.

The best place to start practicing is in front of the mirror because you’ll be able to see what you’re doing, and more importantly, what you’re doing wrong.

When cradling, you should curl your dominant wrist as far is it can go inward. Once it has gone as far as it can go, bring it back out, and bring your arm to the starting position. If you managed to keep the ball in the net, then you’ve completed your first successful cradle.

Keep practicing and try to get as many cradles in a row as possible. It’s essential to practice this skill because all skills in lacrosse depend on you being able to cradle the ball.

Passing

Passing is a crucial skill to learn in lacrosse. You use it to catch your opponents off guard, and as a result, players pass the ball hundreds of times a game.

To pass the ball, you should lower your dominant hand to about midway down the shaft. Then you should bring the shaft behind your head. However, you need to careful not to hit yourself in the neck.

Once the stick is behind your head, flick the wrist of your dominant hand and pull your bottom hand towards you. Additionally, make sure you follow through with the motion. Following through will give you more power and precision in your pass.

Catching

Learning how to pass goes hand and hand with catching. Catching is the part of lacrosse that requires the most hand-eye coordination. That may sound concerning if you don’t have excellent hand-eye coordination, but you can improve it significantly by practicing.

To catch the ball, you should bring your dominant hand to the top of the shaft. It should be almost touching the head of the stick. That makes it easier to place the stick in a position to catch the ball.

When you catch the ball, you shouldn’t start cradling immediately. Instead, you should loosen your grip so that the momentum of the ball pushes the stick back a bit. That will prevent the ball from bouncing out.

Shooting

You’re never going to win a game if you don’t shoot the ball. As a result, shooting is a critical skill to learn for any lacrosse player. Shooting involves the same basic movement as passing.

To practice shooting, you should practice taking shots at the corners of the goal. It will improve your precision over time, thus allowing you to score easier.

You should also practice bounce shots as these shots can be unpredictable. The unpredictability makes it difficult for the goalie to predict where the ball is going.

Other important skills

When learning how to play lacrosse, there are a few other skills that you should learn. However, these skills you will learn over time as you play the game.

Firstly, you will need to learn how to defend. There are several methods of defending an attacking player, including poke checking and body checking. However, you can’t practice this without playing with other players.

Over time, you’ll also want to improve your ability to read the game. This means that you are improving your ability to know where the ball is going before it gets there. By reading the game correctly, you’ll be able to better position yourself offensively and defensively.

The rules of lacrosse

When learning how to play lacrosse, you need to understand the rules. Lacrosse isn’t the free-for-all it was 500 years ago, so you need to know what you can and can’t do during a game.

Positions

In lacrosse, there are 10 players on the field for each team at a time. There are three attackers, three midfielders, three defenders, and one goalie.

The attackers usually stay on the opponent’s side of the field and are responsible for scoring goals. Midfielders move the entire length of the field, playing offensively and defensively.

The defenders stay on their side of the field and need to defend against attacking players. Goalies remain in the goal and attempt to block incoming shots.

Basic play

The game starts with a faceoff where teams fight for control of the ball. The team then passes the ball around until they can take a shot, or the other team steals the ball. If a goal is scored, another faceoff is taken at midfield.

You should note that attackers cannot enter the opponent’s goal crease, which surrounds the goal.

Timing rules

When a goalie gains possession of the ball, he needs to pass it or move out of the crease in four seconds. If he doesn’t, there is a turnover.

Additionally, once the defense gains control of the ball, they have 20 seconds to get it over midfield. Once the ball has crossed over midfield, that team has 10 seconds to get the ball into the attack area.

Possession and offsides

When either team gains possession, all players can move towards midfield. However, both sides always need three players above midfield and four defenders behind midfield.

A defensive offside takes place when there are less than four players behind their midfield line. There is an offensive offside when there are less than three players above their midfield line.

Penalties

A penalty sends a player to the penalty box for a set amount of time. Personal fouls send a player to the penalty box for one to three minutes, depending on the infraction. However, specific penalties can result in an ejection.

Furthermore, there are technical fouls that do not result in a man disadvantage. However, they do result in a loss of possession. These fouls include offsides and crease violations.

Objective and game time

The objective of the game is to score more goals than the opposing team. At the professional and college level, the game is 60 minutes long. It is broken up into four 15-minute quarters.

However, in high school, the game length is reduced to 48 minutes, with the quarters being 12 minutes each.

Do You Understand How to Play Lacrosse?

After reading through our article, we hope you have a better understanding of how to play lacrosse. We know it’s complicated, but you don’t need to learn it all at once. And you should give it a try because you might like it!

Have you played lacrosse before? Do you understand the basics of how to play lacrosse? Let us know in the comments!

Featured image by: Pixabay

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