The history of lacrosse traces back to the 17th century in North America when French Jesuit missionaries and army officers observed various Native American tribes playing early variations of the game. Organized clubs were founded in Canada during the late 1850s. The U.S. soon followed suit and established clubs like the Mohawk Lacrosse Club in Troy, New York. Since then, lacrosse has spread nationwide to high schools, colleges and universities. While people of all ages play lacrosse, men’s and women’s lacrosse differs on several levels: positions, body contact and equipment.
In men’s lacrosse, each team has 10 players on the field: three attackmen, three midfielders, three defensemen and a goalkeeper. In women’s lacrosse, the 12 players on offense and defense are fragmented into specific positions.
Like Casey Powell, attackmen have the best stick skill, as their primary purpose is to score. The 2014 Major League Lacrosse (MLL) MVP earned his position by being quick on his feet to find clear shots while avoiding checking defensemen. Women’s attack positions are comprised of first, second and third homes and two attack wings. The first home needs skilled stick work as her main responsibility is to score. As the playmaker, the second home must be agile to shoot well from all angles and distance. Playing as the link between defense and offense, the attack wings need speed and strength to run and pass the ball across the field. The third home player should be ready to receive and transition the ball from defense to attack.
Defensemen like Rochester Knighthawks’ Mike Kirk react quickly and aggressively to shut down incoming attackmen. To keep attackmen at a distance, defensemen carry longer sticks. In women’s games, the point, coverpoint and third man mark the first, second and third homes, respectively. These players should be able to stick-check, intercept passes, and move quickly on the field. Women’s defensive wings need good speed and endurance as well, as they attempt to bring the ball back to their team’s attack area.
In both men’s and women’s lacrosse, goalkeepers must keep calm under pressure, as this position is constantly under attack. Philadelphia Wings goalie Brandon Miller sets the standard for agility and stick-handling to prevent an incoming ball from crossing the goal line.
Men’s lacrosse allows body-checking—a reason why men wear more protective equipment (e.g. helmets, heavy-fitted gloves and padding). Although women’s lacrosse disallows body-checking, players are still required to wear protective equipment including eye wear, soft-fitted gloves and mouth guards.
Depending on the position, lacrosse sticks vary as well. For women’s lacrosse, head pockets must be traditionally strung while men’s lacrosse heads have mesh pockets. The mesh pockets not only allow players to catch and carry the ball, but also permit for more aggressive body-checking. This also makes stick handling more difficult in women’s lacrosse, as the top of the ball must be above the pocket’s sidewall.
As the “fastest game on two feet,” lacrosse has quickly moved beyond its Native American roots to mature into popular organizations like MLL, National College Lacrosse League, Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse League and many others.