Do You Run a Lot in Lacrosse?

Running is hard. That is why potential athletes want to know how much running will be asked of them prior to starting lacrosse. It is definitely something to consider because not everyone is ready to run hefty distances day after day.

There is a great deal of emphasis placed on running in the sport of lacrosse. Lacrosse players run anywhere from 3 to 5 miles in a single game. The total mileage that a player runs is contingent on their position, playing time, and overall activity on the field.

These factors are crucial determinants in the amount of miles that a player runs during games. It is necessary to grasp these influential elements in order to have a thorough understanding of how much a player should expect to run in a lacrosse game.

Average Amount of Miles a Lacrosse Player Runs

Although the majority of lacrosse players run somewhere within the 3 to 5 mile range, not every lacrosse player runs the exact same distance on the field. Some players run five miles every single outing, while other players rarely ever have to break the one mile mark in game. Why is that?

Average Amount of Miles Per Position

Player position is a major contributor to how many miles a lacrosse player runs each game. Certain positions run way more than other positions. Plain and simple.

See the table below to get a breakdown on how many miles each lacrosse position runs on average.

PositionTotal Mileage in One Game
Attacker2-4 miles
Midfielder3-5 miles
Defender2-4 miles
Goalkeeper<1 mile

Midfielders run the most out of any lacrosse position, ranging anywhere from 3 to 5 miles per game. This is because midfielders patrol the entire length of the field. They play both offense and defense, so they must travel back and forth between both ends.

Attackers and defenders are just behind midfielders, running approximately 2-4 miles per game. Attackers and defenders are restricted to one side of the field only. For this reason, players can catch their breath and remain stationary while the ball is on the other end of the field. These little breaks save them about or mile or two of running.

Goalkeepers do not have to run very much at all. It is a rare occasion that a goalkeeper runs over a mile in a lacrosse game. Goalkeepers typically remain on the crease to put themselves in optimal position to protect the goal.

The only time a goalkeeper really needs to venture outside of the crease is for clears. Even in the case of a clear, the goalkeeper usually just dumps the ball off to another player so that they do not have to physically carry the ball to the offensive zone themselves.

Playing Time

The distance that a player travels over the course of a lacrosse game is also heavily dependent on playing time. A player cannot log in extra miles if they are standing on the sidelines.

It is standard for attackers and defenders to play the entire length of a lacrosse game. They do not require substitution shifts because they can rest when the ball is on the other side of the field. This is why attackers and defenders run several miles on average.

Midfielders, on the other hand, are interchanged throughout the game on a consistent basis. Players frequently get burnt out from running up and down the field in such a short span of time. Quick substitution shifts keep players from overextending themselves and running themselves into the ground.

Nonetheless, there are times where teams are short-handed for a lacrosse game and players are forced to play more than usual. This additional playing time ultimately translates into more running.

On the other end of the spectrum, teams with a lot of depth can afford to implement quick substitution shifts. Players sit on the sidelines for longer and do not have to run nearly as much.

Overall Activity on the Field

Individual player activity on the field is another significant element to consider when trying to gauge the amount of running in lacrosse. The more active a player is on the field, the more mileage they will end up taking on.

Much of this has to do with the individual tendencies of the player. A player that relies on constant speed and movement to thrive on the lacrosse field will generally run a lot more than a player that leans on slow, strategic movement.

In addition, the lower tiers of lacrosse typically do not showcase much activity during games relative to the highest tiers of competition. Youth players are still learning the fundamentals of the game. As a result, players do not know how to move or where to move on the lacrosse field. Their lack of experience causes them to miss out on a great deal of running.

More seasoned lacrosse players do not have this problem. Experienced players are more knowledgable and physically equipped to take on the weighty running responsibilities demanded of them. Consequently, they run a much farther distance compared to the youth level.

Plus, the ball is not on the ground nearly as much at the high school and college level. Veteran players do not waste time haggling for ground balls. Instead, they focus on their own personal activity on how they can maneuver themselves on the field to give their team the best chance at winning.

Why Do Lacrosse Players Have to Run So Much?

The next question you are probably asking is, “Why do lacrosse players have to run so much?” There are several aspects of lacrosse that explain why so much running is requested of the players. These aspects will be discussed in the subsequent paragraphs.

Colossal Field of Play

A lacrosse field is slightly larger than a football field. The field is 110 yards in length and 60 yards in width.

This is vastly different from a basketball court or a tennis court. For reference, a basketball court is 94 feet by 50 feet and a tennis court is 78 feet by 27 feet. There is not much room to run in these sports relative to the massive field boundaries of lacrosse.

This extra yardage offers players a lot of real estate to run around during games. Offensive lacrosse players depend on their speed to evade defenders and blow by the competition. Defensive lacrosse players use their speed to match up with the opposition and throw checks on the move.

In the absence of such a sizable field, lacrosse players would not be running nearly as much as they currently do.

Not Too Many Breaks in the Action

Moreover, there are not too many stoppages of play in the sport of lacrosse. Games only ever break after a quarter has expired, a goal has been scored, a penalty has been called, or a timeout has been called. Since there is almost always some sort of action happening on the field, players have to keep their activity levels up.

This is a marked contrast to other sports such as baseball or football. In these sports, players break after every single play. Once the play has finished, teams take 20-30 seconds to recuperate and then reinitiate the action. This process repeats for virtually the entire game. This is because these sports are distinctly characterized by short bursts of activity.

Lacrosse, on the other hand, is non-stop action. Once a play has come to its culmination, teams do not rest. Instead, they have to continue to be weary and run around on the field to adapt to the shifting circumstances of the game. They are afforded no time for recovery. As a result, players have to run a much farther distance to avoid getting caught out of position.

Extraordinarily Fast Paced Sport

The very essence of lacrosse is built on the idea of speed. Lacrosse has been frequently referred to as the “Fastest Sport on Two Feet” for good reason. It did not just earn this nickname out of the blue.

It earned this nickname because of how quickly players are able to carry the ball from one end of the field to the other. As soon as there is a save or a turnover, players are routinely looking to exploit transitional opportunities. If the defense has their back turned or are still trying to sort out their on field personnel, ball carriers take off and sprint as fast as they can to the offensive zone.

Recently, the NCAA even instituted a 60 second shot clock to up the tempo of lacrosse even further. This has ultimately resulted in more possessions overall in lacrosse. Consequently, players have to run up and down the field a few extra times per game.

Furthermore, since players only have a minute to work with in the offensive zone, ball carriers have to work a whole lot harder to get off a quality shot. This extra effort results in additional running.

Ball Carriers Can Run Freely

Ball carriers are capable of beating the defense with pure speed because their movement is not restricted by the ball whatsoever. In basketball, player acceleration is somewhat stymied by dribbling. The same goes for soccer. It takes a superior level of skill to maintain control over the ball while running at full speed.

Lacrosse players are easily able to retain possession of the ball through the act of cradling. All that the cradling technique requires is a repetitive curling of the arms and wrists. With this movement, the ball conveniently remains in the lacrosse stick. Players do not have to worry about ball control, even while sprinting at terminal velocity.

Since players have more confidence in their ability to maintain position, they tend to run at a much more frequent rate. This tacks on additional mileage in the long run.

Scoring Opportunities Hinge on Player Movement

Lastly, the creation of scoring opportunities heavily depend on player movement. This not only entails that the ball carrier moves, but that the rest of the offensive players move as well.

The most ideal way for an offense to explore the vulnerabilities in a defense is to force the defense to rotate. Defensive rotations increase the likelihood of a defensive breakdown through miscommunication.

If an offense is stagnant, the defense has no reason to rotate. Off ball players have to constantly cut to the ball, set picks for one another, and attack open gaps on the field in order to reveal the weaknesses in the defense. All of these offensive strategies require the players to run.

The whole object of the game of lacrosse is to score more goals than the other team. The best way to score goals is for offenses to move, so you can bet that teams will be doing a substantial amount of running to keep up!

How is the Running in Lacrosse Relative to Other Sports?

To provide you with a frame of reference, I included a table with the average running distance of players in other sports. You can find this table below:

SportAverage Running Distance
Soccer7 miles
Field Hockey5.6 miles
*Lacrosse3-5 miles
Tennis3 miles
Basketball2.55 miles
Football1.25 miles (for receivers and cornerbacks)
Baseball.0375 miles

According to the data, lacrosse falls in the upper echelon of average running distance relative to other sports. This makes sense given that the sport of lacrosse is meant to be the perfect combination of speed and stamina.

The only sports that average a greater total running distance than lacrosse are field hockey and soccer. If you are accustomed to the running in these sports, the total amount of mileage demanded in lacrosse should be no problem.

The Bottom Line

So if you are a curios athlete that is thinking about transitioning over from another sport, expect to run a little bit more than you are used to.

Sources: 1 2

Austin Carmody

I am the owner of Lacrosse Pack. I enjoy hitting the local lacrosse fields and honing in on the craft in my free time.

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