When athletes are first introduced to the sport of lacrosse, there are a flurry of questions that pop into their head. One of the first curiosities that new athletes have is whether or not there are certain scenarios in lacrosse where players have a maximum step count.
Lacrosse players are allowed to take as many steps as they want, regardless of whether they have the ball or not. All players in the game move because of their own volition. They stop, walk, jog, or sprint whenever they want because there is no such thing as a maximum step count in lacrosse.
There are multiple reasons as to why lacrosse players are granted such freedom in terms of movement on the field. We will address these reasons and answer other tangentially related questions that this newfound knowledge will likely spark, such as how often players move on the lacrosse field.
Reasons Why Lacrosse Players Can Generally Take as Many Steps as They Want
Lacrosse is an old, traditional sport with roots extending all the way back to the times of the Native Americans. When they first conceived the sport of lacrosse, they intended to create a pleasant activity that emphasized a connection to the body and the great outdoors. The underlying principles of the lacrosse rules regarding movement have retained this fundamental essence, translating over into the modern lacrosse era.
The Sport is Built Around Free Flowing Movement
First and foremost, the main reason that lacrosse players are able to move however they want to is because lacrosse is founded upon free flowing movement.
If you’ve ever played or watched a lacrosse game, you know that there is a tremendous amount of running demanded of the players. The midfielders must run back and forth between the offensive and defensive ends, the attackmen are in constant motion trying to create scoring opportunities, and the defensemen are forced to follow them step for step.
For those of you that are not yet familiar with the basic lacrosse positions, check out my article The 4 Major Lacrosse Positions: A Beginner’s Guide.
The only real position that is exempt from all of this running responsibility is the goalkeeper, but even they have to step out of the cage every once in a while.
Every piece of successful lacrosse strategy is based upon free movement. Without movement, the very fabric of the game would be altered. To be honest, I cannot even imagine what lacrosse would look like if each player had a maximum step count to worry about. I can’t even fathom how that would work!
Think about it. The only viable way that players can make plays on offense is via on-ball and off-ball movement. Players must confuse defenders with changes in their speed and directional movement to even have a chance at scoring. Offenses where players stand around idly by just waiting for something to happen almost never reach success. If there were a maximum step count in place, all lacrosse offenses would be stagnant.
The same applies for defenses. The only way that defenses generate turnovers is by upping their aggression and pressuring the other team by way of movement. It’s impossible to place sufficient pressure on an offense if defenders refuse to get within striking distance of their opponents.
In short, everything in lacrosse from offense to defense ties back to freedom of movement.
Encourages Fast-Paced Gameplay
Another staple of lacrosse is the up tempo style of play. The primary contributing factor to the fast-paced nature of lacrosse is the unrestricted mobility.
Since players are allowed to take as many steps as they want, they can run up and down the field incredibly fast. The ball is able to transition so quickly, in fact, that the sport earned the nickname The Fastest Sport on Two Feet.
The freedom of movement is also a large part of why transitional opportunities are so prevalent in lacrosse. As soon as a player picks up a loose ball on defense, they’re looking to push the fast break. It’s like the race horses stampeding out of the gates after they hear the starting gunshot boom into the air. Players take off and race to beat the opposition to catch them unprepared.
To see what I mean, check out the fast break clips below! Seemingly every fast break is jumpstarted by a player that careens down the entire length of the field just using their legs alone.
If there were a maximum step count in effect, none of this would be possible. Possessions wouldn’t be able to go back and forth at the rate that they currently do.
Allows Players to Better Showcase their Athletic Ability
In addition, the lack of a step count permits players to put their athletic ability on full display.
Had players been restricted by a maximum step count, it would be exceedingly difficult for players to flaunt their creativity on the field. The freedom of movement that players have grants players endless possibilities on how to go about operating on the lacrosse field, whether it be on the offensive end or defensive end.
For example, players on the offensive side of the ball can employ a diversity of dodges to get past defenders. They can utilize the split dodge, bull dodge, roll dodge, question mark dodge, face dodge, swim dodge, and even a combination of these various moves to leave defenders behind.
The best part is that dodgers don’t have to come in with a set plan. They can adapt to what the defense is giving them and use their athleticism to do what is best under those particular circumstances. This makes the sport of lacrosse much more natural for offensive players, which adds to the appeal of the game.
This also holds true for defenders. Defenders can take advantage of their mobility by pressuring ball carriers step for step with stick checks and body checks. This is an obvious example though.
What many lacrosse defenders overlook is that their unrestricted mobility allows them to predict what the offense is trying to do and trust their athletic instincts to react accordingly. For example, defenders can position themselves within passing lanes and disrupt where the offense is trying to go with the ball. Moreover, defenders can move themselves so that they’re in an optimal position to provide defensive support when the time comes.
In summary, all of this athletic ability would be wasted in lacrosse if players weren’t allowed to move freely.
Keeps Players Focused on the Game and Not a Step Count
Lastly, the independent movement of players directs their attention on the game and not a step count.
With all of the commotion that happens over the course of a lacrosse game, it’s hard enough on players to keep track of what’s going on. Incorporating a maximum step count would only further complicate matters. Personally, I couldn’t imagine devoting a portion of my brain to counting how many steps I’d taken every time I touched the ball. My brain would overload!
Plus, it would be awfully challenging for referees to manage. Seriously, how would an officiating crew be able to consistently count how many steps a player is taking with each and every play?
Now having stated all of these reasons, I hope you can see why it made much more sense to do away with the idea of a maximum step count altogether. I think the entire lacrosse community can agree that the sport is considerably better off without it.
How Many Steps Do Lacrosse Players Take On Average?
Since you as a lacrosse player are free to move as little or as much as you want on the field, you probably can’t help but wonder how many steps the average lacrosse player takes.
This number varies because it’s heavily contingent on a host of different factors. For example, certain lacrosse positions run a great deal more than others. Since midfielders play both offense and defense, they have to run back and forth between opposite ends of the field. Goalies, on the other hand, rarely have to run at all.
Another major factor is individual play style. Some players never remain stationary on the field because their stamina is off the charts. Other players thrive on deception. They lure their defenders to sleep by standing still and then sprint to open space as soon as they see a vulnerability in the defense.
Generally, the majority of lacrosse players run between three to five miles during a standard length game. Of course, there are outliers that run above and below this range, but the overarching principle remains the same. Lacrosse players take a lot of steps during games.
To see a more detailed breakdown of the total distance that lacrosse players typically run during a game, click over to my article Do You Run a Lot in Lacrosse?
Is Constantly Moving Around the Field Recommended?
With all of this information in mind, it’s important to take a look at whether being in constant motion on the lacrosse field is an advantage or a disadvantage.
We’ve already established that lacrosse is a run heavy game. In order to properly do your job on the field, there will certainly be a bit of running involved. Many players are under the impression that the more that they move, the better off their team will be. Although this may hold true for some players, certain players actually see a dip in their performance when they employ this tactic. This begs the question, why?
Keeping your activity up on the lacrosse field inevitably comes at the expense of stamina. The more you move, the more energy that will be required. All lacrosse players know this. So when lacrosse players are advised to be in constant motion on the field, it ultimately drains every last drip of their energy reserves.
Sometimes, this can be beneficial because the playmaking benefits far outweigh the drain on a player’s individual stamina. Other times, the player is just wasting their energy.
Two lacrosse players can run the same distance over the course of a lacrosse game, but one player can have a much greater impact on the outcome than the other player.
The reason for this is that one player was purposeful and deliberate with their movements on the field, exploiting weaknesses as they presented themselves, while the other player wandered the field aimlessly. The other player may have ran the same distance, but their movements had a negligible effect on the gameplay. They hoped to stumble upon an opportunity rather than create one themselves.
This is a key takeaway in the sport of lacrosse. Rather than focusing on simply moving around on the field, concentrate your efforts toward moving with a purpose. If you’re off-ball and you see an open lane toward the goal, perform a swift backdoor cut. If you’re on defense and see an opportunity for a quick double team, cover the distance as fast as you can and commit.
One of the worst things you can do in lacrosse is be indecisive. So if you choose to use your freedom of movement during the game, do so with care. Otherwise, you’ll end up wearing yourself out for no reason other than making it seem like you’re doing something.
The Bottom Line
Lacrosse players are gifted with the privilege of moving about freely on the field, taking as many steps as they want. Although the foundation of the sport revolves around player movement, this doesn’t mean that you should be sloppy with your activity on the field. If anything, it means that you should take extra care to ensure that every little motion that you perform is directed toward accomplishing something.
Often times, this is what separates the good lacrosse players from the great ones. So pay attention to how you move during lacrosse games! It can make a colossal difference in your performance.