Football fields do not only serve as the host for football games, they also host boys and girls soccer games and even rugby games. Since schools only have a limited amount of field space to offer, it makes sense to open up football fields to a variety of field sports. For this reason, some people wonder whether it is possible for lacrosse to be played on a football field.
Field lacrosse, the outdoor version of the sport, can be played on a football field. However, the line markings must be improvised to fit legal lacrosse boundaries. Box lacrosse, the indoor version of the sport, cannot be played on a football field since this version is played in a closed-off arena.
This can be a bit tricky for lacrosse newcomers to understand because they may not even know that two versions of the sport exist. Below, we will go into greater depth about why football fields can cater to field lacrosse, but not box lacrosse. In addition, the exact playing setup for both versions of lacrosse will be graphically depicted so that you can have a better understanding of how these playing areas are organized.
Why Field Lacrosse Can Be Played on Football Fields
Football fields complement field lacrosse games extremely well because of the open field playing area. Lacrosse fields are not meant to be boxed in an enclosed space. They’re meant to be expansive, granting players ample room to run freely and take advantage of their speed. There aren’t many other field spaces as a football field, so it makes sense that the majority of lacrosse games would be housed on football fields.
Plus, football fields are typically leveled out. It is unfavorable for teams to play their games on an uneven field where there are dips and valleys scattered at various points. Not only does it hamper player performance, it’s also an injury risk for players. It’s not too far-fetched for a player to step into one of these dips in the field and twist their ankle.
Although the playing boundaries of lacrosse do not exactly fit the markings of a football field, the field can be marked off with additional cones or spray paint to better accommodate lacrosse games.
For those of you that do not know, the dimensions of a lacrosse field are actually slightly larger than that of a football field. As a reference, football fields are 100 yards long and 53 1/3 yards wide (source). Lacrosse fields, on the other hand, are 110 yards long and 60 yards wide (source).
Since this slight difference in field dimensions is rather easy to fix, many lacrosse teams opt to play their games on football fields. It’s rare to see a field that’s dedicated exclusively for the use of lacrosse. Many schools simply don’t have the budget to construct fields devoted solely for lacrosse use, even at the collegiate level. For this reason, it’s only logical that lacrosse teams make use of vacant football fields in the spring, when football is out of season.
As a side note, lacrosse can be played on both grass and turf football fields. The exact makeup of the field matters little in terms of playability.
Why Box Lacrosse Cannot Be Played on Football Fields
As far as box lacrosse is concerned, football fields and this version of lacrosse do not mesh well together.
First off, box lacrosse is the indoor version of the sport that is generally played in the winter. Since football fields are predominantly located outdoors, this goes against the very nature of what this version of lacrosse is all about. For places with harsh winters, playing box lacrosse on an outdoor football field would not be feasible.
Secondly, box lacrosse operates in an enclosed playing area, similar to a rink in ice hockey. In fact, most box lacrosse games are played on ice hockey rinks where the ice has been cleared away. Turf is matted down onto the rink in place of the ice so players aren’t slipping and sliding all over the playing area. This improvised rink turned turf playing area is called a box not a field, hence the name box lacrosse.
Since football fields are not equipped with boards to close off the playing area, these fields are not ideal for box lacrosse. This lacrosse adaptation is meant to force players into close quarters by hemming them in with the boards, in stark contrast to the openness of field lacrosse.
Lastly, marking off the field for box lacrosse would be a pain to implement on a football field. The natural markings of the football field would get in the way of the markings needed for box lacrosse. It would be difficult for box lacrosse players to make sense of the box designations with so many different overlapping lines. Plus, it wouldn’t look aesthetically pleasing with all these markings layered on top of each other.
Standard Field Layout for Field Lacrosse
Now that you know field lacrosse can be played on football fields, you’re probably wondering how these football fields are improvised to suit lacrosse games.
To properly describe how this is done, it’s necessary to understand exactly how a lacrosse field is structured. Learning this field layout is best done through visual means, so I included the diagram below for your reference.
Keeping this diagram in the back of your mind, let’s break down each element of how football fields are modified for lacrosse.
Since lacrosse fields are slightly wider than a football field, the sidelines are pushed out a few extra yards. Typically, these sideline boundaries are marked off with spray paint or bright cones.
Lacrosse fields are also slightly longer than a football field, so the end lines are actually pushed out into the end zone of the football field. Similar to the sidelines, the end lines are marked off with spray paint or bright cones.
The circular creases that surround each lacrosse goal are yet another modification that must be added to a football field. Lacrosse teams have the option of laying down a foldable, transportable crease around each goal or painting a circular crease directly onto the field. Typically, teams go with the latter option, as portable creases have a tendency to move around when disturbed.
As the name suggests, the face-off X is an X painted directly in the center of the midline. This must be painted directly onto the football field so that referees have a consistent location to initiate face-offs.
Next up is the wing areas. The wing areas are field lines that lie perpendicular to the midline. They’re 20 yards in length and are positioned 20 yards away from the face-off X. These are painted directly onto the football field so wing players (midfielders) know where to legally stand prior to a face-off.
The restraining boxes is another area that must be marked onto the football field. Again, this is done with athletic spray paint.
Lastly, the substitution area must be marked off on a football field. This is done on the lacrosse sideline where both team benches are, nearest to the scorer’s table.
Standard Box Layout for Box Lacrosse
Given the slightly different subset of rules for box lacrosse, there’s a slightly different layout to the lacrosse field as well. Nonetheless, there’s still a noticeable resemblance between the two lacrosse playing areas.
Much in the same way as we did it before, I’ve provided a diagram below of a standard box playing area so that you can familiarize yourself with its particular layout.
Although you may not be able to tell from the picture, the playing area for box lacrosse is much smaller than than the playing area for field lacrosse. A standard indoor lacrosse field is the same relative size as a hockey rink, coming in at 200 feet in length and 85 feet in width.
A lacrosse box bears many of the same organizational designations that can be found on a lacrosse field, such as the midline, restraining lines, creases, and face-off X. However, there are also some glaring discrepancies.
For one, the overall structure of a lacrosse box is not rectangular shaped, featuring rounded edges instead of the characteristic rectangular corners of lacrosse fields. This allows the ball to travel along the boards without snagging in one particular area.
In addition, the playing area behind the goals is considerably reduced. Since there’s not much room for players to operate behind the goal, it changes the entire dynamic of how attacks are conducted from behind the goal. Also, the crease actually takes on a different shape because of the lack of space behind the goal. Rather than being completely circular all around, the curvature of the crease actually cuts off behind the goal to allow for additional room.
These subtle modifications, combined with the significant shrinkage of playing area, promotes an altogether different kind of play style from field lacrosse.
Can Field Lacrosse Be Played on Any Other Field Types?
With the connection between field lacrosse and football fields established, it’s time to clear up all the other possible playing areas that can accommodate lacrosse games.
One possible option that we haven’t discussed is a soccer field. Soccer fields meets all the criteria that lacrosse needs for a viable playing area. They’re completely flat, there’s a considerable amount of space for players to work with, and they’re usually well maintained. For all of these reasons, soccer fields are another reasonable location where lacrosse games can be held.
Furthermore, lacrosse games can also be played on regular, flat patches of grass in a public field or park. Although this option may not be as advantageous as a well tended turf football field or soccer field, it certainly does the job.
So long as these two precedents are met, there’s nothing stopping lacrosse games from being held in these public fields and parks.
The use of public fields and parks for lacrosse games is especially common for lacrosse tournaments. When I played club lacrosse, there were many times where our team would travel to these vast patches of open, grassy fields where a bunch of different lacrosse fields had been newly set up. I remember there being times where I would lose my bearings wandering around in between games simply because there were 20+ fields!
Tournament coordinators choose these areas, rather than football fields, because it’s a cost effective way to host numerous lacrosse bouts simultaneously. It’s also more convenient for lacrosse teams because the entire tournament is condensed into one single area. Teams can play multiple games in a single day staying in the vicinity of the big grassy fields without having to hop on a bus to get to another football field all the way across town.
With that being said, football fields still reign supreme when it comes to sanctioned high school and collegiate games. Since there’s only one game to be played, it’s worth it to travel a bit farther and play on a higher quality of field rather than a random patch of grass. Football fields are some of the best field conditions you’re likely ever going to find, so it makes sense for these more formal lacrosse events.
The Bottom Line
Field lacrosse can be played on football fields, whereas box lacrosse cannot. Football fields may not be specially equipped for lacrosse, but the field can be manipulated to fit the needs of field lacrosse. It’s well worth the effort to play on a high quality football field instead of an unkept grassy lot, which is why the majority of lacrosse games are hosted on football fields.