People have been throwing around the term ‘The Fastest Game on Two Feet’ to distinguish an up and coming sport that has been grabbing headlines as of late. This sport is characterized by unparalleled speed, so much so that it makes a formidable case for claiming the title of fastest sport in the world today.
Lacrosse has earned the nickname ‘The Fastest Game on Two Feet’ because of how quickly players are able to move the ball down from one end of the field to the other. The rapid pace and upbeat style of play are foundational elements that define the very nature of the sport.
Although lacrosse is constantly referenced as the fastest game on two feet, many cannot help but wonder whether or not this statement actually holds true. I mean lacrosse is fast, but is it fastest sport in the world fast? These curiosities are investigated in depth in the subsequent sections.
Why Lacrosse Earned the Nickname ‘The Fastest Game on Two Feet‘
The sport of lacrosse is not called ‘The Fastest Game on Two Feet’ just because. There is a multitude of reasons as to why lacrosse earned this illustrious title. The most notable of which are explained further below.
The Essential Role of Speed to Lacrosse Strategy
One of the more prominent reasons that lacrosse earned this nickname is the integral role of speed in lacrosse strategy.
The sport of lacrosse places a heavy emphasis on speed above all else. Every strategic element of the game supports this speedy style of play, from top to bottom.
For example, the basis of offensive strategy is to dodge past the on ball defender, force a defensive rotation, and exploit the vulnerabilities in the defense. The spark that ignites all of this is a quick dodge. To effectively dodge past defenders in the sport of lacrosse, speed and acceleration are a must. It is rather challenging to initiate a successful offense in the absence of speed.
Speed is also required on the defensive end. Defenders have to react hastily in response as the ball moves and players move. They have to close the distance between themselves and the ball carrier quickly to prevent the opposition from scoring.
Essentially, the basic lacrosse blueprint demands that each lacrosse player jog or sprint whenever they are out on the field. This is because the ball rarely ever stays in one place. If they lack the stamina to keep up, they will most likely find themselves on the bench.
Another characteristic of lacrosse that feeds into the nickname of ‘The Fastest Game on Two Feet’ is the back and forth scoring in games.
Lacrosse games are high scoring endeavors. Offenses can rack up a substantial amount of points in a very short span of time.
Although lacrosse resembles hockey and soccer in a lot of elements, the rate of goal scoring is not one of them. Where hockey and soccer teams score only a few goals per game, a great deal of lacrosse teams average upwards of ten goals per game. If you don’t believe me, check out some of these statistics from the 2018-2019 D1 lacrosse season.
The considerable rate of scoring is mainly due to the speed and efficiency with which offenses handle their possessions. It is rather difficult for defenses to prevent a relatively tiny ball from reaching the back of such a sizable net.
Although this is unfortunate for defenses, it caters to what players and fans want to see. Speed kills. It may be cliché, but it holds true in this sport in particular. The rapid rate of scoring in lacrosse games is a direct result of that phenomenon.
Freedom of Movement
Furthermore, lacrosse players are able to move about the field without restraint even when in possession of the ball. This freedom of movement has allowed lacrosse players to run quickly and freely, which exponentially speeds up the game.
In addition, it is difficult for defenses to strip ball carriers of possession. If the other team has a world class offensive player on their side, it is extremely difficult to keep them from reaching their spots on the field.
The substantial size of the lacrosse field also does nothing to help the defensive cause. Offensive players have a vast amount of room to work with.
Lacrosse players have the benefit of not being restrained by the ball when they have possession. All lacrosse players really have to do is consistently rotate their wrist back and forth to retain possession of the ball while running at maximal velocity.
This is a striking contrast to sports like basketball and hockey. Sprinting at full speed while dribbling or handling the puck is a burdensome task. It requires a considerable amount of athleticism and finesse to not turn over possession to the opposition. Although it is not an impossible endeavor to accomplish, it is certainly a difficult one.
Lacrosse players routinely traverse the length of the lacrosse field at unbelievably rapid speeds because of this freedom of movement. The convenience with which players are able to possess the ball and promptly navigate the field is one of the foremost reasons why lacrosse is called ‘The Fastest Sport on Two Feet.’
Lightning Fast Pace of Play
The final reason that lacrosse has been labeled as ‘The Fastest Game on Two Feet’ is the lightning quick pace of play.
Lacrosse players are always looking to push transition when the opportunity presents itself. As soon as the goalie makes a save or the opposition turns the ball over, players try to pick up the ball immediately and sprint down the field. It is advantageous for the offense to attack the defense when they are out of position rather than when they have settled into their defensive scheme.
This perpetual initiative to drive the ball downfield has been instilled into lacrosse players from day one. Lacrosse coaches consistently emphasize the importance of the fast break every time they get a chance.
This is why fast break drills are such a fundamental part of lacrosse practice. Coaches implement drills like 2v1s, 3v2s, and 4v3s to simulate how to appropriately conduct a fast break in game.
This speedy style of play is the root cause of ‘The Fastest Game on Two Feet.’ Players like it, coaches like it, and fans like it. It is for this reason that the speed of lacrosse has not shown any signs of diminishing since its conception.
‘The Fastest Game on Two Feet‘ Is Only Getting Faster
The NCAA and the NFHS are highly aware of the need for speed in lacrosse. More possessions equate to more explosive plays, which will ultimately draw more interest from potential athletes and fans. This has led to remarkable efforts to make the game of lacrosse even faster than it already it is.
A series of rule changes have been instituted in recent years to help promote a quicker style of play. Some lacrosse defenseman may grumble at these new regulations, but the majority of the lacrosse community is fully supportive of these rule changes.
Reduction in the Size of the Substitution Box
For instance, the NCAA recently reduced the size of the substitution box from an area of 20 yards to 10 yards (source). The rationale behind this rule modification is that it will create more transition opportunities for offense in the future.
Prior to this reduction in the area of the substitution box, players were able to shut down fast breaks. Teams would quickly substitute players on and off the field to essentially provide the defense with a 20 yard head start. This cutback in the substitution box area minimizes the effect of this head start, which will ultimately allow more fast breaks to properly develop.
Creation of a 80 Second Shot Clock
In addition, the NCAA instituted a new 80 second shot clock rule in order to force collegiate teams to speed up their offensive pace (source).
The 80 second shot clock will initiate as soon ball possession changes over to the other team. Teams will have exactly 20 seconds to clear the ball to the offensive half of the field. These 20 seconds are accounted for the 80 second shot clock. When the shot clock strikes 60 seconds, the referees will blow the whistle and possession will be turned over to the other team.
This rule will inevitably speed up the overall play of collegiate lacrosse. In these upcoming years, there will almost certainly be an adjustment period where teams will experience growing pains. Nonetheless, upon the conclusion of this transition stage, I am of the opinion that the sport of lacrosse will come out better because of it.
A shot clock will afford teams more possessions per game which will translate to additional scoring opportunities and additional goals. So if you thought collegiate lacrosse was fast a few years back, just wait until collegiate teams fully adapt to this new regulation!
Legalizing Crease Diving
Furthermore, the NCAA finally came to a consensus on the controversial issue of crease diving.
The NCAA agreed to legalize the act of an offensive player leaving their feet if they jump AWAY from the face of the goal. The latter portion of the preceding statement is extremely important. The act of jumping TOWARD the face of the goal will warrant a penalty from the officials (source).
Attack and midfielders will now be fully equipped to sprint full tilt and use their body to their advantage around the crease.
This is a major step toward increasing the pace of play in lacrosse. It widens the repertoire of skills an offensive player has to work with near the goal. The broader the selection of tools an offensive player has at their disposal, the more dangerous of a threat they become.
This rule change definitely makes it a bit tougher on goalies to make saves. However, this will also result in some explosive plays around the crease that lacrosse fans have never had the pleasure of seeing before. Collegiate lacrosse will definitely see an uptick in scoring in the coming years because of this rule change.
Is Lacrosse Truly the Fastest Sport?
With all of the extravagant grandeur that accompanies the title of ‘The Fastest Game on Two Feet,’ does lacrosse truly outcompete every other sport in the realm of speed? It is a solid question, but is extremely hard to judge from an objective standpoint.
I personally played lacrosse and I can say with certainty that it is a fast paced, non-stop action sport. However, I cannot say with complete confidence that it is the fastest sport in the world, even though a part of me wants to say so just because.
In terms of strictly speed on two feet, the sport of lacrosse is contending with the likes of hockey and the 100m sprint. Although lacrosse is fast, it is not entirely structured for pure speed like the 100m sprint.
Ultimately, the answer to this question is rather subjective. If you want to believe that lacrosse is the fastest sport in the world, go right ahead. Just be ready to back it up if you bring it up in conversation!