The overarching goal of lacrosse is simple. Score more points than your opponent. However, there are many peculiar intricacies to the game of lacrosse that go on behind the scenes.
One bizarre aspect of the sport is the fact that different positional players utilize different sized lacrosse sticks. This is not just some haphazard phenomenon. There are an assortment of reasons for why certain positional players utilize one specific lacrosse stick as opposed to another. It can be a bit of a confusing concept, especially for those just beginning to grasp the sport. For this reason, a common question in the lacrosse community is “Who uses a long stick in lacrosse?”
This informative column will investigate the answer to this question in depth. Lacrosse IQ is a crucial element of lacrosse. It is important to grasp these fundamental ideas in order to take your game to the next level.
Defensemen and long stick midfielders (LSM) use long sticks in lacrosse. The additional stick length provides defenseman with the extra reach necessary to deliver effective checks from afar. This added defensive cushion levels the playing field between offensive players and defensive players.
There are a multitude of other reasons why defensemen and long stick midfielders use long poles during games. Some of these reasons are subtle, but they are important nonetheless. Keep reading to discover all of the advantages that long sticks have to offer positional lacrosse players.
Reasons Why Defensemen Use Long Sticks
Lacrosse defenseman are characterized by the long poles that they carry around on the field. Why do they go through the hassle of carrying that big piece of equipment around? Let’s find out.
Extra Defensive Cushion
The primary reason that lacrosse defenseman use long poles is that it provides them with an extra defensive cushion.
In lacrosse, offensive players are easily able to blow by defensemen when they have the ball. In a sport like basketball for instance, sprinting full speed while retaining possession of the ball is extremely difficult, especially when a defender is hounding you.
The speed and acceleration of lacrosse players is not restricted when they are in possession of the ball. For this reason, matching feet and staying in front of speedy offensive players is a strenuous task. Defensemen not only have to worry about potential foot races, they also have to worry about potential changes in direction as well.
The presence of the long pole balances out the inherent advantage that offensive players have. The additional stick length keeps offensive players at bay since defensemen are better able to restrict the stick handling ability of their opponents. Disrupting the stick handling ability of offensive players directly impedes their speed.
More Force On Checks
Longer lacrosse sticks are also able to pack more of a punch when it comes to defensive checks.
If you want to get down to the science of it, it revolves around the basic concepts of physics. I am assuming you did not come here for a physics lesson, so I will keep this simple. Essentially, torque is the force that causes an object to rotate around an axis. The greater the length of the lever arm, the greater the torque. The more torque, the more bruises your opponent feels in the morning.
Thus, defenseman have adopted lengthier lacrosse sticks in order to deliver more forceful checks while maintaining a safe defensive cushion. This additional force equates to an increased likelihood of a turnover.
Just the mere potential threat of a hard check from distance may be enough to scare away the dodge of an offensive player. I remember I would think twice about dodging on a long stick defenseman after a few painful checks to the arms.
The whole purpose of defense is to prevent the opponent from scoring and to give your own offense the most scoring opportunities possible. Generating turnovers is the best way to go about this. If long poles lead to more turnovers, this means that just having long sticks out on the field boost your chances of winning.
Greater Versatility of Checks
In addition, lengthier lacrosse sticks offer a broader repertoire of defensive checks.
It is always good to have a broad range of tools at your disposal when it comes to sports. The best defensemen in the world salivate at the opportunity of attacking the offense in a variety of ways to keep their opponent guessing. Predictable defensemen is a vulnerability that offensive players look to pounce on. The wider range of checks that a player is able to accomplish with a long stick makes one dimensional defense much more rare.
What additional checks is a long stick able to perform more effectively than a short stick?
Poke checks, lift checks, and slap checks are specific examples of defensive checks that are better equipped for long sticks as opposed to short sticks. The additional length of the long pole keeps the defender in position while executing one of these checks.
The main problem of throwing a check with a short stick is that it throws the defender out of position. This leaves the door open for an opponent to waltz right to the goal. Players with long sticks avoid this complication.
Better Recovery Time
Another reason why defensemen elect to use long sticks over short sticks is the superior ability to recover when out of position.
When an offensive player slips past a defenseman, the whole defense must shift to prevent the offensive player from having an free path to the goal. The extra reach of the long pole allows defensemen to get to the offensive player a half second earlier. Although this may not seem like a lot, a half second can make a world of difference to defensemen. It can make the difference between a turnover and a goal.
Not only does the defensive shift get there earlier, the defenseman that just got beat is able to recover more quickly as well. An offensive player that dodges past a defenseman is not totally in the clear. If they do not protect their stick, they leave themselves open to what is known as a trail check. The trail check is typically a last ditch effort by defensemen to tomahawk check the stick of the offensive player while chasing them from behind.
The additional length of the long pole is what makes this check such a threat to offensive players. An offensive player can be a step or two in front of the defenseman and still be in danger of getting trail checked.
This keeps offensive players on their toes, even when they dodge past a defenseman. It prevents them from fully winding up on their shot, which ultimately prevents them from shooting at their fastest velocity.
Now, this is definitely not one of the constitutional reasons why long sticks were integrated into the game of lacrosse. However, intimidation is certainly a factor for why defensive players chose their position in the first place.
The characteristic long poles of defenseman just adds another layer of intimidation to the position. The long stick is designed specifically for the purpose of wreaking havoc on the offense. The long pole perfectly complements an imposing defenseman, just like the long spear perfectly complemented the intimidating stature of Achilles.
Reasons Why Long Stick Midfielders Use Long Sticks
Defensemen are not the only positional players that use long sticks to their advantage. The long stick midfielder, commonly referred to as the LSM, also utilizes the long pole.
Long stick midfielders use the long pole for all of the reasons listed above for defensemen. However, there are also exclusive reasons as to why long stick midfielders specifically choose to use long sticks over short sticks. The most prominent of these reasons are discussed in the subsequent paragraphs.
Lock Down the Best Offensive Midfielder
Defensemen typically guard against players at attack. Players at attack are specialized toward the offensive side of lacrosse, which is why the advantage of long poles is spent on the attack.
A lack of long poles would allow offensively skilled midfielders to do some real damage. It is for this reason that defenses are allowed an additional long pole on the field. The long stick midfielder channels all of the defensive advantages of the long pole toward locking down the best offensive midfielders.
Of course, this still leaves the door open for the two other offensive midfielders on the field. However, the offensive advantage is severely reduced when the long stick midfielder is matched up against the best opposing midfielder. Even if the short stick defensive midfielders get beat, there is regularly a long stick midfielder there to provide the second line of defense.
Long Pole Presence Needed Up Top
The offensive attack typically perform most of their dodges from behind the net. For this reason, defensemen play the most defense behind the net and are most comfortable guarding players in this area.
The long stick midfielder provides a long pole presence that is comfortable guarding against dodges that come from up top. They hang their hat on defending against shifty midfielders and playing help defense on the other two offensive midfielders.
Without the long stick midfielder manning the helm in the upper half of the field, the offense would be able to relentlessly exploit this particular field area. The long stick midfielder holds down the fort in this section of the field and heavily supports short stick midfielders when they get beat.
Improved Reach on Ground Balls
Long stick midfielders are also tasked with the duty of loose ground balls during face offs. The face-off is where possession is determined in lacrosse. Two players are pitted against one another in the center of the field and vie for possession of the ball once the whistle is blown. This almost always results in a loose ground ball that is up for grabs.
Long stick midfielders are assigned to what is called a wing. The wing lies several yards away from the center of the field. Once the whistle is blown, long stick midfielders sprint in from the wing and attempt to scoop up the free ground ball. These ground ball scrums are one of the more messier parts of lacrosse. There are a lot of bodies flying around and checks being thrown in order to earn their team offensive possession. Players with long sticks have a decisive advantage over short sticks in these ground ball situations.
The extra length of the long stick allows players to scoop up ground balls from farther away. In addition, long stick midfielders are also able to check the sticks of other opponents right as they are about to scoop up a loose ground ball. These subtle benefits provide long stick midfielders with the slight edge that they need to afford their team some extra possessions.
The More Long Sticks, The Better the Defense
All of these benefits are summed in with the subsequent statement: the more long sticks, the better the defense.
The long pole is a necessary component in lacrosse to stop offenses in their tracks. Without the long stick midfielder, offenses would still have too great of an advantage to overcome. The presence of long stick midfielder helps to maintain the equilibrium between the offense and the defense in the sport of lacrosse.
The long stick is of paramount importance to lacrosse defensive strategy, as we will see later in the article.
How Long is a “Long Stick?”
With all this discussion about long sticks, you are probably asking yourself how long is a “long stick” exactly?
The legal length of a long stick actually falls within a range. According to the official lacrosse rulebook, the minimum length a long stick can be is 52 inches (132 cm). The maximum length a long stick can be is 72 inches (183 cm). As a general rule of thumb, the long stick should be about the same height as the lacrosse player.
The Importance of Players with Long Sticks to Defense Strategy
With all of the benefits of long poles, players that use long poles are imperative to defensive strategy. They are the cornerstone from which all defensive game plans are founded on.
This is why knowing who uses long sticks in the game of lacrosse is so essential. It is a fundamental part to knowing the rationale behind why defenses operate the way they do.
Players with long poles are key to defensive matchups. Lacrosse coaches want their long sticks guarding the most dangerous offensive threats at all times. Long poles have the best shot at generating a turnover and giving the ball back to the offense. This is why many coaches specifically assign their long poles on to the attack and the most skilled offensive midfielder.
How Many Long Poles are Allowed on the Field at One Time?
A maximum of four long sticks per team is allowed on the field at any given time. The typical defensive setup that lacrosse teams choose is three long stick defensemen and one long stick midfielder.
The long stick midfielder is typically subbed on to the field during defensive situations. During offensive situations, the long stick midfielder is subbed off for a short stick midfielder to press the offensive advantage.
Thus, a team cannot have more than four long sticks on the field at any given time, but they can have less than four long sticks.
Are Players with Long Poles Restricted to One Side of the Field?
Long poles are able to traverse on both the offensive and defensive sides of the field as long as the offsides rules are not violated.
If you are not familiar with the offsides rules in lacrosse, here is a simple summary. A team cannot have more than six players on their offensive half of the field. A team cannot have more than seven players on their defensive half of the field. These numbers include players in the penalty box.
Thus, players with long poles can venture to the offensive half of the field if the situation calls for it. This is a common occurrence when a team is attempting to clear the ball from the defensive half of the field to the offensive half of the field. If a defenseman or a long stick midfielder has an open lane in front of them, it is much easier for them to cross the midline into the offensive half of the field and have a short stick midfielder stay back in the defensive half.
Can Players with Long Poles Play Offense?
Yes, long poles are able to play offense.
It is not recommended that long poles remain on the offensive half of the field however. The lengthier shafts of their lacrosse sticks leaves more of their sticks exposed for potential checks. This increased vulnerability typically equates to a greater likelihood of defensemen and long stick midfielders turning the ball over to the opposition.
Although some higher level teams do keep their long poles on the offensive side of the field, particularly during man up situations.