The low-down on lacrosse

Lacrosse is catching on. In many areas, this old sport is the hot, new game, drawing participants from grade school to the professional level. US Lacrosse, an organization founded in January of 1998, serves as the national governing body for men’s and women’s lacrosse, forming a united entity for the multiple other lacrosse organizations that were developing to oversee and promote the sport within the United States.

According to the US Lacrosse 2006 Participation Study, “Lacrosse is one of the fastest-growing team sports in the United States. Youth membership (ages 15 and under) in US Lacrosse has more than tripled since 1999 from 40,000 to over 125,000. No sport has grown faster at the high school level over the last 10 years, and there are now an estimated 169,000 high school players. Lacrosse is also the fastest-growing sport over the last five years at the NCAA level, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

If lacrosse is being played in your local youth programs, as a club sport in the local high schools or on your college campus, team status may be coming soon.

Learn the game

If you’re not familiar with lacrosse, take time to learn about the game. US Lacrosse notes, “Lacrosse, considered to be America’s first sport, was born of the North American Indian, christened by the French and adapted and raised by the Canadians. Modern lacrosse has been embraced by athletes and enthusiasts of the United States and the British Commonwealth for over a century.

“The sport of lacrosse is a combination of basketball, soccer and hockey. Anyone can play lacrosse—the big or the small. The game requires and rewards coordination and agility, not brawn. Quickness and speed are two highly prized qualities in lacrosse. An exhilarating sport, lacrosse is fast-paced and full of action.”

The stick (or crosse) is an added component in this sport. Only the goalie is allowed to touch the ball with his or her hands. All other players manipulate the ball through a series of scoops, throws and catches. Generally, the attack players will focus their play on the offensive end of the field, and the defense players will concentrate on the opponent’s offensive end. The midfielders range across the field, playing both offense and defense and transitioning the ball between their dedicated offensive and defensive players.

Invesco Field at Mile High is the home of the Denver Outlaws men’s Major League Lacrosse (MLL) team. Half of their 12-game schedule is played there.

Like soccer, play is nearly continual, fast motion, with many long runs punctuated by sudden starts, stops and changes of direction, with swinging sticks added. Also like soccer, players appreciate a fast field, with relatively short turf and a firm surface for speed and good ball roll. A nearly flat surface with minimal slope is preferred.

Anticipate misconceptions

The transition from club or youth sport may reflect a casual attitude toward the playing field. In some areas, the individuals in charge of the programs may also be in charge of the fields and have little understanding of the impact of field conditions. One youth director noted the parents take care of field preparation, mowing the field “real low” and marking lines with “some kind of paint or something.”

Wear at the goalmouth of the lacrosse field with the goal removed.

In another city, the high school club programs were using community fields maintained by the city’s park department personnel. For a time, at least, this moved the stress of extra play off the school’s fields. In that school system, all club-level, outdoor sports were channeled to the city fields. The parent groups of the club sports were handling coordination of field use directly with the city sports program scheduling personnel.

Understandably, the major concern for those championing a new sport is getting the program up and running. Their primary focus related to the field will initially be securing on-field time for their players. How that works with the overall sports program of the facility, and how it affects field scheduling and conditions, will require education, planning and negotiation.

Be proactive

As a sports field manager, you may or may not be invited to participate in the initial discussions of adding lacrosse to the sports program. If at all possible, volunteer to take part. Do anticipate that, if discussion is taking place, the probabilities are high that lacrosse will be added. Your role will be to ensure that field needs are taken into consideration.

Field layout is an important factor. It may be possible to negotiate acceptable field sizing for multiuse fields where a range of dimensions is acceptable. Gather data from other sports field managers on how space, safety and playability issues can be handled successfully in these situations.

This shot of Invesco Field at Mile High shows the Major League Lacrosse (MLL) layout, with the goals removed. Note the wear at the goalmouth.

While most sports are actively lobbying for more field-use time, working a new sport into the program without increasing field space will require cooperation from all concerned. Be prepared to offer alternatives that could help maximize on-field time, spread the wear and still allow opportunities for needed field maintenance procedures. Stress the need to provide safety and playability for all of the athletes involved.

Many lacrosse programs are being played on synthetic surfaces. The fast-paced game, with emphasis on ball roll, is a good fit for many of the older and newer synthetic surfaces. Many newer synthetic fields are being installed with the football and soccer markings already incorporated. Determine the most efficient and cost-effective way to add lacrosse markings when they are needed without creating a maze of markings that confuses the players. If a new, synthetic field is being considered, check with others using the same type of field on the pros and cons of having lacrosse markings incorporated during production of the field surface.

Call in all resources

Adding a sport to an existing program is a major undertaking. Request assistance from budgeting entities and field user groups for additional supplies, equipment and personnel, if necessary. When budgets are already stretched to the max, request special fundraisers if your system allows it. Also, consider volunteer assistance on any of the fields within your program, such as a team, parents or fan club post-game trash removal or divot repair brigade. This might free up personnel time for the more technical procedures.

Whatever results, keep an open mind when change is inevitable and look for the best solutions to fit your program, fields and field users.

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Field Dimensions

Field dimensions may be an issue on multiuse fields, especially on an existing field originally designed for football. The lacrosse field length and width designated for men also falls within the designated range of dimensions for women, 330 feet long by 180 feet wide. That 330 feet extends into the football end zone, but since the goals are 45 feet into the field from the end line, that’s generally workable. The lacrosse width at 180 feet extends 10 feet beyond the football field into the sidelines. With all the wear along the football sidelines from teams and coaches gathering there, that could become a problem area.

When combination fields are planned, consider putting football and rugby on one field, as the playing style of the two sports is similar. At 360 feet long, including the two end zones, the length could be workable with rugby’s maximum field length of 100 meters (328.08 feet) and in goal area of a minimum of 10 meters (32.81 feet) to a maximum of 22 meters (72.18 feet). The rugby field width is not to exceed 69 meters (226.38 feet). That’s a stretch for the 160-foot width of the football field. However, as many sources note, the maximum, not to exceed, sizes can be reduced, and youth games often are played on smaller fields.

Consider combining soccer, lacrosse and field hockey fields. Soccer lists dimensions as minimums and maximums with the NFSHSA recommended dimensions for U.S. high schoollevel fields 330 feet by 195 feet, and for junior high fields 300 feet by 165 feet. The NCAA recommended dimensions for college-level play are 360 feet by 225 feet.

A regulation field hockey field is 300 feet long and 180 feet wide, a good match for the lacrosse 330-foot length and 180-foot width.

Lacrosse end lines and sidelines are outside the field of play. For soccer and field hockey, the corresponding lines are within the field of play.

2007 NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Field of play