Lacrosse player positions, sport basics explained
A regulation team comprises 11 field players and a goalkeeper. For youth Level C, there are 7 field players and a goalie is optional. The nature of the game encourages all players to play both offense and defense. Field players are usually categorized as line attack (first home, second home, and third home), line defense (point, coverpoint, and third man), and midfielders (right and left attack wings, right and left defense wings, and center) (see figure 7.6).
The common characteristics of each position for a full 12-player team are described next. Remember that these are only guidelines to help you get started.
The goalkeeper’s primary job is to defend the goal cage, using her stick and her body to prevent the ball from crossing the goal line. The goalkeeper should attempt to save every shot with her stick; her body is a secondary line of defense. To be successful, goalkeepers must develop good footwork, good body positioning, and the ability to cover the angles of shots. The most desirable talents for a goalkeeper are quick reflexes with hands and feet, concentration, and confidence.
For youth play, allow goalkeepers to defend the goal cage only when they are skilled and comfortable having shots fired at them. Give individual instruction to a player who desires to play goalkeeper, and make sure she’s properly equipped before you allow other young players to shoot on her.
The point, which is the defender closest to the crease, has duties similar to a sweeper in soccer or field hockey. She has the primary responsibility for individually marking the first home on the attacking team. She must be decisive in evaluating and reacting to the play of her teammates up the field from her. The point should be highly trained to defend the crease, be a reliable stick checker and shot blocker, have strong body checking positioning, and make good decisions.
The coverpoint plays in front of the point and is also responsible for individually marking the second home on the attacking team. The coverpoint should be the defender who is most competent in all defensive skills, especially in one-on-one marking ability and body checking, and who, because she leads the defensive unit, is a good decision maker and communicator.
The third man usually lines up on the circle for a draw and plays in front of the coverpoint. She is responsible for marking the third home. While still a primary defender, the third man should be assertive in disrupting midfield play by intercepting and sliding to pick up free opponents. When her team has possession of the ball, the third man is often involved in midfield transition and has occasional opportunities to score. The key traits of the third man are blocking skills, ability to anticipate a loose ball and interception opportunities, good timing, instinctive risk taking, speed to recover on defense, and versatility.
The right and left defense wings mark the opposing attack wings and line up on the circle for the draw. Defense wings need to be the fastest defenders to match the speed of the attack wings and to recover back on defense to pick up a free player. Defense wings, like the third man, must possess good anticipation and marking skills. They must also be good blockers and body checkers. Valuable in transition and opportunistic on attack, defense wings should be capable of shooting from the outside.
The center performs the draw. After the ball is in play, her primary responsibility is to defend her opposing center. If necessary, she fills in for her defensive teammates if they get caught out of position. She is most valuable in transition from defense to offense, and she should possess good field vision and space awareness to serve as a connector. The center must have consistent ball skills. She is a part of both the offensive and defensive units, so she must possess speed and endurance to cover both ends of the field.
Off the draw, the ball frequently goes to the wings (left or right), who are lined up on the center circle. Attack wings usually are the fastest players, who must utilize the space and width of the midfield. Ideally, they use this speed to create a quick transition that leads to a fast break. While in transition, attack wings must make good decisions concerning where to pass the ball. Often involved in finishing a fast break, attack wings need to be strong passers and shooters.
Lining up on the circle, marked by the third man, the third home is a well-rounded attack player with strong ball and shooting skills. She must be able to protect and distribute the ball while in transition to offense. An experienced player, she must be able to anticipate, recognize, and move to open spaces away from the ball to support her teammates. Finding the appropriate spaces allows her many opportunities to score. She should be quick to recognize change of possession and to switch to her defensive role of marking.
The second home should be a dynamic attack player with great stick skills. She often is the attack’s leader or playmaker. She must be able to get open and receive passes, so she can shoot or distribute the ball to her teammates.
The first home plays closest to the goal and should be able to protect the ball and feed it to her teammates. She must possess excellent cradling, dodging, and shooting skills; be able to react to the ball and her teammates’ movement; and have a nose for the goal. In reaction to her opponents’ movements, it is to her advantage to be able to cut in limited space and to use the goal circle to her advantage.
Girls’ lacrosse is a unique combination of individual skills and team performance. Two teams try to score by advancing the ball toward their opponent’s goal with a combination of running and passing. A goal is scored for one point when the ball crosses through the imaginary plane formed by the rear edges of the goal line, the goalposts, and the top cross bar. The game allows for fast-break opportunities, as well as set offensive plays.
A team can’t score if it doesn’t have the ball, so keeping possession of the ball is integral to the game. The team without the ball plays defense, and team members try to gain possession by intercepting a pass, dislodging a ball from an opponent’s stick, retrieving a ground ball, or blocking a pass or shot. When the team gains possession of the ball, it becomes the offensive team and creates a transition to attack the opponent’s goal.
All players must develop throwing and catching skills because the ball moves faster through the air than it does when a player runs with it. The objective for the offensive team is to develop a one-on-one or an extra-player advantage (two-on-one) to make scoring easier.
The goalkeeper, who must wear specific protective equipment, defends the goal. When she gains possession of the ball, she initiates the transition to attack. The crease is defined by a circle with an 8 1/2-foot radius, and within that area the goalkeeper has special privileges. Because no one else may enter her crease area while she is in there, the goalkeeper is unguarded. She may remain in the crease with the ball for up to 10 seconds, and she is allowed to use her hands or body to play the ball. When she is out of the goal circle, the goalkeeper has no special privileges and is considered a regular field player.
This is an excerpt from Coaching Youth Lacrosse, 2nd Edition.