How Many Players are on a Lacrosse Team?

How many players are on the field for a boys lacrosse team?

For boys lacrosse, there are 10 players on the field at a time. Three attackmen, three midfielders, three defensemen, and one goalie. Each player can go anywhere on the field, with the exception that four players need to be on the defensive half at all times (typically the defenders and goalie) and three players need to be on the offensive half at all times (typically the attackmen). A typical college team has between 45 and 55 players, with PLL teams only allowing 19 players for each game.

What are the positions in boys lacrosse?

Lacrosse has more positions than people realize. The 4 general positions are attack, midfield, defense, and goalie, but within each general position there are a multitude of specific roles each player can have, each with its unique responsibilities and skill requirements. 

Attack: Attackmen are the players that get the headlines. They score many of the goals and get many of the assists as well. Most often guarded by a long stick, they need to be quick, strong, crafty, or a combination of the three to get by their defenders. There are three main types of attackmen: X-attackmen, off-ball attackmen, and dodging attackmen.

    1. X-Attackmen spend most of their time behind the goal. They have the best vision on the team and are able to find open players with ease. These attackmen have the freedom to dodge but are often utilized as feeders more than dodgers.
    2. Off-ball attackmen find pockets of space somewhere above the goal. Being sneakiest players on the team, they slip by defenders in order to get open close to the goal, and should be able to finish the ball most times. These attackmen should be among the best shooters on the team.
    3. Dodging attackmen handle most of the dodges coming from the attackmen. They have the ability to beat their defender one-on-one, with the option to score or feed to an open player. Dodging attackmen have very quick feet, are very shifty, and have a great stick able to feed or shoot on the run
Connor Fields between the legs shot. - Minneapolis '23 - Archers vs Whipsnakes. Photo: Liam Murphy, PLL

Midfield: Midfielders typically do most of the running. They run between defense and offense as they are often the most versatile players on the team. In early levels of play through middle school, typically these midfielders are . Once you get to varsity high school and college there are more types of midfielders: Offensive midfielders, short stick defensive midfielders, long stick midfielders, and face-off specialists.

    1. Offensive midfielders (OM) as the name implies, typically play offense. These players are normally the party starters on the offensive end, dodging the short stick defensive personnel to start an offensive set. OMs play above the goal either dodging a short stick or looking for a feed from an attackman to step in and shoot. 
    2. Short stick defensive midfielders (SSDM) play defense and are used when transitioning from defense to offense. In lacrosse, only 4 long poles are allowed on the field at a time, so when playing defense, two players need to have short sticks. They are typically the most athletic on the team and played multiple sports growing up. They are the gritty players, as they take the brunt of the dodges from the offense. This position is not publicly praised, but within a team, they are the glue that holds everything together.
    3. Long stick midfielders (LSM) are the most technically skilled long-poles on the team. They are often good at defense, but also have good stick skills so they can run the transition. LSMs are often versatile but defense is still their top priority. 
    4. Face-off specialists or “face-off-get-off” players (FOGOs) are the most specialized players on the team. The term FOGO means once they finish the face-off, they get off the field. They are typically very strong or very quick with their hands (or both) which allows them to gain an advantage on the opposing player. This position is very important because at the start of a quarter and after each goal there is a face-off. If your team wins 5 more face-offs than the other team, that is 5 more opportunities to score.
Tucker Dordevic holding up a two after scoring a two-pointer. - Minneapolis '23 - Archers vs Whipsnakes. Photo: Liam Murphy, PLL

Defense: Defenders defend their goal from attackers trying to score. Typically, these are bigger and stronger players but they still need to be agile to keep up with the attackmen. Defenders carry longer sticks like the LSM in order to more effectively stop the attackers. Defenders are also responsible for starting the clear and getting the ball to the midfielders, so their sticks need to be good. They also need to know the role of the attackman they’re guarding. Are they going to dodge, or are they going to try and slip by undetected? Knowing your matchup is key to being a good defender.

Matt McMahon taking the ball away. - Fairfield '23 - Archers vs Redwoods. Photo: Liam Murphy, PLL

Goalie: Goalies are the backbone of the team. They command the defense and are brave enough to step in front of a lacrosse ball going somewhere between 80 and 100 mph. Goalies need to have a great understanding of their position in goal, have great reflexes, and understand the defense.

Jack Kelly making a great stop. - Fairfield '23 - Archers vs Redwoods. Photo: Liam Murphy, PLL

What position should I play?

One of the beauties of lacrosse is that every position has people of every shape and size. More mainstream sports look for specific body types, but in lacrosse if you have a good enough connection with your stick and know the game, it doesn’t matter your size. Notice that every position needs to be good with their stick – passing and catching is the most important part of the game! If you don’t have the ball, you can’t score.

Attributes of different positions:

Attack: vision, quick decisions

Midfield: strength, grit

Defense: footwork, communication

Goalie: hand-eye coordination, communication, reaction-time

Tips to help you choose a position:

  1. Assess Your Skills and Attributes: What are you good at? Are you a good shooter? Or are you quick and physical? Identifying your best skills and attributes will help you land on the position that fits you best. Remember that anyone can play any position if you use your skills and attributes to your advantage, and practice both the things that you are good at to master them, and the things you need to work on to become a better overall player.
  2. Determine Your Playing Style: Are you more inclined towards offensive play, scoring goals, and creating opportunities? Or do you enjoy the defensive aspect, disrupting opponents, and protecting the goal? Think about what position you gravitate towards to help with your position selection.
  3. Try Different Positions: Consider asking your coach to try different positions during practices and scrimmages. Trying other positions will give you firsthand experience and a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities of each which will help with any other position you choose. An attacker that has played some defense can better predict the defense’s moves than an attacker that hasn’t played defense.

Remember that versatility is valuable in lacrosse. Being able to contribute in multiple positions can make you a valuable asset to your team. As you gain experience and improve your skills, explore the possibility of playing different positions or transitioning between positions based on game situations and team needs. 

Different Versions of Lacrosse

  • Women’s Lacrosse: Women’s lacrosse has its own set of rules and player compositions. In women’s field lacrosse, each team consists of 12 players, including one goalie. The game emphasizes speed, agility, and finesse, with very different rules regarding stick checking and player contact than the men’s version. There will be another post regarding women’s lacrosse in the future. You can watch the Pro Women’s Lacrosse league, Athletes Unlimited, on ESPNU and ESPN+.
  • Box Lacrosse: Box lacrosse is typically played indoors in a hockey rink with turf, with teams consisting of six players on the field, including one goalie. The condensed playing area and smaller team size create a fast-paced and physical style of play. To watch box lacrosse, the National Lacrosse League (NLL) is the American professional league for box lacrosse which is shown on ESPN+.
  • Sixes Lacrosse: Sixes is a new version of lacrosse promoted by World Lacrosse in order for lacrosse to be in the Olympics. It has 6 players for each side, including a goalie much like box lacrosse, however, sixes is played on a field. It plays very similar to basketball and is fast paced and fun to watch. This version is great for youth development as there are less players on the field which means more touches for everyone. This is an up-and-coming version that you may want to keep your eyes on. The Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) puts on a “Championship Series” during the winter that features Sixes at the professional level which you can watch replays on YouTube.

Lacrosse has a few different versions that all have different numbers of players and different positions. In boys lacrosse, there are 10 players on the field all with different responsibilities. Choosing your position depends on your attributes and what you enjoy doing. There are a vast number of positions that you can choose from in order for you to be your best.

About Author

Picture of Nathan Branson

Nathan Branson

Nathan, Nate, or Branson (as he was known to his teammates) played Division 3 lacrosse at Messiah University as a starting midfielder for all three years where he played in both offensive and defensive capacities. He will be heading to Drexel in the fall of 2023 as a graduate student in physics with the potential to play one more year there. In his youth career, he played every position for at least a season (other than goalie) so he has a great understanding of every position and the game as a whole. He has suffered some injuries throughout his career, from broken collarbone to torn ACL. He has a large interest in sports analytics and is excited for more analytics to be introduced to lacrosse.

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