Midfielders are the engine-room of any lacrosse team. They cover the entire field, are deployed in both defense and attack, and require a full set of multiple skills to find success.
I’m going to look at the following things:
- All the key facts you need to know about midfielders
2. A selection of top tips to help you develop your skills in this key position
3. A few fantastic drills to help you learn the skills you need to flourish
Let’s dive in with the nitty-gritty of what a midfielder’s role actually is…
What does a midfielder do in Lacrosse?
- As midfielders can play both offence and defense, they are an integral cog in the Lacrosse machine.
- Midfielders usually run in short shifts
- They dodge and shoot from further up the field, as compared to attackmen who shoot closer to the goal
- Many of the shots midfielders take are ‘on the run’ which means their feet are moving while they shoot
Lacrosse Midfielder Facts
Midfielders are also called Middies. Speed and endurance are a must to become a midfielder.
Transition is one of their main tasks. It means moving the ball from defense to offence quickly to create a position of advantage on offence. They are responsible for making sure the team doesn’t get called for offside when transitioning.
The position of the midfielder has developed into one of specialities. During games, teams can substitute players in and out freely, a practice called ‘on the fly’ substitution (Source).
Often a face-off is played by midfielders. Some teams have a designated face-off midfielder, referred to as ‘fogo’ (an acronym for face-off and get-0ff), who takes the majority of face-offs and is quickly substituted after it.
Some teams also have offensive or defensive midfielders depending on their strengths and weaknesses.
The rules of men’s lacrosse are slightly different from women’s lacrosse.
A Few Useful Tips for Midfielders
Midfield is a very complex position and the best players should be disposed to play it. Make use of these tips to build a solid midfield foundation for you.
A good midfielder needs speed, strength, agility, and endurance. This position is multi-faceted, as middies are required to run up and down the field quickly, grab ground balls, shoot from the outside, and play defense.
They need to be expert dodgers in addition to great shooters. They are like all-rounders of Lacrosse. It’s always best to practice all aspects of the desired position.
Games are won by teams when the middies can do both jobs i.e. attack and defend, really well. (Source) You need to master both these techniques and learn the hows and whens of switching between these two.
You need to read the situation and act faster than the opposing team when there’s a chance of a turnaround.
Passing and Feeding
Every player wants to be the one to score a goal, but in truth, a player who can pass and feed at the right times is worth much more to the team. The key to becoming unstoppable at this position is to assess when and how to pass and pass with a purpose.
Passing to someone who can actually make your pass worth is the main ingredient. After passing, hustle down to the goal to grab a return pass if needed. Midfielders always have to be on the move as it’s a basic requirement of their jobs.
Practice these dodges in accordance with the type of midfielder you want to become. You should acquaint yourself with as many dodges as you can. Lacrosse dodges include bull dodge, face dodge, roll dodge, split dodge, rapid-fire alley dodge, bump and run, hitch dodge, exclamation point dodge, question mark dodge, toe drag dodge, swim dodge and many more.
The best midfielders know how to handle their stick in a face-off. Keep in mind that the middie taking the face-off cannot win the ball to himself.
Ground Ball Skills
Control of the ball when it’s on the ground is of huge significance in the middle of a tight game. Control is of obvious importance during a face-off, but it is almost equally important during the normal flow of a play as it can become the turning point where your team wins possession.
Overemphasizing the importance of stamina in a Lacrosse game would not be an overstatement. You cannot lose focus or risk being weak throughout the entirety of the game.
Middies have to cover far more ground than the other positions like attackmen or defenders. If you keep it right with your stamina throughout the final minute, when most teams start to fade, you’ve got your team a decisive advantage.
Hence from running, to circuit training, to sprints, anything which builds stamina is actually building your overall game as a middie. It’s a crucial step towards success.
Midfielders need to learn one-on-one defense. As a midfielder, never chase after the ball carriers stick to attempt a takeaway and never lunge at the offensive player. Because when this happens, the defensive midfielder gets beat towards the top side. Learn to keep your man down the side.
You should pick up or cover your man with the ball at about 15 yards away from the goal. The defensive midfielder does not want to allow his man to get to the top side or to the middle of the field.
As a midfielder, you have to guide your man down the side of the field to lessen the angle that he/she will have for a shot and to give the opponent fewer options for a feed. This may sound simple, but it takes a great deal of practice for players to grasp.
Once you learn these techniques, they make you a great defensive player as a midfielder.
One of the most important and efficient scoring techniques frequently used by middies is shooting on the run. To become a successful midfielder, you need to master this to perfection above all else.
To make a lasting impact as a midfielder, develop excellent shooting skills, particularly when on the move.
Shoot-on-the-run is when a player is getting off an accurate shot while driving towards the goal and moving past and defenders. This is not your standard stationary time and room shot.
Shooting on the run is a hard skill for beginners to learn as too many drills have beginning players shooting from a stationary position (as their chasing and shooting skills are usually lacking potential).
However, if beginners practice this skill in their early lacrosse career, they become dangerous players. The reason behind this is: they will be able to create their own openings in order to score a goal.
There are many more on the run shots in Lacrosse than wide-open stationary shots. Learn to shoot on the run and dominate the midfield.
A team that has only attackers reliable to score is much weaker than a team where there are midfielders who can grab the occasional goal, even from a longer range.
This, in turn, gives the defensive players and the goalie that many more attack vectors to worry about, making them more likely to slip up by piling on the pressure.
Drills For Midfielders
To become an elite midfielder, you have to put forward your best foot for proper training as you have to play offence, defense, wings, man-up, man-down, and much more. Practice these midfielder drills to become one of a kind and irreplaceable.
Long Stick Midfielder Drills
Developing these footwork and hip mobility skills will help you to match offensive dodges and off-ball play.
- On-ball defense – work hard on your approach as being a dictator on the field makes the offensive player more uncomfortable and that gives you a chance to disrupt the dodge
- Shooting/transition – you need to be able to pass the ball on the ear to the other midfielders in your team. Appropriate throwing and catching makes you a threat in transitioning for the opposition
- Four Corner Footwork – This footwork drill is designed to help with reaction time, opening your hips correctly, and of course, footwork
- Ground Balls – scooping first-time ground balls is crucial to becoming a complete threat. Getting up and out will give you a better chance to push transition
- Stick Work – stickwork drills will burn your forearms and your muscle memory. As a Long Stick Midfielder (LSM) you need to be excellent with your stick.
Midfielders must know how to shoot and when to get the ball past the goalie. Practicing the following drills should pay immediate dividends to midfielders.
Hands Back Drill
The main goal of this drill is to create muscle memory for shooting so that when a player is in the heat of the moment, they can catch a ball, get their hands back, and rip it without even blinking or thinking.
To practice this drill, one player will go at a time. The player will step between the pips, call out ‘one more,’ and then receive the ball. Next, the player will get his hands all the way back, will get his shoulder in his mouth, and then drive down as hard as they can to the middle of the goal.
Shoot it as hard as you can and almost fall over to the cage as you shoot. Come hard over the top and let it go – similar to a pitcher in baseball. Then switch to the left hand.
It may seem a bit weird to shoot two feet from the goal, but as player’s progress, you can keep moving further back later during practice.
The purpose of the layup hot drill is to create torque and get a player’s body twisted.
Always keep in mind that every time you shoot the ball in Lacrosse your right shoulder should be facing the left pipe and your left shoulder should be facing the right pipe – regardless of your position.
This shot is said to be similar to a layup in basketball. To gain power when coming at the goal, it is imperative for the outside leg to come over the inside leg.
For this drill, a teammate will toss lacrosse balls into the air to each player. The participant players will catch the ball and then shoot it hard on the net.
Additionally, when coming from behind the goal, make sure that your hips are turned as you are shooting the ball from there. Make sure to practice the drill left-handed too, for additional practice.
Two Cage Shooting Drill
This drill requires a cage put in front of the shooter so they are forced into the habit of not dropping the hands or shooting the sidearm. Get your hands and hips back, and follow-through while turning the hips.
Players need to come hard over the top using the techniques previously taught. Younger players may hit the goal a lot at first, but with good practice, you are bound to get better in the long run.
The most important middie lacrosse drill to practice is the faceoff, no questions asked! Faceoffs are a huge part of the game, and should never be overlooked. Line up the participants like it’s a real-life situation.
Start this drill by placing your right hand just above the neck of the stick and your left hand in the middle of the stick. This is the reason why it’s important to communicate with your teammates in the direction where you are going to rake the ball to them.
Pitting one line against the other in a faceoff exercise is a great practice for both the faceoff men and the wingmen who are trying to get the ground balls.
Split dodge is also sometimes known as ‘pretend to play’ dodge, to make it easier to grasp. In this dodge, you switch hands on the run in order to protect the ball.
To start this drill, go out to a field and put on all of your pads to make it feel real. Pretend like you’re in a midfield shift and run. You’ll be a better midfielder if you practice all the movements you do on the field.
It is a way to fake out the opponent. To do this move successfully, plant your lead foot quickly and then make a sudden change of direction. A midfielder should be comfortable using either hand equally to execute this dodge with perfection.
The split dodge will allow you to set up a variety of moves, but the whole point of this maneuver is to get the ball to the goal.
Rapid-fire Alley Dodge
When asked what the second most important shot should a midfielder practice? I say an Alley Dodge on-the-run shot.
To do this drill, place a LOT of Lacrosse balls (100 would be optimal) at the top and center of the restraining box.
Pick up a ball and start moving towards the goal, split one direction, and shoot on the run. Run back and split the other direction and do the same thing.
Repeat the process unless you are all out of Lacrosse balls.
Before the time comes when the coach says ‘get on the line’ while you are still unprepared, gather your gear, go out on the field, get on the line voluntarily and do some sprints.
Lacrosse calls for the players to sprint repeatedly and changes directions quickly, which makes it similar in nature to basketball, hockey, and Soccer.
Interval sprints are an incredible workout for midfielders, as they help the players with their ability to recover as quickly as possible after a full sprint.
When you are playing just a defense shift, run down the field in transition, and then get the ball passed to you for a dodge, you need to be able to recover quickly.
Tip: For the games to feel like a breeze to you, do these drills before practice at a full speed after having done a workout.
Up your Lacrosse game with these most recommended Lacrosse books:
- Lacrosse the Globe by Nicholas Marrocco
- The Beast In The Crease by fritz Hoffecker
- Winning Women’s Lacrosse by Kelly Amonte Hiller, Ashley Gersuk, Ann Elliott
- Lacrosse Fundamentals by Jim Hinkson
- Lacrosse by Annabelle Tometich
- Girls’ Lacrosse – A Guide for Players and Fans by Heather Williams
You need excellent timing and balance to seize shooting opportunities from a distance, the technique and power to capitalize on those chances.
Also, midfielders have to be tough and imposing enough to close an attack, while being agile to move the ball swiftly upfield.
Combining stamina training to hustle up and down the field, strength training to switch between positions throughout the game, attacking skills to build the attacking play from the back, and defensive techniques sounds tough but becomes easier with persistent training.
Akiyama, K. (2019). Elite Male Lacrosse Players’ Match Activity Profile. J Sports Sci Med., 290-294.