Although it is not the most popular sport, most people are familiar with, or have at least heard of, traditional field lacrosse. There is another version of the game, however, that many don’t know much about called box lacrosse. Box lacrosse (sometimes known simply as “box”) originated in Canada where it remains equally, if not more, popular than the field game. So what’s different about box lacrosse? Well, besides the fact that you need a lacrosse stick to play, almost everything.
Playing Space: The most obvious difference between the two versions of the sport is the area in which you play. Box lacrosse is played on artificial turf that is laid down in a hockey rink (when there is no ice on it of course!). Obviously, this space is significantly smaller than a 60 by 110 yard field. Such a small area forces you to make quicker decisions. This means your stick skills have to be tighter, more efficient, and more precise than in the field game. Also, instead of a standard 6’ by 6’ goal, the box lacrosse goal is only 4’ by 4’.
Players and Positions: Instead of 10 on 10, box lacrosse is played with 6 players from each team – five field players (also known as “runners”) and a goalie. The positions of the runners actually resemble those of the field game a fair amount. There are defenders, transition players (think of them like midfielders) and forwards (think of them like attackmen). The names are pretty self explanatory, but one major difference between defenders in box and field is there are no long poles. In field lacrosse, defenders are allowed to carry extra-long sticks, but in box, every player is constrained to sticks that are under 46 inches in length. The biggest discrepancy in positions, however, is in the goalies. While field goalies only wear a chest protector and a helmet,box goalies wear massive shoulder and legs pads resembling hockey goalies. With more padding and a smaller goal, a box goalie takes up most of the net, so shooters have to be extremely precise with their shots.
Shot clock: There’s a 30 second shot clock that begins after a team gets possession. If the team fails to get a shot on goal after 30 seconds, the opponent gets the ball.
Fighting: Like hockey, fighting is illegal but tolerated in box lacrosse. At the professional levels, fighting does not result in an ejection but simply a penalty. Guys most certainly drop the mits.
Equipment: The equipment in box lacrosse is almost identical to that of the field game, with the exception of helmets. Box helmets are smaller and look more like hockey helmets than field helmets. The Penguins do not require different helmets to be used. Players often wear larder elbow pads in order to protect themselves against the brutal slashes that occur in the small space.
Out of bounds: A ball can only go out of bounds if it goes over the boards, so play is stopped much less frequently than the field game.
While they share a name, box and field lacrosse are starkly different versions of the same sport. If you’re passionate about lacrosse, it’s worth trying box. It’s a nice change of pace from the bigger field game, and at the very least, box will improve your stick skills immensely. It will add moves to your repertoire and an overall new aspect to your field game. While box lacrosse remains heavily dominated by Canadians, the sport is becoming more and more popular in the U.S., so finding somewhere to play shouldn’t be too difficult. Although it can be violent, getting involved in a winter box league can help tune you up for the field lacrosse season in the spring.