Is Box Lacrosse Better Than Field Lacrosse?
We recently asked the above question using a Twitter poll, and after around 600 responses, field lacrosse was well ahead in the poll, leading 78% to 22%.
Since we are based in the USA, LaxAllStars.com readers likely have a strong field lacrosse bias. We also know that popular opinion only means so much. With Canada (a box first country) dominating in field and box lacrosse lately across a number of age groups and genders compared to the US (a field first country), the question does seemingly need to be asked.
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Is box lacrosse better than field?
Or is it the other way around, where field is better than box? Recent FIL gold medals say one thing, but our poll says another. So which one is it?
Shockingly, it’s neither.
SO WHY DID WE ASK THE QUESTION?
We wanted to see which version of the game people would pick if they HAD TO PICK ONE. “Option C) BOTH” was simply not an option for our poll. We are aware that while you may prefer box over field, or field over box, both games are excellent, and have plenty to offer. If we were being “fair” the poll would have asked you to choose between these two options:
A) I prefer either box or field over the other.
B) I like both versions of the game equally.
THEN we could have asked people which game they preferred, if they preferred one. But that wasn’t the point. We just wanted to see which game people preferred if they had to choose, and our readers overwhelmingly chose field lacrosse. That alone was interesting.
However, something important is going on here historically, and it deserves a closer look as it relates to the question we could have asked. You see, regardless of what WE think today, both modern versions of our sport are still just considered “lacrosse” under the original rules of the game.
That’s right, under the original rules of Haudenosaunee Lacrosse, box and field are basically the same thing, and if we look at things with an open mind today, we can still see them the same way. In the end, maybe this box vs field thing shouldn’t be an issue at all, and the only reason that it’s an issue is because we make it one. Stick with me here, this is going to get a little hypothetical at times.
Look back 1000 years on the North American continent and you could see lacrosse being played. Games were played outdoors, but there were no set fields of play, or metal goals with mesh nets. A “team” could be ten men, or it could be 100 men, or it could be a whole community. The team they played against could be similar in size, or not. Fields could be miles long or considerably shorter, and goals could be trees, or rocks. The rules were agreed upon by both teams before the game, and games were played until a single goal was scored. Then a new game was started, and this continued until a certain number of games were won, or until the daylight ran out. Check out some old posts by Gordon Corsetti on how games were organized HERE.
The general idea of the game was to use teamwork to score a goal all while handling a lacrosse stick. Off the field, the game was about community, healing, pride, and tradition. 1000 years have passed, and if you ask me, nothing has really changed.
Before games today, refs will still explain the rules and make sure both teams agree to them. The refs either ask for the captains before the game, or they line up the players and explain how they will call the game. This happens in box and it happens in field because it happens in lacrosse, and always has. For me, this seemingly small aspect of both games continues a long-standing tradition, and it really makes box and field one and the same sport.
People love to cite the differences between field and box when it comes to the rules, but if some differences make these two different sports, don’t differences between the many versions of the field game make that a couple of different sports as well? Do different rules for different box leagues make those different sports from one another?
The MLL has a two point shot, and no other field league has that. They also allow an NFL level of physical play. FIL has no clearing clock and allows wooden sticks, but calls games tighter. FIL also uses 20 minute running time quarters, which is unique. College has a stall warning shot clock, huge rosters, and unique stick requirements. The Women’s game is totally different. We agree these are all field lacrosse. The NLL allows fighting but no woodies. MSL allows fighting and woodies. FIL allows neither. Face offs are different all over in box. Rosters sizes are different. Cross checking is called differently. Women’s box in Canada is also different. Yet no one calls these different versions of lacrosse, they are all box.
If we can accept multiple versions of field, and multiple versions of box, all without blinking an eye, why are we so obsessed with this box vs field dichotomy? Isn’t all of it still just lacrosse? And shouldn’t it all be celebrated? Sadly, it’s not. Many people across our community are taking sides. Some tout their box credentials heavily and decry traditional field skills. Others degrade the box game and focus on field fundamentals as the only way. Some try to bring elements of both together, but it’s often done with a box VS field mentality. “Play box to improve your field game!” is a rallying cry for many, but it honestly seems misguided.
In my opinion, lacrosse is lacrosse, and as long as you have a stick in your hands and a ball in that stick, you’re playing the Creator’s Game. No one version of the game is inherently better than any other version, and this goes WAY further than the box vs field debate.
With the emergence of modern small-sided games, lacrosse seems set for a flourish of new activities and ways to play. 3X Lacrosse is played in a 3V3 format with no pads and a tennis ball. Speed Lacrosse, created by Casey Powell, is very similar and is often played on the beach. Soft Lacrosse uses helmets, gloves, and modified sticks. It is a version of the game perfect for gym classes. Backyard lacrosse has always existed, so has pick up, and small sided play. US Lacrosse is coming out with guidelines for small-sided play. Box is played in a rectangular gym with 4 runners in Ireland. Indoor lacrosse can use any number of players and any size of cage in any indoor facility. Sometimes there are walls, sometimes there is netting. in Colombia, they play a version of box lacrosse. In Australia, kids play sofcrosse in gym classes…
All of this is lacrosse. And it all has the potential to make you a better player. ALL OF IT.
Did you go out and play 2 on 2 with some friends this weekend? You weren’t messing around, you were playing lacrosse. Does your team practice in a gym over the winter and use some box principles? You are playing lacrosse. Did you play a game of 10v10 field? That’s also lacrosse. Did you strap on the kidney pads and get into the box? You see where I’m going with this… it’s all lacrosse, and it’s all good.
Casey Powell is probably my favorite example of a guy who just plays lacrosse. He grew up playing field lacrosse for Carthage HS in New York. He also played in his back yard with his brothers to an almost religious extent. After thriving in the field game for Syracuse and Team USA, he started playing the box game, and somehow, he learned how to do that too, just a little bit later in life. How did Casey Powell make this jump? Because he is a lacrosse player. He used his existing skills and knowledge to make some waves, and from there he continued to get better and blossom into a truly complete player. His field game has never been better. His box game is on point like few Americans. He’s even inventing games of his own!
Too many people are focused on whether the box game or the field game is superior. Both sports are excellent, and can be a lot of fun if you have a passion and put in the work. Every version of lacrosse has merit, and provides an opportunity to grow, challenge one’s self, sweat, experiment, learn, make friends, and have fun. The game, no matter how it is played, provides positive opportunity, so let us focus less on which version of the game is better, and more on how great of a game we get to play in lacrosse.
Play field, and play box. Buy in to the values of both. But also play pick up, and make up games with your friends. Try Speed Lacrosse or 3x, or find a small yard to play in with all of your friends. Improve your toughness, be open-minded to new ways of playing, and stoke your passion for the game. Stop worrying about a “defined pathway to college lacrosse” so much and just play the game and enjoy it. A system won’t take you anywhere. It’s just a system. The only thing that can take you anywhere is you. Embrace lacrosse in all its forms and it will embrace you back.