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LAX: Women are stealing from the men (and that might be good)

April 13, 2009 – 1:59 PM

By Lauren Taylor

After many years of lugging around a lacrosse stick to various U.S. locales and being met with conspicuous stares and questions of “What is that?” I was thrilled to see women’s (and men’s) lacrosse being nationally televised this past weekend.

As I watched Syracuse and Notre Dame face off, I noticed something: Women’s lacrosse is looking more like men’s lacrosse. Gary Gait (one of the all time greats of the men’s game) coaches the Syracuse women, and as I watched I saw what I’ve seen elsewhere, namely the flow of people, technology and tactical concepts from the men’s game to the women’s.

For example:

1. Coaches (top men’s players are coaching college women, like Gary Gait @ Syracuse and Mike Waldvogel @ Fairfield)

2. Equipment (women are adopting an offset stick design which has more of a curve to the head – like the men; the use of protective goggles is now required – and some wonder if helmets could be next)

3. Hard Boundaries and Restraining Lines (prior to 2006, there were no boundaries in the women’s game)

4.    Tactical Concepts
a.    Draw Packages Many women’s teams are now training and using certain players in games         specifically to win possession of the ball and then quickly sub out for offensive/defensive players.
b.    Subbing “on the fly” Women’s teams are now substituting one player for another within the natural flow of the game so as to make better use of specialized skill sets, and catch defenses off guard.
c.    Goalie Tactics Women goalies are adopting a lower, more athletic stance in the cage and being significantly more active outside the cage.

d.    Defensive Sets Certain styles of defense, for instance the “Backer D” are lifted directly from the men’s game with only minor adjustments to accommodate women’s rules.

These changes are not necessarily a bad thing. Some of my greatest mentors as a player, particularly in college, were men. They offered me a perspective on the game that I hadn’t already seen or heard and as a result, I listened more closely and applied their ideas more readily. I’m nothing if not thankful for their influence on me.

That said, I have mixed feelings about whether the influx of personnel from the men’s game and adoption of male lacrosse practices is a good thing for the women’s game. On one hand, it can make the women feel like second class citizens who simply take, take, take without having anything much the men want to “borrow” from our game.

On the other hand, stealing the men’s style of play may mean the women’s game becomes faster-paced and more exciting, attracting higher rates of participation, viewership and support. So maybe we women should just take the goods (say thank you very much to the men) and run! What do you think?

Lauren Taylor, who will receive her Master’s in Public Health from Yale next month, is assistant coach for the Yale Women’s Lacrosse team. As a player for Yale, she earned three All-America selections and was a four-time first team All-Ivy League selection.

  1. 4 Responses to “LAX: Women are stealing from the men (and that might be good)”

  2. I totally agree with the comment about goalies. More and more you see goalies playing like guys. Unfortunately the style that guys play is not as condusive for women as it is for men.

    By Kiki on Apr 13, 2009

  3. LT,
    you bring up some great points and I totally agree with many parts of your argument. I watched a bit of the Notre Dame and Syracuse game myself and it was definitely a brutal, aggressive game, but that’s what I think lacrosse is all about, the aggression. I mean the hacking in the game was a little bit out of control at some points, but women’s lacrosse is not a dainty sport that people make it out to be. This game though was definitely a great example of what women’s lacrosse at its highest, more developed level. This game, like you said, was basically just fast and aggressive. The ball moving, the subbing on the fly, etc.. It was interesting to watch and not boring. What is really frustrating is that most colleges with women’s lacrosse do not play like this, which I believe is from the lack of knowledge from the coaching staff and players, as well as lack of experience. As this changes and lacrosse becomes more widespread, this will absolutely change. There is too wide of a variety of skill (or lack there of) in the college level, especially at the division 1 level. But in places where lacrosse is more developed, such as Maryland and Long Island, the fast pace aspect of the game has been around for quite a few years, (even though we are just recognizing it now in the big college lacrosse games) and it is continuing to develop, as we see in the Notre dame game. These experienced and knowledgeable players will no doubt change the college level within the next few years very drastically. Notice many of these players from the notre dame game are from long island and Maryland and, playing against many of the players myself back in high school, many of them were trained by women. Yes, there are some aspects of the game that make women’s lacrosse look more like men’s lacrosse and it may seem that women have adopted many of the aspects of the men’s game, but this fast pace idea, I believe, comes from better and more lacrosse-trained, athletic kids, at a young age. The knowledge comes from experienced women’s players who have understood the game themselves. I am not saying that the women’s game hasn’t adopted anything from the men’s game, because that would be untrue as you have already explained, but the major change we are seeing, especially in this Notre dame game is more knowledgeable players, who understand the women’s game at a totally different level.
    Another interesting point you bring up, and I TOTALLY agree with you on this, is the idea of the women’s game adopting ideas from the men’s game versus the men’s game not adopting anything from the women’s game. First, we must keep in mind that women’s lacrosse and men’s lacrosse are two totally different games (though some may argue against this). Second, we must also keep in mind that both the men’s game and the women’s game are still under-developed and relatively new. So continuing on, I think the men’s game could take some pointers from the women’s game on the actual fundamentals on lacrosse. Men are bigger and stronger than women, and many times faster, however, this puts too much emphasis on their body contact and the physical aspects of the game rather than the actual defense or offense they are playing. To understand fully the game of lacrosse, the idea of offense and defense must be taught first without hitting and, even like basketball, without sticks (in my opinion from my experience anyway). Looking at the women’s game, men can see the defense broken down for them, and once they understand this, they can incorporate the hitting and more physical aspects that will improve their game and bring men’s lacrosse to a different level as well. Because there is more focus and dependence of working together (especially on defense) in the women’s game, the ideas of collapsing on the player tactfully rather than physically can be seen more clearly and included in the men’s game. My idea of the best lacrosse for both men and women, is a mix of the men’s game aggression and its fast pace motion, with the women’s accuracy in stick skills and more tactical defensive and offensive strategies. The question is not whether it’s degrading for women to incorporate ideas from the men’s game, but rather if the men’s game is ready to incorporate the tactical aspects of the higher levels of the women’s game into their own.
    And kiki, if I am understanding you correctly, I totally disagree with what you are saying about the men’s style in the goal being unfit for the women’s game. Yes the games are different, but the shooting is the same. The problem is that many people, especially coaches, do not understand how a woman goalie should play, which is also because they do not understand how the attack moves or shoots the ball. In very developed lacrosse, as in this Notre dame Syracuse game, the shots are veryy fast and the shooting aspects are the same as in the men’s game. Incorporating a goalie that plays the style of the men’s game would be HIGHLY beneficial to women’s lacrosse.

    By deFeo on Apr 14, 2009

  4. deFeo is it? If I am understanding YOU correctly, you are telling me that I neither understand how a female goalie should play nor do I understand “very developed lacrosse”. So, let me explain myself further. Agreed, the men’s and women’s games are very different…but so is the shooting. Tell me, do women rip shots from the 12 m like the men do through a sea of people? Or is it very controlled shooting within 6 m usually? Are men usually bigger then women in general? And lastly, aren’t men’s goalie sticks usually longer? All of these factors come into play with how goalies should stand in the cage. My comment about Lauren Taylor’s remark on the goalies was about the different stances in the men’s and women’s game. In the women’s game, shots come from closer in and tend to be a lot about placement. A female goalie cannot lose their height and presence in the cage by squatting down like a male goalie does. Additionally, she cannot hunch over either. You want to be in an athletic stance but the women’s game is a lot about composure. You must hold for the shot and make the attacker make the decision. Technique is very important. However, I totally agreed with Lauren Taylor’s remark about goalies being more active. More and more you see “athletic” goalies in the cage rather than the stereotype goalie that got put in the cage because she can’t run. That is hugely important because then you have, basically, an 8th defender in the back. I am all about active goalies and I hope it continues. But I still think that the men’s and women’s goalie tactics are very different and should remain that way.

    By Kiki on Apr 21, 2009

  5. kiki yea sorry to snap at you, i was getting all excited and a bit too passionate with this article. You bring up good points about how the goalies are different and I, like you, agree with Lauren’s point bout the more athletic goalies, and I am also a fan of more active goalies (which I should have made clear).
    However, I don’t really understand why the men’s stance would not fit in the women’s game. Wouldn’t a lower stance bait the attacker to shoot high and make shots on the ground easier to save? Yes, in the women’s game when a person is around the crease, being a presence is important but that isn’t always the case. Women do generally shoot from closer in, but with stronger shooters, many shots can be taken from farther out. Ok yes, men shoot faster and further out, but this actually brings up a question, why shouldn’t an attacker shoot from the 12m thru a sea of ppl? Besides the idea of a “dangerous shot”, if the shooter is skilled enough, she won’t hit anyone. I think the main point of this, is that lacrosse has SO much room to grow. With new equipment, rules, more athletics players, more skilled coaches, and so on, the styles and tendencies of every aspect of the game is changing. Shooting is riskier, the contact is harsher, the game is faster, etc.. but this doesn’t mean that the women’s game is the only game that has room to grow. The women’s game has taken some aspects of the men’s game, but even if the men’s game didn’t exists, many of the advancements would have been made regardless (such as the quickness of the game). The men’s game and women’s game haven’t reached their full potential and both games can learn from one another. The women have already adopted certain ideas from the men’s game (goggle, etc) and the men can learn from the women as well. I would say that the men’s game is a bit more developed than the women’s game, which is why it seems like the women are adopting concepts from the men, but like I said, both have room to grow.

    By deFeo on Apr 21, 2009

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