By Brent Adams | May 18, 2020
When I was in 5th grade, I was given my first (of many) hand-me-down lacrosse sticks. I showed up to the first day of practice and the coach was handing out jerseys, so I made sure to grab #13 like my oldest brother Glenn. After all, it was his stick I was carrying over my shoulder that held all of my gear. Then came the time to choose a position, and I went through a goldilocks-esque selection process to find my “just right” bowl of porridge.
I quickly learned that being confined to an 18ft diameter circle while everyone tries to shoot the ball with a middle school level of remorse, wasn’t for me. If I played goalie, before someone shot the ball, I was already outside of the crease looking to run the clear, shouting at a middie to stay back because I’m headed to the rack. I have a tremendous amount of respect for those that accept the burden of being the last line of defense, but for me - this was too cold.
Inflicting pain on the opposition has always been a byproduct of playing the sport, not necessarily the main objective. Nothing clicked in my head when Coach Gray screamed in our tiny impressionable faces, “You gotta rip his [expletive deleted] arms off baby!” This was back in the good ol’ days when it was OK to scream at your players. When I played D, again I found myself shouting at midfielders to stay back because I was ahead of the play pushing transition. And to be honest, most defenders crossing the midfield are like dogs unleashed on a squirrel; they wouldn’t know what to do with the opportunity. I’ve always admired defenseman with the precision, physicality, and ability to disrobe an opponent with a couple of waves of the pole. Overall, this bowl was too hot and not where I saw myself long term.
Once I failed to do things exactly like Mikey Powell (like everyone failed), playing attack lost its luster. Also, it just didn’t hit for me because I couldn’t take an omnipresent midfield line restricting my domain. Everyone raised their hand when the coach asked, “Who wants the next attack shift?” - but I decided to subscribe to the idea that middies are the workhorses and attackmen cash in on that hard work. Scoring a goal is one of the best feelings in the world, but I'd rather be a workhorse. This bowl was also too hot.
Then there was midfield, and boy was it jussstttttt right. I stripped myself of #13, and stepped into #8 which I felt was fit for a position with no boundaries. Midfield encompasses all of the beautiful, alluring motions of the sport; you get to play O, D, run transition, ride, face-off, and run in from the wing like a mad man. I’ve never fancied myself a runner but if you put me in between two 6x6’s with a rubber ball and a lacrosse stick, I’ll run for days. I was a kinesthetic learner who was determined to work on my dodging, shooting, and feeding as much as my footwork, cross-checking, and defensive positioning. I decided that if the game is tied with 15 seconds on the clock, I wanted to be near the play, no matter what end of the field.
Fast forward to college practices at Fairfield University that were spent running back and forth between huddles during the O/D split segments. I had to know everyone on the scouting report (rather than just a couple matchups), as well as the defensive slide packages and every offensive set/set play/rotation. Week after week we added wrinkles to our schemes based on our opponent and the corresponding personnel in scouting reports. This is when I truly became a student of the game of lacrosse. It’s also when I started to notice the great divide of midfielders into Offensive and Defensive. Then my very own “Mama Bear”, pro lacrosse, reiterated this divide. I graciously stepped into the role of D-Mid for a team that went on to win the championship in my first season but was eager to return to my idea of the quintessential position.
Now, there are many circumstances where a player is more suitable to play on one side of the field. Some players are steered in one direction by a coach or naturally float towards one side of the ball based on their skill-set, athleticism, lacrosse IQ, etc. Others are influenced by the pros or college players they watch on TV and strive to emulate their skill set (mostly on the O side). For some reason, if anyone gets persuaded towards the D-mid spot they see it as a demotion of sorts, which is FAR from the truth, and in many ways it’s the hardest role on the field. It’s this stigma that has more and more young players completely disregarding an enormous chunk of what being a midfielder is all about. It never made sense to me that some of the best O middies at the higher levels, who have such great body awareness and footwork, would much rather sprint to the box than back on D. Rant almost over. It’s a running joke in locker rooms that some offensive middies can’t play defense. Not only do they not play defense but are often exposed by offenses who realize the player is “trapped.” Midfielders are allowed to roam freely all over the field. So why wouldn’t you strive to be the best you can be, all over the field? Or at the very least not be a liability on defense.
All I’m saying is that, in the future, I think we return to a “True Midfield” posse that plays all over the field, a crew of long poles that are threats in transition, attackmen that aren't laughed at when they need to cross the midfield line and face off guys that...still pretty much just faceoff.