If you disregard the equipment the players use when your turn up to a field hockey game, it is easy to understand why people can get confused when discussing field hockey vs. Lacrosse.
The game has similar uniforms, and both are played on an open field. However, numerous differences set them apart.
The main difference between field hockey and lacrosse is the players’ equipment. For lacrosse, players have a triangular-shaped stick with a strung net to enable the ball to be caught. For field hockey, players have a stick with a hooked head, and the ball is played on the ground, with lifting often being outlawed.
While this is the most basic of differences, there are many more, including a few similarities between these two sports, that we need to discuss.
This article aims to help you understand both field hockey and lacrosse to determine which of these two sports would work the best for you when choosing one.
If you are interested in learning more about hockey and what to wear to a hockey game, I encourage you to read this article with tips on how to stay warm.
Field Hockey Vs. Lacrosse: What are they?
Before diving into the main differences, understanding the intended purpose of both sports would be vital for the reader.
You need to understand the intended purpose of each game to give you an idea of how similar and different these sports can be at the same time.
What Is Field Hockey?
Field hockey, also often called hockey, is an outdoor game played by two opposing teams of 11 players. Each uses sticks curved at the striking end to hit a small hard ball into their adversary’s goal. The game is called field hockey to differentiate it from ice hockey, a similar game played on ice.
The simplest way to explain field hockey is to use soccer as a comparison. Many of the rules and player positions in field hockey are very similar to those you would find on the soccer pitch. However, there is no offside line.
The idea is to get the ball from one side of the hockey pitch to the other and score a goal. Each team will have a goalkeeper, who can easily be identified by the high levels of padding they often wear. The player roles and positions are similar to those of soccer players.
Hockey is believed to be one of the world’s oldest sports (Source: National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA))
What Is Lacrosse?
Lacrosse might seem very similar to field hockey when you start the game, but the ball is not moved along the ground like in hockey.
Instead, a net-shaped stick is used by players to pass the ball to one another while remaining onside. The goals are defined by upright and crossbars like soccer goals.
Players will also start on one side of the course and pass the ball down the course to one another until one player puts the ball in the back of the goalbox. This is when a point is awarded to one team, and the game resets.
You might also enjoy reading: Top 14 Sports Ranked By Difficulty.
6 Key Differences Between Lacrosse And Field Hockey
Now that you have seen the purpose of each game, you can also see that there are many similarities between these sports.
However, the numerous differences are what we will be focusing on here to give you an idea of how these sports differ from one another.
The most common difference, which is easily noticeable by spectators, is the different equipment that players use.
The stick is the most common to identify with Lacrosse players using a triangular bucket-like stick that features a net to catch the ball. Hockey players have a hook-shaped stick that makes passing easier on the ground.
Lacrosse players will have more head protection, which often includes some goggles or a helmet that protects the head and eyes.
Both sports encourage players to wear mouthguards, but hockey players will instead wear shin guards. These will serve to protect the legs instead of the head due to the rules prohibiting the ball from being lifted.
2- Format Of The Game
One of the most striking differences is the time of year these games are played. Field hockey is often played during the fall, whereas lacrosse is played during the spring and summer months.
The formats of the game are very similar, intending to get the ball in the net of the opposing team being the main goal.
To do this, hockey players would pass the ball along the ground from one player to another until one could shoot at the goal. If they beat the goalkeeper, a point is awarded.
Lacrosse follows a similar pattern, but instead of the ball rolling on the ground, it is flung through the air. Lacrosse also features quarters of play, and field hockey is played in halves like soccer.
3- Players On Each Team (Field)
For lacrosse, you would find 10 players on the team, evenly divided into groups of three among attackers, defenders, and midfielders. One goalie is always present for both teams.
In field hockey, you have 11 players, and the formations often vary. You might have one attacker or four attackers depending on the formation and coaching of the players.
Both these sports require plenty of running, which means that physical fitness is one of the main focal points for players to ensure they can remain viable in the game. The game is often based on formations and plans used by soccer teams to outwit opponents and score goals. Possession is always the key stat.
4- Playing Balls
The big difference is found in the balls they use. While many might look similar, the lacrosse ball is often smaller to allow it to fit in the net and much lighter to ensure that the net does not break.
Lacrosse features a smoother surface and can often bounce slightly higher when the ball hits the ground than a hockey ball.
In field hockey, you have large balls that enable the players to pass the ball on the ground and make sure no one loses track of the ball.
The field hockey balls are extremely hard, which is why players often wear shin guards for additional protection. The ball is heavier, and it might require more force to move because it is on the ground.
5- The Field Of Play
One of the similarities is the size of the field players play on. These fields are typically around 110-yards, but the placement of the goals varies slightly. For lacrosse, the goals are 80-yards apart, which means that players can move behind the goals if needed.
In field hockey, the area behind the goal is out of bounds, and the goals are located at opposite ends of the field. This means that field hockey is slightly bigger when considering the area between the goals, but passing the ball on the field is much easier when you can let it roll like a soccer ball to the next player.
When looking at some of the lines on the field, you will also see some similarities between field hockey and soccer, and you often have a corner that also needs to be taken like you would in soccer. Field hockey has many similarities to soccer.
6- International Recognition
Finally, we need to talk about the level of interest from the international community. Field hockey is widely recognized around the world and many international teams compete against one another.
In addition, field hockey is also featured at the Olympic Games, and many smaller competitions are held throughout the year. This means that more players are playing it.
On the other hand, Lacrosse originally dates back to Native Americans and has not seen the increase in popularity that field hockey has.
Yes, it is a very popular sport among Americans, but attempts to market it around the world and bring it on par with field hockey have not succeeded.
Which Is Harder: Field Hockey Or Lacrosse?
Field hockey is harder due to the ball needing to stay on the ground, and you have so many players fighting for the ball with different sticks. In lacrosse, you can get some separation and launch the ball over some of your competitors before it drops for one of your players.
If you are unsure which one to choose, the great news is that they are played in different seasons, which means you can try both without them interfering with one another. This would make it easier to see which one works best for you. In terms of which one is harder, it will depend on who you ask, and this can spark plenty of debate.
In terms of physical fitness, there is no arguing that both sports will require you to be extremely fit and nimble.
You will spend a lot of time running around the field and hoping you receive the ball. Fortunately, both these sports have their game plans for players to improve and win.
Are Hockey Players Good At Lacrosse?
Generally, hockey players are good at playing lacrosse because both sports are slightly similar. Also, playing lacrosse is an excellent way to increase physical fitness during hockey’s off-season.
You might wonder why do so many hockey players play lacrosse? Playing lacrosse off-season can help hockey players improve their hockey skills. Many hockey players play lacrosse because playing lacrosse is safe, easier, fun, and yet challenging enough. And many NHL players recommend lacrosse as a great cross-training sport for hockey players.
Lacrosse is an excellent complement to hockey. Hockey and lacrosse are similar in structure and rules, but the seasons come at different times of the year.
Both field hockey and lacrosse are fun and demanding sports for athletes. They will improve your fitness and ensure that you improve your ball skills.
While they are very similar in a way, numerous differences set them apart. However, let us know in the comment section if you agree that field hockey is the more dominant of the two.