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The Lacrosse Faceoff: Fan or Foe
Photo of Brian Halligan

The Lacrosse faceoff. Now there's a topic for debate, isn't it? It's the only time in a game when you get to actually clamp a ball and pin it to the ground before making a move to get it up and out onto the playing field. Some like it, some hate it, but it's a big part of the game and controversial every time it happens.

 

THE FAN

If you can win the majority of your faceoffs, you'll always have the upper hand in possessions. That goes without saying, but that is exactly why a faceoff is so important. Throw out any other facet of the game, but if you win most of the faceoffs, your chances of winning become exponential.

Which is why a faceoff specialist is so incredibly valuable. That specialist doesn't have to do anything else during the game, which is why they are referred to as a FOGO, and for you people out there who don't know what that is, it's Face Off and Get Out. They come on for the faceoff, and once it's over, they get off the field. That's it.

This is a very specialized and a very athletic position. You need swift wrists to clamp, pinch or rake the ball, and a big muscular body to jam the opponents stick effectively. Above everything else, you need to be as quick as a cat when you are in the scrum, and those that dedicate themselves to this discipline, and concentrate on the specific movements involved, are going to come out of there with the rock most of the time.

That specialization alone should be applauded, because only the best of the best are going to succeed here, and the coach is right in using them during every faceoff.

 

THE FOE

In the purest sense, a Lacrosse player should be equally good at everything. Running, passing, scoring and facing off, which is what the game is all about. But having a specialized player who just does faceoffs, remember FOGO here, and who may not be particularly good at anything else, almost goes against the spirit of the game.

Clamping the ball to the ground is a serious no-no on the field, but it is perfectly acceptable on the faceoff. And if you have a person who is explicitly trained to do just that, and only that, that's akin to being unfair.

In fact, there are actually training regimens just for the face off now, and regardless of any other skill a player possess, if they are consistent winners on a faceoff, they will, most assuredly, make the team. You can even get partial scholarships if you are a killer during the faceoff. Talk about a one hit wonder!

It has come down to this. You could take some person off the street, give them a stick, and if they win faceoffs, they've just automatically become one of the most valuable members on the team. Heck, even pinch hitters in baseball, another specialized position, get to swing away at several pitches, but a dedicated FOGO player is only in for a few seconds on each faceoff. That hardly seems right now, does it?

 

THE RULES ARE THE RULES

The rules make no real distinction between a dedicated faceoff player and a regular Lacrosse player, but there have been slight changes in an attempt to limit a great faceoff players dominance. You can no longer take more than one step once you've clamped the ball down, which makes it a little tougher to get it out of the scrum, and the back of the stick can no longer be used for picking up and/or carrying the ball. Does it help? Sure it helps, but it doesn't change much, and faceoff specialists still rule the scrum.

The bottom line here is this. Whether you are a fan or a foe, it doesn't matter. The faceoff is one of the most important parts of the game of Lacrosse, it's not going anywhere, and you either accept it and work to better yourself or your team, or plan on losing a lot. That choice is yours.

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