The polarizing differences of women and men’s lacrosse

More stories from Caitlin Spindler

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Caitlin Spindler

Girls lacrosse is just as hard as men’s lacrosse, and us girls are just as strong as that 6’1 man.

All of a sudden a whistle blares across the field as I am defending the girl with the ball.

“Shooting space. Center hash, number 16, four behind,” yells the ref.

Shooting space: when a defender runs in front of the attacker as they are trying to score a goal. This call then leads into a free shot for the offensive player, which most of the time ends in a goal. The penalty is only present in women’s lacrosse, the game I have played for 3 years, and is completely non-existent in men’s lacrosse.

It’s not fun watching boys block shots without a call, when anytime you try to do it, it ends with a penalty. Women’s and men’s lacrosse share several similarities, but they are overwhelmed with the underlying sexist differences.

To start,the main difference between men and women’s lacrosse are the sticks. Men’s sticks have deeper pockets – the place where the ball is held- allowing for faster shots and fewer drops on the field, while in some womens sticks the pocket is basically nonexistent.

There are three positions in women’s lacrosse, not including the goalie: attack, defense and midfield. Men’s lacrosse have those, and added positions of long stick defender and long stick midfield.

Men also don’t have many restrictions when checking, like women’s lacrosse does. A main difference is the fact that they can check their opponents body, which slows them down on the field. In girls lacrosse, we cannot do that, but still can check – it just can’t be in the sphere (around the head), a slash, up-check and so on.

The field markings are also different with the women’s field being longer (more running!), the women’s field having a smaller crease- circle around the goal- and an 8 and 12 meter line. Another noticeable difference is the gear. Men wear helmets, shoulder padding, mouthguards and so much other protection due to the brutal nature of their game, while when playing I just have to wear goggles and a mouthguard.

Also the fact that the USA women’s lacrosse rule book has an entire section dedicated to the uniform standards, while men get a tiny paragraph hidden among other things is very much another subtle sexist detail splitting up mens and womens lacrosse.

And the main and most important difference: the brutality of the sport. Men can literally wack their opponent and virtually beat them up, and they don’t get called. If I “accidently” shove my opponent even in the slightest, I get a yellow card, meaning we are man down for 2 minutes. Oh and notice how it’s called “man down” even in women’s lacrosse–a bit sexist if you ask me.

So what can we do to change this? Revising the lacrosse rule book is not impossible – it happens every once in a while to make updates to the sport as it grows. So why can’t things be updated to make things equal for women and men?

I think there should be a happy medium with revising rules. It would be hard for girls to fully play by the guy’s rules or vice versa, as that would take a long time to completely learn how to play an almost different game.

Those that don’t believe girls and boys lacrosse should be more equitable in rules, typically resort to stating that the genetic makeup of our bodies prohibits girls from playing a more physical contact sport. But what those people fail to recognize is that other sports such as basketball or soccer still share the same rules with both genders, except for minor things.

Yes my genetic makeup is different from that of a 6’1, 175lb man, but that doesn’t mean I am going to play against him- maybe just play with some similar aspects of the guy’s game. This can absolutely happen seeing as my high school coach, who grew up playing men’s lacrosse, teaches us ways he learned to dodge around your defender or shoot with so much power.

When I tell someone I play lacrosse they automatically ask me: “Oh you can’t check like the guys, right? The rules are so different.” And my answer is always the same: “No.”.

Why do people always jump to noticing that the guys don’t have certain limitations, instead of trying to find out more about my experience playing a sport that’s actually pretty difficult. Girls lacrosse is just as hard as men’s lacrosse, and us girls are just as strong as that 6’1 man.