If you’re bored of playing the same sports year after year in your local rec leagues, maybe it’s time to try something different. One answer might be lacrosse. Yeah, lacrosse.
Forget the must-punch-their-faces image of “Lax Bros” douching it up on college campuses—as one of the fastest-growing sports in the U.S. lacrosse offers all the social benefits of playing a team sport and its fast-paced action is great for cardiovascular fitness.
Think it’ll be tough to find a league? The growing popularity of lacrosse should make it easier and easier. The Wall Street Journal recently cited a survey by the SFIA/Physical Activity Council (you know how I like to cite surveys), and it found youth participation in lacrosse grew by 158 percent between 2008 and 2012. Lacrosse is also growing as a competitive sport at the collegiate level. US Lacrosse, the sport’s governing body, says it’s the NCAA’s fastest-growing sport with 60 new teams in 2013 and another 39 expected to join this year. So get in now and you can claim to have played since before it was cool.
Plus, you’ll also get fitness benefits as well. Playing lacrosse regularly can burn a ton of calories, thanks to the fast-paced nature of the game. Think hockey without gliding on skates, or playing basketball on a playing area roughly the size of a football field. Passing the ball around and changes in possession cause a lot of stop-and-start movement that burns calories faster than jogging at a constant pace would. Compared to other sports guys play like flag football, softball or basketball, there’s relatively little down time, so your heart rate will stay elevated longer—building endurance for more important endeavors, like outrunning a bear, or Naked Sundays with your girl.
An important thing to remember is that men’s lacrosse is a contact sport, so while you will be able to work off the office stress, some equipment is required. Shortchanging yourself in this area is a bad idea—just like in other contact sports only high quality equipment offers the best protection.
You’ll need a helmet with a facemask. To maximize your safety, the helmet should fit your head properly and meet NOCSAE standards. Padded gloves should fit in a way that protects your hands but still allows for better stick handling. If your team doesn’t have uniforms, a tee shirts, shorts and/or sweat pants will work fine.
Then there’s the stick. The fact that the sport is named after the stick used to control the ball is a hint at its importance—and any old stick wont do. Sticks have to meet size regulations, since officials can take a stick at random, measure it and penalize any player for non-compliance. (Not as painful as the “cup check” umps did in Little League, but bad enough.) The length of the stick depends a lot on your position: defenders use longer sticks while attackers opt for shorter ones.
Many hardcore players prefer to get their stick components separately to maximize performance, and build their own weapon of mass scoring. You can get shafts and heads from Lacrosse Monkey or any reputable online store. Always check the site’s policies about shipping, returns and exchanges so you aren’t stuck on game day with a headless stick in your hands.
Many major cities have adult lacrosse leagues. The best way to find out in your area is through Google or a local lacrosse supply store. Local YMCA branches have also been known to run adult leagues. If you find that there are a lot of youth leagues in the area, but not many adult leagues, you can still get involved. Lacrosse officiating is a great way for adults to get the same cardio benefits players d—and with the sport’s popularity, leagues will need officials. Plus you’ll probably meet other guys interested in playing, and maybe you can take a little initiative and start a league.
Lacrosse is a great way to break up the monotony of playing the same old sports over and over again since grade school. You’ll improve your fitness, enjoy the social aspects of a team sport and you’ll be a part of a sports movement that is rapidly spreading across the U.S. Just please, please don’t call your teammates “bro.”
[Image: “Face-off” by popofatticus – via Flickr and Creative Commons]