NCAA Men’s Lacrosse: The Long Stick Midfielder (LSM) Position “Demands All The Skills That Make Lacrosse Exciting”

The athleticism it takes to be a shut down long stick midfielder is unworldly; it’s a position that demands all the skills that make lacrosse exciting and packages it into the most badass player on the field.

Alright, I want everyone to confirm they can blow off ten minutes of work because I need you with me; this is the most important piece of knowledge I will ever drop on the IL website; so read it.

Who’s you favorite super hero — Superman? The Silver Surfer? Chuck Norris? It doesn’t really matter, all three are genetic phenoms; the better question is what position would your favorite crusader play? And the answer is obvious, long stick midfield, which says a lot, because Chuck Norris waves in a stunt double for crying scenes.

The athleticism it takes to be a shut down long stick midfielder is unworldly; it’s a position that demands all the skills that make lacrosse exciting and packages it into the most badass player on the field.

Tall, fast and a gift for groundballs are the basic requirements, but to truly excel, you need to match each of those traits with precise instincts, just a pure knack for beating the play to the spot and doing something awesome when you get there.

I’m not talking about average long sticks; I’m referring to players that play the position to its complete potential. Guys that you can’t call the fourth pole, players that aren’t looking to “promote” themselves to the close defense, rolling back on the clear and throwing cross field passes.

I hate the idea of rolling back on the clear, just hate it, leave it to the muscle milked defenseman. I know coaches love it, but it’s a good thing George Washington didn’t roll-back when the Red Coats got the upper hand huh, otherwise the whole flow concept would stress powdered wigs and curtsy celebrations.

Do it for America kids, try to beat one more person on the clear, but anyways…

Dominant long stick middies do everything a quality defenseman does, except they do it at full speed where their mark can score at any time. They not only neutralize top offensive midfielders in an age where midfielders are birthed by fire trucks and sequoia trees, but they take it another step by outshining them.

It’s almost laughable to hear the position referred to as the product of specialization. Yes, it’s not a traditional position, but what exactly are they specialized in doing, everything? I’m not sure I would classify playing defense, stretching the clear, pinching the ride, running the wings and pushing transition offense as specialization, but maybe that’s just me and my crew of gangly long sticks.

It takes a lot of guts (I’d rather use another word) to throw take away checks on players who can score from fifteen and move as well as midfielders do today, you don’t have time to think about what your coach will/has said about it, you just have to throw it and know the ball will fall when your stick gets there.

(Photo: Pete Emerson; Bray Malphrus is UVA’s top LSM)

It’s a hit or miss lifestyle up-top, you want a risk adverse broker that’ll show you the market average all decade long, make sure he played close defense, you want a broker that’ll put you in a new house, be it a trailer or a mansion, get yourself a former LSM.

I never met a coach who felt comfortable green lighting moves he couldn’t name, but great long sticks can make big plays out of ordinary situations that energize the field, leaving coaches wondering if they could ever teach whatever they just witnessed.

To them I’d say, no, you couldn’t coach what makes these guys special. That’s why you see the same long stick midfielders year after year, doing the same things season after season that made them standout in the first place; pure play making ability.

Sure, they marginally improve their skills over time with great coaching and competition like anyone else, but it’s always the same production in ground balls, shut down defense and an ability to create offense. They’re the kind of players you can’t leave on the sidelines, even during their steepest learning curve years.

(Photo: Greg Wall; Joel White is one of the best LSMs in recent memory )

Lets take a look at the pre-season 1st team All American favorite Joel White.

To start, did you watch that Cuse v. Hopkins game and see White grin ear to ear at the opportunity to rip a low to high dagger in front of 6,000 fans on the road? That play pretty much summarized why he’s awesome, he even did a crank-shot power cradle to let the goalie know he was about to go Shooter McGavin on him, but we’ll get statistical with it, I know there’s a fellow Korean out there who isn’t sold without some data.

In White’s first two seasons, he put up eight goals, four assists and picked up 126 groundballs, never finishing below third in that statistic. This year, he’s already off with a goal and an assist, plus a team leading 27 groundballs.

Not bad for a guy who didn’t pick up a pole until his freshman year, but like I said, you don’t need to coach most of what those stats require, he adjusted his field sense and excelled from day one.

Another example, Brian Farrell, an absolute horse of a man and perhaps the jolliest giant I’ve come across this season; he always looks like he’s having fun out there. Farrell flushed with delight when I asked him what he likes about the position; he simply answered, “transition.” Nobody pushes the ball up field with short or long stick as well as Farrell.

After Phipps makes a save, Farrell is already writing a post-card from the midfield line asking for the ball. (Side note, he was an attackman until high school.)

Similar to White, Farrell had a big freshman debut, dropping five goals, four assists and snagging 31 ground balls. He followed that up with eights goal, three assists and 40 groundballs in his next season, once again finishing amongst the team leaders in that tell tale stat, groundballs.

This year’s been no different, as he leads the team in groundballs and has already pitched in two goals and an assist. He can also match White’s prime time performance against Hopkins with his own clutch play, a timely fast break in overtime against Duke, leading the charge on the eventual game winner.

(Photo: Larry French; Brian Farrell is the best in-between the lines)

That’s the beauty of having one of the top long stick middies in the land — even when you’re on defense, you’re on offense. A knack for transition and groundballs are two things opposing teams can’t counter, sure they run gimmicks to limit those factors, but it’s not as if the other team isn’t already focused on picking up groundballs and not giving up odd man breaks.

Again, great long sticks put up consistent stats because it’s a pure skill, there’s nothing fancy about being the most well-rounded and often best looking player on the field.

I could keep going on, talking about guys like Mike Timms, P.T. Ricci and Kyle Sweeney, but I think we can all agree, long stick middies are the ultimate warriors of lacrosse.

Just look back at the past six NCAA finals and appreciate some of the long sticks that were contributing to those title game appearances — Joel White, Brendan Skakandi, Mike Timms, Nick O’ Hara, Steve Panarelli, and Jake Deane were some of the most important players on their team, because if groundballs win games, these guys won games all season long.

Keep an eye on the face off wings next game out; you could be missing some great stuff.

4 responses to “NCAA Men’s Lacrosse: The Long Stick Midfielder (LSM) Position “Demands All The Skills That Make Lacrosse Exciting”

  1. Daniel Peterson

    this was a great website that definetly helped me. Thanks for your help. If I was to rate this on a scale from 1-10 it would atleast be a thousand!!!!!!………..Please leave more tips to help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:)

  2. My grandson is on Univ of Tampa team: never heard of LSM until now: Jasper Gantick is UT LSM. This article is nothing short of AWESOME!!!!

  3. My son plays LSM, a position our HS Coach developed last season. No one, but he, really understood the position. My son was picked by the Coach to try it, knowing his talent.(Great Coach’s do that; develope the talent the player did not know thet had) This is season two, WOW, he has had a scout already view one of his games. It’s a mind set for sure, and I cannot thank the (now) Keene State College Coach for matching my son UP with this position. Great things and games to come in the future. LSM is a learning position for us spectators, for sure. For the love of the game, LSM ‘s rock! -Brenda/Mom from Keene High (NH)Varsity LAX, and respect the game. Love the column.

  4. I was upset my coach put me as LSM untill i read this page and realized all LSM’s do out there on the feild. so thanks

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