by Matthew G. Gille

Have you been looking for a sport that combines the running and cutting ability of soccer, the athleticism and strength of football, the body-positioning of basketball, and the stick handling of hockey? If so, then lacrosse is the answer to your needs. Lacrosse is one of the fastest growing sports in the nation, and the Minnesota Swarm, who play their home games at the Xcel Energy Center, are one of eleven professional teams in the burgeoning NLL.

The Minnesota Swarm opened for business in 2004. The current owners, John J. Arlotta and Andy Arlotta, have taken a semi-successful franchise and directed a youth movement. They did this by releasing large-salaried veterans and showing preference to build through the draft. Swarm GM John Arlotta has positioned the team nicely, lifting their draft pick total to four first round picks in the 2012 draft and two first round picks in both 2013 and 2014.

“The Swarm will be able to address any needs they feel they have, either by using the picks themselves or packaging them to pick up guys that will fill the roles they want filled,” said ilindoor.com writer Stephen Stamp in a recent roundtable conversation on the website.

The origins of lacrosse are unclear; however, the game was historically popularized by Native Americans, it being their sport of choice. Native Americans would play the game, sometimes for two or three days in a row, as a way to give ceremonial thanks.

The game is played outdoors as well as indoors. The field is laid out similarly to a soccer field, but the sport is played more like football. In fact, Jim Brown, the immortal Cleveland Brown halfback and NFL Hall of Famer, was also named a first team All-American in lacrosse his senior year at Syracuse University in 1956. He is also a member of the Lacrosse Hall of Fame located in Baltimore, Maryland.

Lacrosse is a contact sport that utilizes a “stick” with netting at the end used to cradle a ball approximately the size of a baseball. All players use a stick and each team plays both offense and defense simultaneously. The defense utilizes a goalie to defend the goal, similar to hockey.

IMAGE COURTESY BLEACHER REPORT

Lacrosse also involves “posting up,” which is a basketball term referring to positioning one’s body near the basket in order to effectively receive a pass. Body positioning in front of the net is a key factor in lacrosse goal scoring.

Lastly, lacrosse transfers over as the perfect cross-training sport for hockey players, which helps explain the growth of the sport across Minnesota. The lacrosse goal is very similar to a hockey goal and stick handling often resembles that of hockey players.

Today’s game is much different than the game played by the Native American pioneers of the sport, and professional lacrosse has never been more popular. If you want to check out the Minnesota Swarm and NLL, please visit mnswarm.com for more information.