What is box lacrosse?

Box lacrosse, often referred to as box or boxla, is the form of lacrosse traditionally played in Canada. It is a faster and more physical game than field lacrosse.

Box is played in hockey rinks after the ice is taken out and is a 5 v 5 game (plus a goalie) in contrast to the 9 v 9 field lacrosse set-up.  There are no off-sides in box, long poles are not allowed, and there is a 30-second shot clock.  Because there are no offsides, players play both offense and defense.  Goals are 4′ x 4′ and goalies are fully padded similar to hockey goalies.

Because box is played in a smaller, tighter space, players have less time and space to make plays and must have strong stick skills.  The stick skills of Canadian box players are traditionally much better than American field players, which has resulted in many NCAA programs recruiting heavily in Canada and has fueled the explosive development of box programs in the United States.

Please click on our Highlight Videos Page for videos of box games.

Why should I play box lacrosse?

Box lacrosse is fun.  It can best be described as a combination of hockey and field lacrosse.  Box is much faster and more exciting than field lacrosse.  If you like hockey and lacrosse, you will love box lacrosse.

Most programs tout the skill development benefits associated with box lacrosse and those are undeniable.  Every NCAA program is introducing box lacrosse training to develop skills and every NCAA coach is looking for players with a box lacrosse background, but you should play box lacrosse because it is a lot of fun.

Besides the fun factor, the following are a few of the developmental reasons to play box lacrosse:

  • Wesley Berg, who grew up playing box lacrosse in British Columbia, led the Denver Pioneers to an NCAA National Championship and was widely acknowledged as one of the best collegiate lacrosse players last year.
  • In the 2014 World Field Lacrosse Championship Game, the best box lacrosse players beat what was considered the best field lacrosse team.  Canada, with a roster of box lacrosse players,  beat the United States 8-5.  Dillon Ward, a box lacrosse goaltender who also plays field lacrosse, was the Most Valuable Player of the World Championship Tournament.  In other words, box lacrosse players beat field lacrosse players at their own game.
  • The renowned Thompson brothers and their family played box lacrosse, which accounts for their amazing stick skills and high compete-level.
Lyle Thompson and his three brothers, from left to right, Jeremy, Jerome Jr. and Miles after a box lacrosse game. (Photo provided by the Thompson family)

With respect to the fun factor, listen to Lyle Thompson who simply noted:  “I grew up playing box lacrosse it was the sport I liked more.”  Click here for Lyle Thompson interview.

Why are so many field lacrosse select programs running box lacrosse programs?

Box lacrosse produces more skilled players.  Dom Starsia, the Head Coach at Virginia, expressed it best:

American field players would really help themselves if they were exposed to a steady stream of box experience. Box lacrosse is an extremely valuable background for a young player, we need to incorporate more of the indoor skills into the field game. It is almost a requirement to have a top player with indoor experience on your roster right now.

When you watch Canadian kids score, when you see their skill level around the cage, you wonder to yourself, ’jeez, are we teaching kids [in the US] the wrong thing?

Jaime Munro, former Head Coach at Denver agrees with Coach Starsia:

If box lacrosse were played by kids in the U.S. the way it is played in Canada, it would completely change the complexion of the game in terms of the quality of play and the balance of power. The trend of competitive balance at the DI level would be expedited. Now, the game is growing faster than ever, but one doesn’t see improvement in players from certain regions as expected with such large growth. Box Lacrosse would change all of that. You don’t have to be a good coach to make kids be better players in the box. Like a great drill, it just happens.

Denver Assistant Coach Matt Brown talked about the impact that a single season had on a number of club players who did not make the top team.

When I first started the box program down here, I took a group of kids that didn’t make our field program and gave them an opportunity to play box lacrosse. I told them it would give them a chance to work on their skills, constantly have a ball in their stick, get better, and most importantly have a lot of fun doing it. They all bought into it. In literally one year – the following September – all those kids that didn’t make our fall field team but were doing box training, jumped and surpassed our field-only kids. The players and their parents couldn’t believe the improvements, and then everyone wanted to incorporate box lacrosse into their training

Click here for the entire interview with Matt Brown.

What is the difference between box lacrosse and indoor lacrosse?

Box lacrosse is traditionally played in hockey rinks under Canadian Lacrosse Association rules, which allow picks, full checking and cross-checking.

Various modified versions of indoor lacrosse apply outdoor field rules to indoor games.  The common thread is that indoor lacrosse rules often prohibit picks, limit body checking and do not allow cross-checking.  207 Lacrosse and LaxPros offer outstanding indoor lacrosse programs during the Winter and we strongly recommend both of these programs.

In contrast, our AAU Box Lacrosse Leagues are “real box lacrosse” played under AAU box lacrosse rules, which are based on Canadian Lacrosse Association rules.  This is the game that made Lyle Thompson, Wesley Berg, the Gait Brothers and hundreds of other Canadians such dominant players in NCAA field lacrosse.

Why should younger players start in box lacrosse?

Syracuse Head Coach John Desko puts it best:  “All kids should play box lacrosse first.”  Click here for article.  Similarly, Bill Tierney, Head Coach of the NCAA Champion Denver University and former Head Coach of Princeton, opined:

I believe that box lacrosse gives young people many more opportunities to excel in our game.  If I had my choice, I would have every player under the age of twelve play box lacrosse exclusively or at least a majority of the time.  The number of touches of the ball and the ability to develop better stick skills in a game of box lacrosse, far surpasses what happens to young people on a 110 x 60 yard field.  Learning how to pass and catch in traffic, understanding how to shoot, and developing a sense of physicality are all positive traits developed by the box game.

According to University of Hartford Head Coach Peter Lawrence:

One of the biggest benefits of playing box for a young lacrosse player is in the development of lacrosse IQ.  Because everyone plays with a short stick [in box lacrosse], you have to focus on being a complete lacrosse player versus specializing as an attackman or d-man. That is how your IQ grows and skills improve.

In fact, US Lacrosse recently copied USA Hockey by instituting a Lacrosse Athlete Development Model (LADM) to emphasize the importance of small area games to develop lacrosse skills.  Click here for more information regarding US Lacrosse’s LADM program.

The bottom line is that players get more touches, spend less time chasing balls, and develop better stick skills playing box lacrosse.  An added benefit is that box lacrosse is never cancelled because of the weather and the Arena always has a comfortable place for parents to sit, not to mention free wifi and a TV.

Is box lacrosse dangerous?

Any contact sport can be dangerous, but box lacrosse is no more dangerous than field lacrosse or hockey.  Unlike field lacrosse, take-out hits are illegal and players must give an opponent two steps after they receive a pass before they may initiate a body check.  Although there is more physical contact in box due to the smaller playing area, there are fewer high-speed collisions.

Box lacrosse players must rely on passing, quick movement and stick skills to generate offensive opportunities within the smaller playing area.

Why is box lacrosse played on a concrete floor?

In Canada, box lacrosse is traditionally played on the concrete floors of hockey rinks, which makes it such a fast, exciting game.  Over 90% of the arenas used for Canadian youth and junior lacrosse have concrete floors.  In the National Lacrosse League, a green turf carpet is used, but that is primarily for appearance sake.  The carpet has virtually no padding and is almost as hard as concrete.  The NLL uses a thin carpet because a padded turf floor would slow down the pace of the game.

Is the concrete floor hard?

Yes.  It is just as hard as ice, but players will also slide if they fall to the floor unlike a turf or rubber sports floor.  Canadians have played box lacrosse on concrete floors for over 80 years and over 90% of the arenas used by Canadian youth lacrosse programs have concrete floors.  It has worked fine for them and it will work fine for American players also.  If the Thompson brothers, who are from Onondaga Nation, NY, can play on a concrete floor, our players can play on a concrete floor.

Is the concrete floor slippery?

Somewhat.  Our floor is new and has a lot more grip than the NYA floor.   Players must wear basketball, indoor soccer or court shoes with clean soles.  Any basketball or court shoe is fine, but shoes with “gummy” soles are the best.

Players should not wear running shoes since they will not grip well and their higher center of gravity will make it easier to roll an ankle.  The absolute worst shoes to wear are Nike Roshes or shoes with similar soles.  They have the same gripping power as a pair of slippers.  One of the benefits of the concrete floor is that players slide a bit if they fall to the floor, which minimizes the impact.

What equipment does my child need?

If your child is a hockey player, his or her hockey equipment is more than adequate.  You do not need to buy a new set of equipment.  Each player needs:

  • Hockey or lacrosse helmet & mask (box players wear hockey helmets);
  • Hockey or lacrosse shoulder pads;
  • Hockey or lacrosse elbow pads or guards;
  • Hockey or lacrosse gloves (if your child keeps playing, lacrosse gloves are preferable since they allow more wrist movement);
  • Hockey jersey or lacrosse pinnie;
  • Protective cup;
  • Mouthpiece; and,
  • Lacrosse stick.

Runner gear

NOTE:  Players in Grade 7 and older will need rib/kidney pads and bicep pads for our summer league only.  We will supply all box goaltender equipment, which is shown in the photo below.

Goalie gear

How do I register for box lacrosse?

Starting on Saturday, March 19th, we will have free Try Box Lacrosse sessions for the entire week.  Every player is guaranteed a spot in at least one of our free sessions.

To play in these sessions, players merely need to join AAU.  The cost is $14 per year.

AAU membership will allow players to participate in any off-season sports activities at Casco Bay Arena, including futsal soccer, street hockey and in-line hockey.

Click Here to Join AAU

On March 12th, we will post on-line sign-ups so that you can reserve a roster spot for one of our free sessions.  We guarantee that every player will have a chance to sign-up for a free session.  Players are limited to signing up for two free sessions.

How do I sign up for Casco Bay Box Lacrosse Programs

We will be posting an on-line registration link shortly.  For more information regarding our programs, please go to our Programs page.

Are you looking for coaches and team administrators?

Absolutely.  If you are interesting in helping out, please email Tom Marjerison at TMarjerison@nhdlaw.com.  Casco Bay Athletic Club will pay for coaches’ registration and training fees and coaches’ children will receive 50% off their registration fees.