Laura Merrifield lacrosse ()Laura Merrifield lacrosse () © Copyright

Laura Merrifield: How to be a Lacrosse midfielder

Laura Merrifield plays in midfield for Centaurs Lacrosse Club and England. She’s the national team captain in the fast-paced sport played with a small rubber ball and long-handled nets 

Tall and quick

I love the speed of lacrosse – it’s one of the fastest sports in the world – and the physicality of it. I’m 6ft 1in, which is quite unusual in lacrosse. I wouldn’t say players tend to be short but being tall and fast is quite handy and works to my advantage in going for the high balls and anticipating interceptions.

Versatility

To be a midfielder, you’ve got to have skills at both ends of the field. When the team is attacking you’ve got to be sharp and a threat on goal but also have the fitness to cause turnovers in the midfield and work defensively.

Leading the way

I’m the team captain, so I’d certainly consider myself a leader on the pitch. I think I’ve always led by example and worked as hard as I can on the field, to help lift my teammates.

Centre draw

I take the centre draw at the beginning of each half and after a goal is scored. The ball is put between two players’ sticks – a bit like the face-off in ice hockey.

There’s a lot of work on wrist strength and power through the legs and you have to do a lot of work on placement. Fast reactions are very important.

Laura Merrifield lacrosse ()

 

Need for speed

Stamina and endurance are a big part of my game but you need power endurance too. You need speed to chase down the ball and endurance to keep going up and down the field and maintain a high level of play. We do a lot of endurance training and lately we’ve been doing a lot on speed and power too, as well as interval work because the game can be quite stop-start.

One step ahead

It’s a very tactical game so I like to be very prepared. Anticipating the way our opposition plays is a big part of it. It’s a bit like basketball around the key, the way defence and attack moves. So you can definitely anticipate and knowing how a team plays and combatting that is something I really enjoy doing.

Stick work

The hardest part of the game for beginners is probably the stick skills. The quicker you can pick that up, the easier the game flows. Catching the ball can be quite hard when you’re starting out but if you start the game young it is a lot easier, like anything.

In lacrosse, everything you do with one hand you should be able to do with the other. That can be quite tough for beginners too. It’s a big advantage if someone is ambidextrous. I’m a PE teacher and I encourage all my students to use both hands as much as they can.

Pass and move

There are so many different types of passing drills but in training we might start off with partner passing to get our eye in, changing the height of the stick head. We’ll do ground balls, as inevitably at some point in the game the ball will be on the floor. Then we’ll do more of a movement drill, so catching on the go. Then going away passes, where the passer is behind you so you’re tracking the ball into your stick. Basically making sure you can take the ball from any direction and move with it.

Executing the plan

If you execute the gameplan you’ve been given and focus on what you’ve been told to do, other things will take care of themselves. So I listen to the plan given to us by our coaches and make sure I get on the pitch and execute it as best I can.

Laserquest

The team cohesion is brilliant. We went to Australia this year and managed to beat the Aussies in a series. That tour was just fantastic, not only because of the outcome but for team bonding as well. Team spirit is hugely important. We’ve got a relatively young team, which is quite exciting because it’s fresh and new and everyone’s learning different things together.

We go out as a team on trips organised by England Lacrosse. We did Laserquest a while ago, young players versus the older ones. The olds were definitely best; much more savvy!

My heart will go on

We always listen to music in the changing room to get hyped up before a game. As captain, I get to choose the music sometimes, when they let me! We have a few songs we all listen to before every game, including a Celine Dion song, but that’s a bit embarrassing. So we’ll have that then some more upbeat songs.

Best and worst

The toughest thing about being a midfielder is making sure you are the best you can be all over the field. You can’t just focus on one area. But the fact that you are involved everywhere is also the best thing about it. You can get a high from stopping someone scoring a goal as well as scoring one yourself.

Meeting POTUS

When I was at the University of Maryland, we won the 2010 National Championship in lacrosse and all got to meet Obama. He gave us a talk to start with, said well done for our season and then asked us a few questions. Then we all lined up and shook his hand, a bit like when you meet the Queen.

Getting more kids playing

I’ve just got a new job as head of lacrosse at a school. I went to one of the only state schools that played it but I guess it is predominantly a private school game. We’re trying to get it into more state schools because it’s such a great game, fast, competitive, aggressive – it’s awesome! The more schools we can get involved the better.

Laura Merrifield

Merrifield, 28, grew up in Hertfordshire, England, but studied at the University of Maryland in America and captained their championship winning lacrosse side

Want more stuff like this? Check out November's FS magazine.

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