There is a lot of equipment athletes need to play lacrosse: sticks, pads, helmets, gloves, cleats. The list can go on and on.
But one essential piece of equipment needed for games is sometimes overlooked: the ball.
Sure, it seems simple: round, rubber, fits in your pocket. But there is more to the lacrosse ball than you might expect. From its color to its certifications, you need to know more about the ball than how to get it into the back of the net.
Depending on the age level and gender of the players, there are a few differences in the balls used in gameplay.
Players at the youngest age group levels, such as 6U and 8U, will need to use a soft-type ball. This can include soft lacrosse balls, tennis balls or other soft athletic balls of similar size and diameter.
Once a player hits the 10U level in both men’s and women’s lacrosse, the game is played with a rubber ball. It must meet regulations established by the National Operating committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE). This standard determines a ball’s construction and what material can be used. Balls should be made of rubber, weigh between 5 oz. and 5.25 oz. and measure between 7 3/4 inches and 8 inches in circumference; about the size of a tennis ball. All game balls must feature labeling that states, “Meets NOCSAE Standards.”
The color of the ball used will differ between men’s and women’s lacrosse games. The men’s game is, typically, played with a white ball, while women use a yellow ball. But there can be some variation to the ball color if both coaches agree to use a different color for a game. This includes orange and green balls.
When you’re looking to work on your skills with your team or on your own, your ball choices open up a little. Of course, you can train with the balls you would use in a regulation game. Some practice balls come in a variety of colors that are not approved for games.
There are also practice balls made of a softer material that are durable and shock absorbent. They are the same weight and dimensions as a regulation ball, so they shouldn’t hinder your development. These practice balls are a good option when working on your skills indoors.
There are also weighted balls. While they have the same dimensions as a regulation ball, weighted balls can be up to three times heavier. Weighted balls can help develop a player’s strength, shot speed and ball-handling skills.
Remember: when working on your skills in practice, try to go with bright-colored balls so you don’t lose track of them.
The lacrosse ball is a must-have for any game or practice. By better understanding what they’re all about, you can now focus on cradling the ball in your pocket and getting ready to score the winning goal.