Photo courtesy W/C Lacrosse Website
Wheelchair lacrosse is competing with rugby and basketball on the court of popular wheelchair sports
Basketball and rugby have earned the reputation as competitive “team-oriented” wheelchair sports. Other popular team sports are softball, sled hockey, and power soccer. Now lacrosse is looking for a seat at the table of competition for wheelchair athletes.
San Diego natives and paraplegics Ryan Baker and Bill Lundstrom reportedly founded the sport in 2009. They began by looking for other programs in the U.S. that might already have a jump on a wheelchair version of lacrosse.
“We did not want to reinvent the wheel, but our scouting for any resources about the sport or anyone playing led us nowhere,” Baker says.
They turned to US Lacrosse, which told the duo they were unaware of any programs or any movement toward a competitive option.
Photo courtesy W/C Lacrosse Website
“Basketball and sled hockey are great sports,” says Lundstrom. “We don’t want to take anything away from these sports, but being able to try something different can be refreshing.”
Wheelchair lacrosse (WLAX) is a combination of basketball, hockey, soccer, and even water polo. It requires good hand-eye coordination, quick hands and vision, and the ability to see all the moving parts of the game. It is played over four 15-minute quarters, with a ten-minute halftime.
WLAX wants to run full speed in opposite seasons as basketball and hockey.
“We do not want to steal athletes away from other team sports, but we do feel like our target audience and pool of players would come from the guys who currently play hockey and basketball,” says Lundstrom.
Since the sport’s inception, Lundstrom and Baker have been able to develop teams in San Diego and San Jose, Calif.; Richmond, Va.; and Ontario, Canada. The squads are a result of camps and clinics offered across the country and beyond.
“We understand that this sport will not be for everyone, and no doubt there is obvious contact, which is appealing to us, but it is not as violent as you may think or envision,” says Lundstrom. “Lacrosse is more about give and take, more finesse and finding the open man, using the entire floor or ‘field’ and keeping the ball off the ground as much as possible.”
The competitive venue for wheelchair lacrosse is a roller hockey rink, with a 4x6-foot goal, usually found on all hockey floors. Goals are pushed toward the center of the rink so the “face” or true goal line is at the top of the hockey crease. This allows enough space behind the goal for at least two chairs and opens up the floor for passing and creating space. A new crease is laid down with highly visible tape that measures seven feet out from the center of the goal line, creating a semi-circle.
Chair contact is legal in the front half of the chair, axle to axle. Checking to the body is also legal as long as both hands are on the stick. Stick checking on the player with the ball is allowed from the shoulders to the waist and any part of the arm and hand holding the stick. Defenders must check and go for the ball at all times.
Seven players make up a side, which includes a goalie, two defenders, two mid-fielders, and two forwards. Offside occurs when a team has more than five players on their defensive side or more than four on their offensive side of mid-field (the red line). Equipment includes a helmet, shoulder pads, elbow pads, gloves and kneepads. The sticks or crosses must meet a 40-inch minimum.
“Our biggest complaint by far has been the glove requirement,” says Ryan. “Guys don’t like pushing with the stick while dealing with the glove. But, safety first. We are doing our best to maintain the integrity of the game by adapting as little as possible.”