The college lacrosse FOGO explained
Lacrosse has four general position groups: goaltenders, defenders, midfielders, and attackers. If you watch sports, these all sound familiar. But lacrosse teams can also have a FOGO. What the heck is a FOGO?
The term is relatively new in the sport. It stands for Face Off Get Off. It’s used to categorize a player whose job is extremely specific: win the face off, give the ball to a teammate, and then get off the field.
For years, the player who took face-offs for a team could be any midfielder or attacker. They’d stay on the field and contribute to the rest of the game. But when coaches realized what can happen when your face off taker is dominant instead of just serviceable, they started looking for specialists.
Lacrosse’s face off is especially powerful because of the way possession works. It’s not like baseball, where a chance on offense is guaranteed. In lacrosse, if you’ve got a great FOGO, it’s effectively like playing a “make it, take it” game of pickup basketball: you can play keep away for possessions on end.
The recent development of face off experts is starting to pay off, too: it’s not a coincidence the new career and single-season records for DI face off percentage were both set in 2018.
It’s important to note the difference between other specialized positions like volleyball’s libero, or even a goaltender in soccer or hockey. Where there are specific special rules that apply to the libero, or those goaltenders, the FOGO is a self-imposed specialty position. It’s more of a strategic decision by a team.
A face off man in lacrosse is still allowed to stay on the field and contribute to the attack; for instance, Denver’s Trevor Baptiste, who now owns the career record for face off win percentage, has scored 41 points in his four-year career, including 29 goals.
Baptiste is not relied on by his team for his offensive contributions the way a traditional attacker is, but he’s also not a FOGO. He stays on fairly regularly and attacks. He'sstill allowed to play like any normal player, according to the rules. He just happens to also be historically great at face offs.