Courtesy of OSU athletic department
Football has the kicker, baseball the relief pitcher and soccer the defensive midfielder.
They are specialty players who have a focus, a certain set of skills that set them apart from the rest. They aren’t always the flashiest players, but what they bring to the team, if only for a play or two, can be the difference between a win and a loss.
For lacrosse, that position is known as the faceoff get-off, or more colloquially, the FOGO.
What is a FOGO?
“Basically the game of facing off is a player for a team comes out to the middle of the field (the X) and is trying to gain possession of the ball for his team,” said Trey Wilkes, senior midfielder and primary FOGO for the Buckeyes. “In theory, if a faceoff guy can go out and win the ball for his team every time, it’s kind of like ‘make it, take it’ in basketball.”
Assistant coach Jamison Koesterer was a faceoff player when he was at Johns Hopkins and said he sees the position continue to develop into a specialty area.
“It’s kind of transformed into an area of expertise. Guys have really started to focus and buckle down and create a specialty position if you will. I think you’re starting to see more and more guys become comfortable not just being faceoff get-off, but stay and play a little offense,” Koesterer said. “Obviously if you have a dynamic player that can face off with a good stick, that’s a solid athlete that can play defense, it allows you to do more from a coaching perspective.”
Koesterer said in lacrosse, the more opportunities there are for a team to be on offense, the more likely it is to earn the victory.
“Having possession of the ball in a game like lacrosse where the ball is moving up and down the field is extremely important,” Wilkes said. “There is a lot of technique, there’s a finesse side to facing off, but there’s also a physical side, and it’s just having a balance of that aggression and balance at the same time.”
Since the players aren’t a regular part of the offensive or defensive rotations, a FOGO has to prepare differently than others on the team, Wilkes said.
“I try to focus more on myself individually and try not to worry as much about my opponent. I feel like throughout the week if I can work on the things that I do really well, I can kind of leave the game in my hands,” Wilkes said.
Another FOGO for the Buckeyes, junior defender Darius Bowling, doesn’t fit the bill of the typical faceoff player. Though Bowling still takes his turn attempting to win his team the ball, he also plays on the defensive side of the ball as a long stick. But his defensive focus shows facing off at the X doesn’t mean a player can’t also be a standout in other positions.
“For me it’s just kind of making it a scrum (ground ball). I would think that I’m pretty good at ground balls, so if I could make it a scrum, I would have a pretty good chance at getting it,” Bowling said. “So during the week I try to make sure that I’m in a good stance. That’s the most important thing for me is my stance.”
Unlike their counterparts, such as attackers who score handfuls of goals or goalies who rack up saves, FOGOs fly under the radar. Their names are rarely in game recaps, despite their vital contributions to their team’s success.
“They don’t get a lot of accolades. When you find them in the postgame report, it’s usually when they’re 70 percent or better, when they’re really dominating,” Koesterer said. “But when we come across a great faceoff player and we neutralize him, make it a 50-50 battle, even though we don’t get the headlines, it’s a win in our book.”
Though they might not be household names or team MVPs, there is no doubting what a FOGO means to his lacrosse team.