Lacrosse | Lax



The rules of lacrosse differ from version to version, but all require two opposing teams to shoot a solid rubber ball into the opposing team’s net to score a point. At the end of the game, the team with the most points wins.  

Men’s Field Lacrosse

Each team starts with ten players on the field: a goalie, three defenders, three midfielders, and three attackers. There are four quarters (at each level, the time varies, with fifteen minutes being the collegiate standard), and each quarter begins with a face-off. During the face-off, the ball is put on the ground and two midfielders lay their sticks horizontally next to the ball. When the whistle is blown, the two men fight for the ball and utilize different techniques to try and gain control. Two other midfielders start the face-off near the sidelines and sprint in when the whistle is blown to assist in the face-off. Attackers and defenders cannot leave their respective boxes on either end of the field until one team gains possession of the ball. A face-off also restarts the game after each goal.

Time continues to run in all situations (such as in between goals), with only two exceptions: when the referees believes that a significant loss of playing time will occur (such as finding a ball shot far away), and in the last three minutes of the fourth quarter.

There are two types of penalties that can be given for infractions: personal fouls and technical fouls. Personal fouls usually result in a player spending time in the penalty box between the teams’ benches on one side of the field. These penalties can be one, two, or three minutes. Technical fouls are less severe and can result in thirty seconds being served in the penalty box if the foul was committed while the opposing team had possession of the ball. If there was a loose ball, or the fouling player’s team had possession of the ball, the result is a turnover. If the opposing team scores on a penalty, all technical fouls are erased and the penalized player is released. Lists of fouls are as follows:

Personal Fouls:

  • Slashing: When a player’s stick makes contact with an opposing player’s body (not including the stick or glove).
  • Tripping: When a player trips an opponent.
  • Cross Checking: When a player uses the handle of his stick to check an opponent (to prevent cross checking, hands must be touching each other on the stick).
  • Unsportsmanlike Conduct: When a coach or player commits an act that is deemed unsportsmanlike (such as using foul language).
  • Unnecessary Roughness: When a player checks another player with unnecessary force.
  • Illegal Body Checking: Checking an opponent who does not have the ball, or is not within five yards of a loose ball; checking an opponent below the waist or from behind.
  • Illegal Crosse: When a player uses a stick that does not meet specific requirements (see equipment).
  • Illegal Equipment: When a player does not wear the proper equipment, such as a mouthpiece (see equipment). Includes gloves that have been altered to gain an advantage.

Technical Fouls:

  • Holding: When a player restricts the movement of another player’s stick or body.
  • Interference: When a player interferes with the movement of an opponent, except when he has the ball, the ball is in flight, or is within five yards of a player.
  • Pushing: When a player pushes an opponent from behind.
  • Warding Off: When a player in control of the ball uses his free hand or arm to hold or push an opponent.
  • Moving Pick: When an offensive player runs into and makes contact with with a defensive player with the purpose of blocking him from his man. Note that a legal pick occurs when an offensive player stands next to a defensive player, and the defender unintentionally runs into him.
  • Stalling: When a team holds the ball without normal offensive play. Usually, there is a limited amount a time a player can hold the ball outside of the offensive box (the box around the goal).
  • Offsides: When a team does not have four people on its defensive side of the midfield line, or three players on the offensive side.

Although similar, rules vary between pee-wee leagues, high school leagues, and the NCAA. Leagues below the high school level have rules that change from conference-to-conference (or region-to-region), but mostly have shorter quarters and players do not use goalie sticks or long sticks for defensemen. On the high school level, most of the rule variations involve the responsibility of the home team providing field officials and maintenance. The clock is also only a twelve minute running clock, and often only one overtime period of fifteen minutes is played (various tournaments are free to have their own overtime regulations). On the NCAA level, the clock consists of four fifteen-minute quarters. Again, the clock is running except for the final three minutes of play. When compared to high school leagues, many NCAA rules focus attention on the styles and requirements of uniforms and equipment, rather than any changes in game play.

From NCAA to the National Lacrosse League (NLL), the rules change dramatically. Collegiate leagues play standard field lacrosse in the spring season, while the NLL plays indoor lacrosse during the winter. For differences between field lacrosse and indoor lacrosse, please see the section subtitled, “Types of Lacrosse,” as well as the section below.

Box and Indoor Lacrosse

When compared to field lacrosse, the goal is box lacrosse is smaller and the field is typically “boxed-in,” resembling a hockey rink. Rather than turf, it is played on bare concrete. Each team consists of a goalkeeper and five “runners,” but a goalie can be replaced with another runner if a team feels that is it necessary. When gaining possession of the ball, the offensive team must take a shot on goal within thirty seconds or the result is a turnover.

A typically game has three periods, each twenty minutes long. If the game is tied at the end of the three periods, overtime periods can be played. Rules of overtime time vary from league to league.

The National Lacrosse League plays a version of box lacrosse that is called indoor lacrosse. This is almost identical to standard box lacrosse, with variations being:

  • Games are played only in the winter on artificial turf or carpet.
  • Play is four fifteen-minute quarters.
  • All lacrosse sticks must be hollowed metal.

For more information about box lacrosse or indoor lacrosse, see the subtitle “Types of Lacrosse.”

Women’s Field Lacrosse

The rules of women’s lacrosse are very different from men’s lacrosse and typically allows for less physical contact. Women play with three offensive players, five midfielders, three defenders, and a goalie. There is a restraining line that keeps four players (and the goalie) from going on offense. If those players cross this line, they are called for an offsides penalty.

Unlike in men’s lacrosse, women may only check if the stick is directed away from the ball carrier’s head, and they can only use the shaft of their stick. A “held check” is called if a defender uses the head of their stick to check.

There are two kinds of fouls in the woman’s version: major and minor. When a minor foul is committed, the player who fouled is set four meters to the side of the person she was guarding. If a major foul is committed, the player must stand four meters behind the player she was guarding. If a major foul is committed inside certain markings, different rules apply.

On either side of the field, there are two different markings. There is an eight meter arc and a twelve meter fan. When committing a foul inside either of these areas, all players inside the area must run out. The player who fouled moves to the nearest hash mark (located on the edges of the arc or fan) for a pass and shot. When the whistle is blown, the ball carrier can pass to this player or try for a goal.

When a defender moves in on an attacker at a harmful angle inside the eight meter arc, a foul is called. This is considered dangerous play and the attacker must be given adequate shooting space.

Women’s games are played in twenty-five minute halves. The clock constantly runs, with time only stopping during the last two minutes of each half. Unlike men’s lacrosse, players are not allowed to touch the ball with their body or cover the ball with their stick.

Penalties for women’s lacrosse are as assessed with the following cards:

  • The green card is for a delay of game.
  • The yellow card is for a first-time penalty and results in the player being removed from the game for a certain amount of time (either three or five minutes).
  • The red card is given to a player that receives two yellow cards or one penalty for unsportsmanlike behaviour. If given a red card, the player is ejected from the game.

Author: Michael Stumpo






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