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
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:
- 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.
- 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
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
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
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