Basic Lacrosse Rules
Ever wondered how to play lacrosse? Lacrosse is a field sport that’s often played across the US and Canada, but you may not be familiar with the strategy and rules of the game.
Lacrosse is played by people of all ages, abilities, and genders. Requiring athleticism, strength, and coordination, it is a sport that offers both fun and a challenge for its players. Professional lacrosse is becoming increasingly popular with audiences, and many amateurs enjoy playing as a way to stay active.
What’s the Object of the Game?
The object of the lacrosse game is to score the most points for your team by getting the ball in the net of the opposite team’s goal. In most variations, one goal equals one point.
In the case of a tie, a field lacrosse game will extend into a 4-minute sudden death round. In indoor, or box, lacrosse, overtime can last up to 15 minutes.
Players and Strategy
Lacrosse players are typically devoted either to offensive or defensive play. In standard field lacrosse, there are three defense players and three attackers on the field at a time. Attackers are restricted to the third of the field closest to the opponents goal, while the defenders must remain closest to their own team’s goal.
There is also one goalie, who serves as the last line of defense and remains in the “crease,” the circular area around the goal. Lastly, there are three midfielders who work to move the ball up the field and can adapt either to attack or defend.
Box lacrosse rules are similar but allow only five players along with the goalie. Often, defensive and offensive players rotate field play, depending on whether their team is in possession of the ball.
Like in many other goal-based sports, defense typically takes one of two forms:
- Man-to-man defense: The defensive players of one team will each cover one of the attackers of the opposing team, matching their movements around the field.
- Zone defense: Defensive players will stick to “zones” in the defense area; each player focuses on the attackers in their zone.
Attack players in a lacrosse game are typically known for their speed and shooting abilities. Completing coordinated passes and making shots at the goal are important aspects of the position, as is mastering dodging maneuvers to avoid the opposing defense.
- Split and face dodge: This dodge requires good timing and the correct set-up. It involves feinting to one side, then quickly moving the opposite direction around your opponent while switching hands with your stick.
- Face dodge: The face dodge involves focusing the defender’s attention on your stick, then moving around them. Often, attack players will fake a shot, then run by when the defense reacts to block them.
- Bull dodge: The bull dodge is not so much a dodge as a head-on confronting your opponent. This can work as an intimidation tactic and help you get the ball past your defenders.
- Roll dodge: This dodge involves “rolling” around your lacrosse stick, a move where the attacker extends their hand to one side, then rolls in front of it, switching directions on their defender.
Equipment to Play Lacrosse
There are a few pieces of equipment unique to the game, including the lacrosse ball and the lacrosse stick, also known as a crosse.
The lacrosse ball is made of rubber and is between 7.75 and 8 inches in circumference under NCAA standards. Modern lacrosse sticks typically have aluminum shafts and vary in size by position, with defensive players having longer sticks than attackers.
Lacrosse players also require protective gear, such as:
- Shoulder pads
- Rib pads
- Elbow pads
- Mouth guards
- Eye protection
Lacrosse equipment can be found in many sports stores, as well as at online retailers.
Lacrosse Stick and Lacrosse Ball Control
Lacrosse is a fast game and requires a high degree of dexterity in handling the crosse. There are lots of techniques that players develop to maintain control over the ball when running and passing.
One of the most basic techniques is cradling, where a player keeps possession of the ball in their pocket by rocking their pocket back and forth. It’s similar to dribbling in soccer or basketball.
Two-handed cradling allows for maximum control and defense from stick-checking, but less flexibility in movement. Single-handed cradling allows for greater speed and range in protecting the ball, allowing you to place your body between your stick and your opponent.
Passing and receiving are also important skills to cultivate. Key aspects of passing include foot placement and grip, with many players describing the motion as one of “catapulting” the ball. Receiving requires developing a strong sense of the range of your lacrosse stick and positioning of the pocket.
Ball pick-ups can quickly change the direction of a game. If a ball is loose, it takes quick reflexes and pick-up technique to gain possession for your team. Players often go all-out once a ball is loose, seizing the chance to turn the game in their favor.
Lacrosse Rules and Illegal Moves
People of all ages and levels can play lacrosse, and there are several organizations that regulate the different variations.
- World Lacrosse governs international play for men’s and women’s field lacrosse and box lacrosse.
- The Premier Lacrosse League governs professional field lacrosse across the US and Canada, while the National Lacrosse League does the same for box lacrosse.
- The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFSH)
- The National Collegiate Athlete’s Association (NCAA) governs collegiate men’s lacrosse and women’s lacrosse.
- Youth Lacrosse handles play for boy’s and girl’s lacrosse age 14 and below.
Across these organizations, there are some basic lacrosse rules that apply to most variations of the sport:
- Play starts off with a face-off, where two players use their sticks to vie for the ball at the blow of the whistle, which is placed in the middle of the field.
- Only the goalie is allowed to touch the ball with their hands, in order to deflect it. Catching or picking up the ball by hand is not allowed. All other players can only handle the ball using their crosses.
- Play stops when the ball goes out of bounds. The player nearest the ball at the time is granted possession when play resumes.
- The game takes place in quarters of 20 minutes, with teams switching sides each quarter.
- Players must actively try to move the ball down the field when they have possession, ensuring a steady flow of play.
Lacrosse Rules on Body Contact
Men’s lacrosse allows player-to-player contact as well as stick-to-stick contact. These are referred to as stick-checking and body-checking and can only take place when a player is within five yards of the ball. Stick-checking is allowed below the opponent’s hand but not between, if they have a two-handed grip.
Body-checking is not allowed below the waist or above the shoulders. Checks should be limited to the necessary force for blocking opponents.
However, the opposing team’s offense is not allowed to make contact with the goalie while they are in the crease. Any other player in the crease is fair game.
In women’s lacrosse and intercrosse, physical contact between players is not allowed; blocks are only possible with stick-to-stick contact. For this reason, intercrosse is a great way for anyone to get started to play lacrosse, without having to worry about the more confrontational aspect of it.
Lacrosse Rules on Fouls and Penalties
In the case of unnecessary force or rule violations, lacrosse has both technical and personal fouls. Technical fouls are against the “rules” of the game, for things like players being in the wrong part of the field or not wearing the proper equipment. Personal fouls are for potentially dangerous or unsportsmanlike conduct, such as pushing and interference.
Fouls can result in the temporary suspension of a player, usually for between 1 and 3 minutes. This suspension results in the other team being a “man-up,” therefore granting them the advantage of numbers. The team that committed the foul also loses possession of the ball when play restarts.
If you’re hoping to begin to play lacrosse, there are many ways to get involved. Try doing some research to see if there is a lacrosse league in your area, or enthusiasm for starting one. There may also be lacrosse events nearby, if you’re interested in watching the sport firsthand.
Whether you’re young or old, in the audience or on the field, lacrosse is an engaging and exciting sport. Hopefully, this guide has given you the information you need to get you started on the path to enjoying it!