Sign Up · Sign In · Feedback

Lacrosse 101

Object of the Game
Teams accumulate points by throwing the ball into the opponent's goal. The team with the most goals wins the game.

Game Length
A high school varsity game is divided into 4 quarters of 12 minutes (JV is typically 10 minutes). There are 2-minute breaks between each period with a 10-minute intermission after the second period. Teams switch playing sides after each period and have two time-outs per half. If a there is a tie after four periods, the first team to score in overtime wins.

Start of the game
The action begins at the start of each period and after each goal with a face-off at the center of the field. The team that takes possession of the ball during the face-off is on offense.

Lacrosse is played at a quick pace mixing various aspects of hockey, football, and soccer. With the exception of the goalies, players can only touch the ball with the crosse, or stick. Teams advance the ball toward the opponent's goal by running and cradling it or passing it to a teammate. If given the opportunity, the offense attempts to score during the fast break, before the defense can set up. During the set offense, when players are near the opponent's goal, proper spacing between players and balance in formation allow teams to execute plays that are designed to exploit defensive weaknesses. A player with the ball may attempt to drive during an isolation play, or feed the ball to an open player. Players without the ball are constantly cutting and setting picks to become open and create scoring opportunities.

The defense attempts to stop the other team from scoring by deflecting or intercepting passes, taking the ball from the opponent, or forcing bad shots. Man-to-man defense is the basic strategy, but a zone defense can be used for more advanced teams and is often used in a man-down situation. Physical contact is frequent in lacrosse, and most contact occurs within five yards of the ball. Stick checking and body checking are the most common tactics used to take the ball away from the offense. Once the defense takes possession of the ball, it tries to clear the ball to the midfielders who then transition the ball to offense.

One point is awarded every time the ball completely crosses the goal line inside the goal.

The crosse, or stick, ranges from 40 to 72 inches in length, with offensive players opting for shorter sticks and defensive players opting for longer sticks. Both offensive and defensive sticks have an aluminum or titanium shaft that connects to the head of the stick. A plastic head at the top of the stick has strings or mesh that form a pocket to aid in catching and throwing the ball. Goalies use a larger stick and pocket. The ball is solid rubber and is about the size of a baseball. Players wear shorts or sweatpants, short-sleeved jerseys, and shoes with cleats. To prevent injuries, players wear large padded gloves, arm pads, shoulder pads, mouthpieces, and a protective helmet with a chin pad and strap attached to a face mask. Goalies must use throat and chest protectors and can also wear shin guards and football pants, with or without pads.

Field of Play

Lacrosse is played on a large rectangular grass or turf field. The field has markings with specific functions:

Midfield line: Divides the field into equal halves. The X centered on this line is where face-offs take place. Also, the proper number of players on each team must remain on each half of the field to avoid being called for offsides.

Sidelines and endlines: Mark the boundaries. When a ball or player goes out of bounds, the opposing team takes possession. Following a shot, the player closest to spot where the ball went out of bounds has possession. Therefore, a teammate should always be in a position to back up a shot.

Goal: Points are scored when the ball passes through this six-foot by six-foot square.

Crease: Circle surrounding the goal that the offense cannot enter. Players can reach into the crease with their stick to gain possession of a loose ball, but cannot touch the goalie. Crease violations result in a penalty.

Attack area/defense clearing area: The offense has 10 seconds to move into this area after crossing the midfield line. Once the defense has possession of the ball, it has 10 seconds to advance out of this area. Also, attackers and defenders must remain in these areas during the face-off.

Penalty box: Used as a holding area for players to wait out their penalties. It is also the access area for substitute players entering and exiting the field for on-the-fly substitutions.

Wing area: Two of the three midfielders must remain in the wing area until the face-off starts.


Two teams compete with 10 players on the field. Players fall into four categories:

Attack: Offensive-minded players who possess great stick skills that allow them to shoot with precision and fake. They use speed and agility to elude defenders. Attackers also endure punishing hits from opponents.  Attackers should possess great vision and quick feet, yet be able to be physical and get bumped around.  Also called "attackmen", they use their quick movements and stick skills to attack the goal.

Midfield: Always on the move, these players advance the ball up the field and play both offense and defense. Help defenders and tally assists by taking the ball from defensive area to attackers. They are fast, durable, and stick savvy. Midfielders use their athleticism to attack the goal.  Also called "middies."

Defense: Defenders use size, speed, strength, and skill to keep attackers from scoring. An aggressive mindset is beneficial, but playing under control and selecting the proper angle to prevent close range shots are more critical skills.

Goalie: Uses lightning-fast reflexes, quick decisions, and courage to stop a barrage of high-velocity shots. Body must handle punishment from the ball, and mind has to quickly recover from mistakes. The goalie directs the defense by calling for checks and relaying locations of the ball and attackers.

Common Referee Signals

Two to Three officials (referee, umpire, and field judge) usually govern the game to ensure fair and safe play. Any violation of the rules results in a penalty. A player called for a foul is sent to the penalty box and his team must play without that player, or man down, until the penalty is over or the opposition scores. If the defensive team commits a penalty when the opposing team has the ball, play is allowed to continue until the opponent loses possession of the ball, at which time the penalty is enforced. This delayed penalty is called a slow whistle and allows the offense to maintain its advantage.

Personal fouls: such as slashing, tripping, cross checking, unnecessary roughness, and unsportsmanlike conduct are major violations. The official determines the length of the penalty, which ranges from one to three minutes.

Technical fouls: are minor infractions that lead to a 30-second penalty. These fouls include crease violation, offsides, interference, holding, illegal screens, illegal procedure, stalling, and warding off. A player is ejected from the remainder of the game if he commits five fouls.

Additionally, players can be ejected from the game for fighting, playing too violently, or arguing with an official.

Send Your Feedback