Lacrosse Rules For Beginners: Everything You Need To Know

rules of lacrosse

Lacrosse is a fast-paced and physical sport that can be enjoyed by players of all ages. If you are just starting out, it can be difficult to understand all of the lacrosse rules. In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about boy’s lacrosse and girl’s lacrosse, so that you can start playing right away!

Basic Rules Of Boy’s Lacrosse (High School & Youth)

technical fouls in lacrosse

Objective

In men’s lacrosse or boy’s lacrosse, the objective is to shoot the ball in the opponents goal and score more goals than the other team. Players may not pick up the ball with their hands. They must scoop, cradle, pass, catch, and shoot with their lacrosse sticks. It is legal to kick the ball.

Lacrosse Positions

In boy’s lacrosse, there are ten players on the field for each team:

  • Three attackmen
  • Three midfielders
  • Three defensemen
  • One goalie

Four players must stay on the defensive half of the field at all times or an offsides penalty will be called. This is usually the three defenders and goalie. Three players must stay on the offensive half at all time or an offsides penalty will be called. This is usually the three attackmen.

For a more in-depth understanding of the positions, check out our full guide on lacrosse positions.

Length Of Game

Lacrosse games are divided up into 2 halves and 4 quarters. Each quarter being 12 minutes long.

Lacrosse Field

scoring around the goal

In boy’s lacrosse, the field contains a center “X”, which is where the face-off takes place to start the game. There are also wing areas, which is where other midfielders line up during the face-off. Around each goal is a crease, in which the opposing team is not allowed to step into.

Lacrosse Possession Rules

  • If a players goes out of bounds while having possession of the ball, the referee will whistle them out of bounds and give possession to the opposing team.
  • If a player passes the ball out of bounds, the referee will give possession to the opposing team.
  • If a player shoots the ball out of bounds, whoever is closest to the ball as it goes out of bounds will receive possession. As a result, you will see players “backing up shots” or running towards the goal line if a ball misses the net.

Lacrosse Checking Rules

body checking when lacrosse is played
Keeping hands close together on the stick is a legal body check.

Lacrosse checks that are legal

  • You can swing your stick at another player’s stick who is in possession of the ball. As long as you are intending to hit their stick and take away the ball, you are allowed to check their hands, forearms, elbows, and arms in the process.
  • You can poke check a player’s gloves and stick.
  • Any stick on stick contact is legal.
  • If you are within 5 yards of the ball you can body check someone, as long as your hands are close together on your stick.

Lacrosse checks that are NOT legal

  • A stick check to the head and helmet is a slashing penalty.
  • Egregious swinging of the stick can be called a slashing penalty by the referee. For example, if you pull your stick back like a baseball bat and swing it at a player’s arm, you will be called for a slashing penalty.
  • Pushing a player in the back is a “push from behind” infraction.
  • A cross-check is an illegal body check. Cross-checking is when your hands are spaced apart on the stick, and you ram the opponent with your shaft. If your hands are close together on the shaft, and push someone, that is a legal body check.
  • Helmet to helmet checks are illegal.

Lacrosse Face Off Rules

The game starts with a face-off between a player on each team. The referee places the ball at the center of the field, in-between the sticks of the two face-off men, blows the whistle, signaling to the players that they can try to gain possession of the ball.

Players must use a standard neutral grip.
The motorcycle grip “moto grip” (where both palms are facing in) is now illegal.

Lacrosse Crease Rules

The area around the goal is called the crease. Only the goalie, and player’s on the goalie’s team, can enter the crease. The opposing team can put their stick into the crease. If the opposing team steps into the crease, they will be called for a crease violation.

Lacrosse Protection Rules & Requirements

Field player gear requirements

Goalie gear requirements

  • Lacrosse helmet
  • Lacrosse throat protector
  • Mouthpiece
  • Lacrosse gloves
  • Goalie chest protector
  • Cleats
  • Athletic protective cup or pelvic protector
  • Goalies may wear elbow pads but they are not required.

New Lacrosse Chest Protector Rules

  • Effective January 2022, shoulder pads for boy’s field lacrosse must be designed for lacrosse and meet NOCSAE standard ND200.
  • Effective January 2021, boys’ and girls’ goalie chest protectors must be designed for lacrosse and meet the NOCSAE standard ND200.

High School & Youth Lacrosse Stick Rules

The lacrosse head, pocket, and shaft must fall in line with specific guidelines in order to be deemed a legal lacrosse stick on the field

Lacrosse Head Dimensions

The head, or crosse, of your stick must be within certain dimensions:

  • A minimum of 6 inches between the widest point of the sidewalls.
  • A minimum of 10 inches between the top of the head and the throat.

Most lacrosse heads you purchase online or in-store will have these dimensions. It is custom heads or old, archaic models you have to keep an eye on for violation.

Lacrosse Shooting String Rules

Shooting strings are thicker strings that run across the mesh to increase accuracy and whip on your shot. They must fall within certain guidelines as well:

  • Shooting strings must be within 4 inches of the top of the lacrosse head (does not apply to goalie heads).
  • Shooting strings dangling from the head must measure 2 inches or less.

Lacrosse Pocket Rules

  • A lacrosse pocket must be strung to the head and sidewall stringing holes, leaving no gap large enough for a lacrosse ball to fit through.
  • When you place a lacrosse ball in the pocket and hold the stick up to eye-level, the ball must be slightly visible above the sidewall. If the ball is fully below the sidewall (from eye-level) than the pocket is too deep and deemed illegal. This does not apply to goalie heads.

Lacrosse Shaft Rules

Lacrosse stick length requirements vary by age group. See the below chart for reference:

The circumference of a lacrosse shaft must be no bigger than 3.5 inches for all age levels.

High School Lacrosse Rules vs. Youth Lacrosse Rules

According to USA Lacrosse, high school and youth rules are nearly the same with some modifications made for safety and development of youth players. Here are some key differences that exist at the youth level but not at the high school level:

  • No “take out” body checks.
  • One-handed stick checks are an automatic penalty.
  • There is a 3 yard contact rule instead of a 5 yard contact rule.
  • 3 personal fouls and you foul out of a game.
  • If the goal differential is 12 or more in the second half of the game, the ref will change the clock from stoppage clock to a running clock for the remainder of the game.

Other than these 5 bullets (and a few minor exceptions) , all of the above rules in this article also apply to high school lacrosse.

Women’s Lacrosse Rules (High School & Youth)

rules of lacrosse for women

Objective

In women’s lacrosse, the objective is to shoot the ball in the opponents goal and score more goals than the other team.

Positions

There are 11 field players and 1 goalie on the field. The field players are a combination of attackers, midfielders, and defenders. In U12 and younger, there are a reduced number of players on the field.

Length of Game

A women’s lacrosse game will consist of two, 25-minute running halves. In college, women’s lacrosse is played with two, 30-minute running halves.

Women’s Lacrosse Field

scoring and field rules for women and girls

In women’s lacrosse, there is a draw circle at the center of the field where the game takes place. Around each goal, there is a crease (or goal circle). No player other than the goalkeeper may enter the crease at any time. Outside of the crease, is the 8 meter fan, 12 meter arc, and hashmarks which relate to where certain penalties are handled.

Women’s Lacrosse Draw Rules

In women’s lacrosse, the draw (face-off) takes place at the center of the field, and starts the play at the beginning of each half and after every goal. The draw starts with opposing players holding their sticks out with the back stick pockets touching each other, and the ball in-between their pockets. When the referee blows the whistle, both players pull their stick upwards and backwards to release the ball into the air. At this point, the ball is live and both teams can fight for possession.

Possession Rules

  • If a players goes out of bounds while having possession of the ball, the referee will whistle them out of bounds and give possession to the opposing team.
  • If a player passes the ball out of bounds, the referee will give possession to the opposing team.
  • If a player shoots the ball out of bounds, whoever is closest to the ball as it goes out of bounds will receive possession. As a result, you will see players “backing up shots” or running towards the goal line if a ball misses the net.

Women’s Lacrosse Checking Rules

The following is considered illegal contact in women’s lacrosse:

  • Contact that physically forces the opponent off of her path.
  • Stick to body contact (in a horizontal position).
  • Checks to the head and neck.

Transitional checking is legal. This is an attempt to dislodge the ball from an opponent’s stick in which the checking movement is down and away from the body and outside a 12-inch sphere surrounding the head. This is allowable as long as the checking motion does not reach across the woman’s body.

Women’s Lacrosse Shooting Space Rules

In women’s lacrosse, the defender cannot run into the path of the shooter. Defenders cannot obstruct free space to the goal if they are not marking an opponent or playing the ball carrier within a stick’s length.

Women’s Lacrosse Protection Rules & Requirements

Field player gear requirements

Goalie Gear Requirements

  • Women’s lacrosse helmet
  • Throat protector
  • Lacrosse gloves
  • Mouthpiece
  • Chest protector

Women’s Lacrosse Stick Rules

The lacrosse head, pocket, and shaft must fall in line with specific guidelines in order to be deemed a legal women’s lacrosse stick on the field.

Women’s Lacrosse Pocket Rules

  • Strung pockets, either traditional or mesh, must be connected to the head.
  • The top of the ball, when placed into the pocket of a horizontally held stick, must be visible above the entire wooden or plastic sidewall.
  • The ball must move freely in the pocket, and cannot become wedged or stuck in anyway.

Lacrosse Shooting String Rules

Shooting strings are thicker strings that run across the mesh to increase accuracy and whip on your shot. They must fall within certain guidelines:

  • No more than 2 separate shooting strings.
  • Shooting strings must be within 3.5 inches of the top of the lacrosse head (does not apply to goalie heads).
  • Shooting strings dangling from the head must measure 2 inches or less.

Eye Black Lacrosse Rules

lacrosse eye black design

Eye black is black grease that can be applied beneath an athlete’s eyes to help reflect the sunlight away from their eyesight. In the spirit of lacrosse’s Native American heritage, players often liberally apply eye black in a similar fashion to war paint. Check out these eye black designs for inspiration.

Youth Lacrosse Eye Black Rules

There is nothing in the USA Lacrosse rulebook that prohibits or regulates eye black usage at the youth level.

High School Lacrosse Eye Black Rules

There is nothing in the USA Lacrosse rulebook that prohibits or regulates eye black usage at the high school level. However, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Boys Lacrosse Committee ruled to standardize the use of eyeshade: “eyeshade (grease or non-glare strips or stickers) shall be a solid stroke and may not include words, numbers, logos or other symbols.” The same rule appears in the NFHS women’s rules.

For context, the NFHS is a body that writes the rules for most high school sports and activities in the United States. You can search your school in the NFHS network to see if you fall under this rule set.

With that being said, many high school referees either loosely enforce this rule or do not enforce it at all. There are thousands of instances every year where high school players wear eye black designs that extend far beyond the “solid stroke” rule. To be safe, it may be best to check with your referees before or after a game, or have your coach check with your district’s local lacrosse officiating committee.

NCAA Lacrosse Eye Black Rules

There are no rules related to eye black or eyeshade in the NCAA rulebook for men’s lacrosse and women’s lacrosse.

Wrap Up

lacrosse rules

Overall, lacrosse is a fantastic sport to learn. It is easy to pick up after a few practices with a knowledgable coach. The rules for boy’s lacrosse and girl’s lacrosse are very different from each other, making each version of the sport compelling to watch and play in their own right. While it may seem like there are dozens of rules to lacrosse, your main takeaway should be to have fun. Lacrosse is an ancient game, created 1,000 years ago by Native Americans with the intention to make peace and have fun between tribes. As long as you bring that spirit to the field, you will be welcome!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply