What are the Rules of Lacrosse

Lacrosse is a thrilling sport packed with fun, excitement, and obviously a set of lacrosse rules that make the game all the more enjoyable.

As a beginner, you may find it hard to learn all the rules in one go. But, don't worry. I have curated this guide to help you cover the basic lacrosse rules and knowledge including:

  • The field and equipment requirements
  • Team players and their positions
  • Overall game structure 
  • Important rules of lacrosse followed in most lacrosse variations. 
What are the Rules of Lacrosse
What are the Rules of Lacrosse (https://laxdrip.com)

Alright players, time to learn the basics of lacrosse.

Field Markings and Equipment Required in Lacrosse 

Starting with the very basics of the Field and Equipment requirements, it's important to set standard protocols for fair gameplay. Like any other field sport, lacrosse also has strict guidelines about the field markings and legal equipment to be used.

Field Markings of Lacrosse
Field Markings of Lacrosse (https://laxdrip.com)

Field Dimensions and Markings

  • The field chosen to play lacrosse needs to be a rectangular area.
  • The field area should be 110 yards in length and 60 yards wide.
  • Within this periphery, the goals are placed at either side, parting with six feet spaced each other. 
  • Each goal is marked with a large round crease line of about 18-20 feet in diameter making a circular mark on the ground. 

Equipment Requirements and Regulations

Lacrosse is a quick-paced on-field sport that is incomplete without the necessary equipment. To play a game of lactose, players need helmets, shoulder pads, gloves, a lacrosse stick (head and shaft) to score a goal, and of course a lacrosse ball. 

Equipment Required for Lacrosse
Equipment Required for Lacrosse (https://laxdrip.com)

For protection, mouthguards and other pads are also needed (things get nasty sometimes) depending on the game variation, age group, and league type. 

Details about Players and Positions in Lacrosse 

If we talk about the number of players per team, there are 10 players on each team designated to their separate field roles and positions.

I know you must be wondering that most team sports have 11 players on each side but it is what it is. Historically, there were thousands of players on each side and it wasn’t just a sport. Intriguing, right?

Learn more about where Lacrosse originated (timeline included).

Number of Players on the Field for Each Team

The following are the player positions for a team, 

  • 3 Attackmen
  • 3 Midfielders
  • 3 Defensemen
  • 1 Goalie (Goalkeeper)

Goalkeeper Rules and Equipment Specifications

Since each team has only one goalkeeper, the position comes with high stakes and strict rules that must be followed. 

  • Only the goalkeeper can touch the ball using their hands
  • The keeper only has 4 seconds to pass the ball in the crease.
  • Once the keeper leaves the crease area, he has only 10 seconds to clear the ball through half of the field. 

The goalkeeper has the stick with the biggest pocket. He needs to wear a helmet, thick gloves, and a chest protector at all times. 

He also uses a throat guard, a mouth guard, and a protective cup for extra protection. Some also wear a padded girdle. 

Well, who wouldn’t want to wear protection gear if 120+ mph shots are coming at you? 

Read More: Goalie Heads, Goalie Shafts, Goalie Chest Protectors, Goalie Helmets, Goalie Gloves, and Goalie Gear.

Substitution Rules

Substitutions are allowed freely in lacrosse known as “substitution on the fly”. The player needing substitution can simply go to the substitution box as his substitute joins the field.

  • The substitution is ruled illegal if the substitute leaves the box when the player hasn't joined the substitution group and is still twenty feet away. In such cases, the violation is called “too many men on the field”.

Game Structure

Allow me to keep it simple for you to understand. We can break the game structure into a single generalized gameplay. 

Game Duration and Periods

  • Usually, at higher levels, a single lacrosse game takes 60 minutes to complete for men.
  • The game is divided into four quarters.  For women, it is changed into two halves.
  • Each of the four quarters is 15 minutes long
  • After the first quarter, players get a small two-minute break while the halftime break is about 10 minutes long. 
  • Each team is allowed to request two timeouts per half during a dead-ball situation.
  • The timeout periods may contribute to four extra minutes each time.

Note: These periods may vary based on the level and play variation of the game.

Some are given below:

Game variation Level of play Game duration No. Of Quarters
Youth Practice 32 minutes Four 8-minute quarters
High School Skill development 48 minutes Four 12-minute quarters
College/Professional leagues Competition 60 minutes Four 15-minute quarters


Need more specific information? Read our How Long is a Lacrosse Game guide. 

Overtime Rules

In lacrosse, overtime follows the sudden death rule where the first team to score wins the game. 

In other cases, if both teams fail to score during regulation time, additional overtime may be given until a team hits the winning score.

Basic Gameplay Rules

Every lacrosse game has pretty much similar basic lacrosse rules that both the playing teams must follow to win the game. 

Lacrosse Rules About Scoring Goals

Let's start with the goal-scoring rules first. 

  • Teams score goals as they shoot balls into the net of the opposing team.
  • Each goal counts for one point to the scoring team.
  • Any player can score a goal by shooting the ball into the net.
  • The team scoring the maximum number of goals at the end wins the game.
  • In some game variations, goals scored from certain distances or under specific conditions may score more points than usual.

Rules About Possession

In lacrosse, players try to hold the possession of the ball within the team to score a goal. However, no player except the keeper is allowed to touch the ball. Players can only use their lacrosse sticks to gain possession

  • Players cannot withhold possession or excessively stall the game.
  • Teams cannot pass or carry the ball back over the midfield line. This is called over-and-back violation.
  • Offensive players cannot enter the opposing team's crease. Doing so results in a turnover. It is called crease violation.

Penalties

Now that you know how to score goals, let’s also learn what are the rules of lacrosse penalties.

Penalties are different for each type of lacrosse variation. They may vary with age group and level of lacrosse gameplay.

The following are some of the penalties

Penalty Description
Minor Penalty A penalty assessed for infractions deemed less severe, resulting in the offending player being removed from the game for a short period (usually 1-2 minutes), during which their team plays shorthanded.
Major Penalty A more serious penalty resulting in the offending player being removed from the game for a longer period (typically 5 minutes) and their team playing shorthanded for the duration.
Misconduct Penalty A penalty resulting in the offending player being removed from the game for a specified period (usually 10 minutes), during which their team plays shorthanded but without immediate replacement.
Match Penalty The most severe penalty, resulting in the offending player's immediate ejection from the game and often further disciplinary action, such as suspension, for actions considered particularly dangerous or unsportsmanlike.

Interested in How to Play Lacrosse?  

Here's a chart explaining the legal moves that players are allowed to use in lacrosse:     

Legal Move What to do? When to use?
Ground Ball Pickup Scooping up the ball from the ground using the lacrosse stick. When the ball is loose on the ground after a missed shot or turnover
Checking Legally dislodging the ball from an opponent's stick or disrupting their movement When defending to gain possession or impede progress.
Shooting    Attempting to score a goal by propelling the ball towards the opponent's goal. When a clear shooting lane to the goal is available. 
Passing Throwing the ball to a teammate using the lacrosse stick Under pressure from defenders or to advance the ball quickly.
Dodging  Evading defenders by quickly changing direction or speed while carrying the ball. When closely defended, creating separation or passing opportunity.

     

Here are some illegal moves that result in players facing penalties depending on the severity of the offense.

Illegal Move Rule Penalty
Body Checking Hitting an opponent in the head or neck area who doesn't possess the ball. Spend 1 to 3 minutes in the penalty box
Stick Handling Mishandling the lacrosse stick to strike other opponents purposefully. Loss of ball possession or a time-serving penalty.
Cross Checking Forcing the stick shaft between hands to check an opponent. Time-serving penalty for 1 to 3 minutes.
Slashing Striking the opponent with the stick on his body area other than his stick or gloves. Time-serving penalty for 1 to 3 minutes.
Tripping Using the stick or any part of the body to purposefully trip an opponent Time-serving penalty for 1 to 3 minutes.

How to play a fair game of checking?

  • Keep your hands together at all times.
  • Don’t check until the opponent has the ball.
  • Only make contact between the waist and the shoulders.
  • Do not attack from the back with force.
  • If the player has a knee on the ground, you can’t body-check them until they’re standing.

Offside and Restraining Line Rules

Since the restraining line plays a crucial role in lacrosse games, regulating the players’ positions, players need to follow a set of restraining line rules as follows.

Rule Description
Face-offs During face-offs, players of both teams must remain behind their respective restraining lines until possession of the ball is established
Offsides Enforcement When a team does not have at least four players on its defensive side of the midfield line or at least three players on its offensive side of the midfield line.
Clearing and Riding Offensive players stay on their offensive half, while defensive players stay on their defensive half until the ball crosses the midfield line.

These rules help maintain balance and fairness during face-offs and smooth transitions between offense and defense.

Violation results in offside penalties for all the players over the restraining line to face a turnover or a time-serving penalty.

Understanding the Face-Off Procedure

Here’s an easy guide to help you understand the Face-Off Procedure.

Setup One player from both opposing teams sits knee down facing each other with their lacrosse sticks placed parallel.
Whistle As the referee places the ball centrally on the ground, he blows his whistle to signal starting the face-off gameplay.
Ball Possession Both the front players of the opposing teams try to catch possession of the ball with their sticks. Whoever catches the ball first, makes a pass, or runs towards the opponent's goal to shoot the ball.
Game Continues Once the game starts in full force, both the teams fight to score maximum goals, while defending their net.
Goal Scored If a team successfully scores a goal, they receive one point. After a goal is scored, the game restarts with another face-off at midfield.

Read More: Best Faceoff Heads

Lacrosse Officials and Their Roles

Let’s get you familiar with the team officials and their specific roles within the gameplay.

Official Role
Referee Manages the game, enforces rules, and ensures fair play.
Umpires Assist the referee, particularly in specific areas of the field.
Goal Judge Determines if goals are scored and signals to the referee.
Timekeepers Manage the game clock and penalties.
Scorekeeper Records goals, assists, and penalties.
Sideline Officials Provide additional support and assistance to the primary officials.

Variances Between Men's and Women's Lacrosse Rules

Women’s lacrosse rules are a little different from men's lacrosse in that they do not allow any sort of physical contact. Also, Men’s lacrosse rules are a little tougher in regards to the penalties and conduct guidelines.

As for the lacrosse equipment, women need a greater amount of safety padding and their lacrosse sticks are longer than men's lacrosse sticks. 

Read More: When is the Lacrosse Season

Specific Gameplay Situations

Since most of the lacrosse rules are specific to certain game situations and levels, let me tell you some common situations that require extra attention.

Situation Description Penalties
Crease Violations Offensive players should not enter the crease circle area around the goal. If they do. If a player shoots the ball standing inside the crease area, the goal doesn’t count. For offensive crease violations, the opposing team gets the ball possession. For defensive crease violations, such players face a time-serving penalty.
Shot Clock Rules Players must score a goal within a certain time limit (Shot Clock time) once they gain possession of the ball.(only applicable in certain league variations) Failure to take a shot within the shot clock time results in a turnover or loss of ball possession to the opposing team.
Out of Bounds If any shot throws the ball out of bounds, rules of lacrosse are that the ball is given to the player standing closest to the ball before it leaves the field. Penalties for out of bounds violations usually result in turnovers or loss of possession of the ball.

Procedures for Goal Scoring and Assists

Players score goals by shooting the ball into the opposing team's net, which earns them one point each time.

They’re only allowed to use their sticks to carry or pass the ball to their teammates while the offensive players must avoid entering the crease area when trying to score a goal.

Sportsmanship and Conduct Guidelines

Lacrosse Conduct Guidelines help set the standard protocols to make lacrosse a healthy sport that promotes a culture of respect, fairness, and sportsmanship.

Demonstrating good sportsmanship behavior involves:

  • Respect your coaches as well as all fellow and opponent players irrespective of their teams.
  • Playing a fair game with honesty, humility, and grace to achieve victory.
  • Refraining from arguing, taunting, cheating, or disrespecting officials. 
  • Valuing players’ safety and integrity.

People Also Ask

What Are the Rules of Lacrosse?

Lacrosse rules encompass field dimensions, player roles, and game structure for fair play.

What Equipment Is Required for Lacrosse?

Essential gear for lacrosse includes helmets, sticks, and protective equipment for safety.

What Are the Player Positions in Lacrosse?

Positions include attackers, midfielders, defenders, and goalkeepers, each with specific roles.

What Are the Goalkeeper Rules and Equipment Specifications?

Goalkeepers have rules for ball handling, and crease clearance, and require protective gear.

Now that you know what are the rules of Lacrosse, you are ready to learn more about the game. It's time to gear up, grab your sticks, and charge onto the lacrosse field. Play with your heart but keep it a fair game. Don’t forget to stay within your restraining lines, and abide by the lacrosse rules.

Have fun, and make every moment on the field count.

Read More:

Best Lacrosse Starter Kit

Best Lacrosse Cleats
Best Complete Sticks

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