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The General Rules of Lacrosse

Number of Players & Substitutions

There are a total of ten players on the field at a time: 1 goalie, 3 defensemen, 3 midfielders and 3 attackmen. Player substitutions take place between periods, during timeouts and "on the fly" through the substitution "box" at midfield.


Length of the Game & Overtime

A high school game consists of four 12 minute periods, youth games tend to be much shorter (8-10 minutes). If there is a tie at the end of regulation, the teams play a series of 5 minute sudden overtime death periods until someone scores. Teams are allowed two timeouts per half and one in each overtime period.


The Stick

Players' "sticks" must be between 40-42 inches long and 52-72 inches in length for long sticks. There is a limit of four "long stick defensemen" on the field at any one time (per team). Sticks can be found illegal for length, depth of the "pocket," or if it has been altered to gain an advantage. A player who uses an illegal stick is given a 2-minute non-releasable penalty.


The Goal & Crease

The goal is 6’ by 6’. It is in the center of a “crease,” which is 9’ in radius or 18’ in diameter. The crease, and the rules governing it, are designed to protect the goalie. No player on offense may enter the crease at any time (unless pushed by a defender). Going in the crease on offense results in a change of possession, or a free clear if the goalie  has possession. Upon a save and gaining possession of the ball, the goalie has up to 4 seconds to remain in the crease with the ball.


The Face-Off

The start of play begins with a "face-off" at midfield. The official places the ball on the ground and, on his whistle, the face-off "specialists" and their two wing men battle for possession. All other players must remain behind the two point arc until one of the midfielders gains possession. Face-offs are held at the start of each quarter and after a goal is scored.



Penalties are similar to those in ice hockey - illegal substitution, offsides, crease violation, holding, slashing, pushing, tripping, cross-checking, illegal stick or equipment, and game misconduct. Penalties range from a simple change of possession to time serving penalties, creating "man-up" opportunities similar to hockey's power play.



In order to remain on-sides, teams must keep three players on their offensive half of the field (typically 3 attackmen) and four on their defensive half (typically three defensemen and a goalie) at all times. Should the goalie or a defenseman wish to cross midfield while clearing the ball, they can have another player (midfielder) “stay back” for them until they return to the defensive end of the field. The same goes for an attackman who wishes to cross into the defensive half of the field while riding a player from the other team.


Chasing A Shot

After a missed shot, the team closest to the ball when it goes out of bounds is awarded possession. This can be on the endline or sideline.


Player Contact

A player may make physical contact with a player from the opposing team as long as that player is in possession of the ball, or within 5 yards of a “loose ball.”  When making contact, the player must have two hands on his stick, make contact above the knees and below the neck, from the front or the side, and cannot lead with his stick (crosschecking) or his head (illegal body check/contact to the head)


The Areas of the Lacrosse Field & Some Common Terms

“X” - refers to the area directly behind the goal crease. Most offenses, both settled and unsettled, are initiated through “X”.


“The Box” - refers to two places on the lacrosse field - the first is the Restraining Area delineated by the restraining line (side to side) and the two lines running from the restraining line to the endline. Offensive and defensive players must remain behind the restraining line during a face-off until one of the midfielders participating in the face-off gains possession or the ball enters the box area. In the last two minutes of a game, the winning team, or both teams if the game is tied, must keep the ball inside of their offensive box once it enters that area, or the result is a turnover.


The second “box” is the substitution area at midfield. Similar to ice hockey, teams may substitute players through the box while the ball is in play - one player comes off, one player goes on. These substitutions must occur on the proper side of midfield to avoid going offsides.


“The Crease” -  technically, it is the 9’ radius goal crease around the goal which protects the goalie. An offensive player who goes into the goal crease area commits a turnover, unless he is pushed or scores prior to entering the crease. The “Crease Area” typically refers to the area directly in front of the goal crease. Offenses typically have at least one player “on the crease” at all times - similar to having a player posted up in the lane in basketball.


“The Hole” - a defensive term for the area in front of the goal (crease area). Coaches will often yell to their players to “get in the hole” in unsettled defensive situations.


“Down the Side” - refers to a fundamental strategy in the transition game and unsettled situations in which the team going from defense to offense pushes the ball “down the side” to an attackman on the wing, who then distributes it to a second attackman at “X”. 

About The Lacrosse Stick

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