Boys Lacrosse Rules: The Basics
Before beginning to play or watch lacrosse, it’s important to understand the basics of the game. Boys lacrosse in particular is a very contact sport, so understanding 7 basic and key rules can prevent dangerous play.
Ten players are allowed on the field at a time; four defensive, three offensive, and three midfielders. Defensive and offensive players must stay on their respective sides of the field in order to avoid “offsides” penalties. This occurs when there aren’t enough players on one side and too many on the other. Thus, there must be four players on each side of the field at all times in order to avoid an offsides call.
A face-off consists of six players; 4 wings (two from each team) and two taking the face off. When the referee blows the whistle only these players may move, as the rest of the field waits until a team has possession to begin play. When the whistle is blown, the two face-off players fight for the ball that is placed in between them.
Checking - body, stick, and glove - are key components of boys lacrosse. Legal body checking has to occur between the shoulders and knees and when the offensive player is in a protected position, i.e. they can see it coming and have time to react. All other instances of body checking are illegal and result in penalty for the defensive player. Stick checking is allowed to shake the ball loose from the players net, but slashing - the defensive player striking his stick to the offensive players helmet or body - is illegal and also results in a penalty.
No player can impede or block an opposing players path. For example, an offensive player cannot intentionally run straight into a defensive player. This foul results in loss of ball possession. However, screening is allowed. This is when a player remains stationary, but holds his stick up to block the path of a defensive player.
5. The Crease
No player may go into the crease except for the goalie. The goalie has four seconds to clear the ball from the crease when he obtains possession, or he has to move outside the crease with the ball. Goalies are also the only players on the field allowed to use their hands.
6. Out of Bounds
Like any other sport, lacrosse has clear “in bounds” lines. When a ball or player with the ball goes outside the lines of play, the ball gets handed over to the team on defense, making them now offense. The only exception to this is when the ball goes out of bounds after a shot on goal. When this happens, the ball goes to the team with the player closest to it, even if that player is on the same team that just took a shot.
Fouls range from technical fouls - screening, holding, etc. - to personal fouls - unnecessary roughness, slashing, etc. A player can receive up to five fouls until they’re thrown out of the game. When a player fouls, he goes into the penalty area for one to three minutes.
Girls Lacrosse Rules: The Basics
While boys lacrosse rules are pretty straight forward, girls lacrosse is more complicated. To help grasp a better understanding, there are five key rules that must be understood.
1. The Draw
The draw is when two players from opposing teams meet at the center of the field and hold the ball between their sticks. When the referee blows the whistle, they must twist their sticks in an upward motion to begin play. When the ball goes airborne the midfielders may then try to get possession.
Similar to boys lacrosse, there is an offsides violation in girls lacrosse but it has to do with the restraining line. Both the defensive and offensive ends have restraining lines; when there’s more than seven players of the same team over the restraining line in the offensive end, it is an offsides penalty. When there’s more than eight players over the restraining line in the defensive end, it is also an offsides.
3. Three Second Rule
This is a major rule in girls lacrosse that parallels holding in boys lacrosse. If a player has the ball, she has three seconds to either pass or change her cradle. If three seconds passes and she does neither, the defensive team gets a free position.
4. Free Position
A free position is given after a foul occurs. There are many conditions to what happens when given a free position, but basically the player given the ball is allowed to run, shoot, or pass the ball from where the previous play ended. However, shooting is not allowed in some cases, such as in the 12-meter arc. This is indirect free position which means the player who restarts the play cannot shoot until the ball is touched by a teammate i.e. the ball must be passed before a shot can be taken.
Girls lacrosse fouls are based on the offense. There are minor and major fouls depending on the action causing it. Minor fouls result in the offending player standing four meters away facing the direction she was headed before the foul. A major foul results in the offending player moving four meters behind the player taking the free position.
There are many technical, detail-oriented rules that can cause fouls in girls lacrosse. Players may not body check at all and may not stick check anyone who doesn’t have possession of the ball. Charging is also another violation in girls lacrosse; a player may not push into a defender who has an established position. Think of this as body checking to better understand the rule - players can’t just ram into each other. There are many other specific rules that can result in fouls, but it’s important to understand those two as they’re frequently called during games.
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