The following introduction to the game of men's lacrosse is derived from an overview of the game courtesy of US Lacrosse.
Men's lacrosse is a contact game played by ten players: a goalie, three defensemen, three midfielders and three attackmen. The object of the game is to shoot the ball into the opponent's goal. The team scoring the most goals wins.
Each team must keep at least four players in its defensive half of the field and three in its offensive half. Three players (midfielders) typically roam the entire field.
Collegiate games are 60 minutes long, with 15-minute quarters. Generally, high school games are 48 minutes long, with 12-minute quarters. Youth games, spanning all ages prior to high school, are typically 32 minutes long, with eight-minute quarters.
Teams change sides between periods, and each team is permitted two timeouts each half. The team winning the coin toss chooses the end of the field it wants to defend first.
The players take their positions on the field: four in the defensive clearing area (including a goalie), one at the center, two in the wing areas and three in their attack goal area.
Men's lacrosse begins with a face-off. The ball is placed between the sticks of two squatting players at the center of the field. The official blows the whistle to begin play.
Each face-off player tries to control the ball. The players in the wing areas can run after the ball when the whistle sounds. The other players must wait until one player has gained possession of the ball, or the ball has crossed a goal area line, before they can release.
Center face-offs are also used at the start of each quarter and after a goal is scored. Field players must use their lacrosse sticks (?crosse?) to pass, catch and carry the ball. A player may gain possession of the ball by dislodging it from an opponent's stick with a stick check. A stick check is the controlled poking and slapping of the stick, gloved hands, or arms of the player in possession of the ball. A stick check may not be thrown at an opposing player's arm if the opposing player is not using that arm to control the lacrosse stick.
Body checking is permitted at most levels of lacrosse if the opponent has the ball or is within five yards of a loose ball. All body contact must occur from the front or side, above the waist and below the shoulders, and with both hands on the stick. An opponent's stick may also be stick checked if it is within five yards of a loose ball or ball in the air. Far more often than not, aggressive body checking is discouraged. If the ball or a player in possession of the ball goes out of bounds, the other team is awarded possession. If the ball goes out of bounds after an unsuccessful shot, the player nearest to the ball when and where it goes out of bounds is awarded possession.
An attacking player cannot enter the protective crease around the goal, but may reach in with his stick to scoop a loose ball.
Typically, a referee, umpire and field judge supervise field play. A chief bench official, timekeepers and scorers assist.
The attackman's primary responsibility is to score goals. The attackman generally restricts his play to the offensive end of the field. A good attackman demonstrates excellent stick skills with both hands and has quick feet to maneuver around the goal. Each team should have three attackmen on the field during play.
The midfielder's primary responsibility is to cover the entire field, playing both offense and defense. The midfielder is a key to the transition game, and is often called upon to clear the ball from defense to offense. A good midfielder demonstrates good stick skills including throwing, catching and scooping. Speed and stamina are essential. Each team should have three midfielders on the field.
The defenseman's primary responsibility is to defend the goal. The defenseman generally restricts his play to the defensive end of the field. A good defenseman should be able to react quickly in game situations. Agility and aggressiveness are necessary, but great stick skills, although important, are not essential to be effective. Each team should have three defensemen on the field.
The goalie's primary responsibility is to protect the goal and stop the opposing team from scoring. A good goalie also leads the defense by reading the situation and directing the defensemen to react. A good goalie should have excellent hand/eye coordination and a strong voice. Quickness, agility, confidence and the ability to concentrate are also essential. Each team has one goalie in the goal during play.
The Stick ("Crosse"):
Traditional lacrosse sticks are constructed of wood, laminated wood or synthetic material, with a shaped net pocket at the end. The stick must be an overall length of 40-42 inches for attackmen and midfielders, or 52-72 inches for defensemen. The head of the modern-day lacrosse stick is constructed of plastic, and must be 6.5-10 inches wide; the goalie's head may be 10-12 inches wide. The pocket can be any number of styles, from catgut, leather and nylon strings in the traditional heads to a soft or durable one-piece mesh in many modern heads. Producing custom pockets in a lacrosse head is a popular activity for many young players today. The pocket shall be deemed illegal if the top surface of a lacrosse ball, when placed in the head of the crosse, is below the bottom edge of the side wall.
The ball must be made of solid rubber and can be white, yellow or orange. The ball is 7.75-8 inches in circumference and 5-5.25 ounces.
A protective helmet, equipped with face mask, chin pad and a cupped four point chin strap fastened to all four hookups, must be worn by all men's players. All helmets and face masks should be NOCSAE (National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment) approved.
The mouthpiece must be a highly visible color and is mandatory.
All players are required to wear protective gloves. The cutting or altering of gloves at most levels of lacrosse is prohibited.
All players, with the exception of the goalkeeper, must wear shoulder pads. Arm pads and rib pads are also strongly recommended and often required, as are athletic supporters and protective cups for all players. The goalkeeper is required to wear a throat protector and chest protector, in addition to a helmet, mouthpiece and gloves.
: The act of receiving a passed ball with the lacrosse stick.
: The act of attempting to dislodge the ball from an opponent's stick.
: A stick check in which the player pokes the head of his stick at an opponent's stick through the top hand by pushing with the bottom hand.
: A stick check in which a player slaps the head of his stick against his opponent's stick.
: A one-handed check in which the defender swings his stick around his opponent's body to dislodge the ball. (This check is only legal at higher levels of play.)
: The coordinated motion of the arms and wrists that keeps the ball secure in the pocket and ready to be passed or shot when running.
: A movement by an offensive player without the ball, often toward the opponent's goal, in anticipation of a feed and shot.
: Passing the ball to a teammate who is in position for a shot on goal.
: The act of throwing the ball to a teammate with the stick.
: The act of picking up a loose ball with the stick.
: An offensive tactic in which a player near the crease positions himself so as to block the goalkeeper's view of the ball. This term can also be used as a synonym for "picking", where a player sets a stationary pick off of which a teammate can cut or dodge.
: The act of throwing the ball with the stick toward the goal in an attempt to score.
Personal and Technical Fouls
There are personal fouls and technical fouls in men's lacrosse. The penalty for a personal foul results in a one to three minute suspension from play and possession to the team that was fouled. Players with five personal fouls are ejected from the game. The penalty for a technical foul is a thirty-second suspension if a team is in possession of the ball when the foul is committed, or possession of the ball to the team that was fouled if there was no possession when the foul was committed.
: Occurs when a player's stick viciously contacts an opponent in any area other than the stick or gloved hand on the stick.
: Occurs when a player obstructs his opponent at or below the waist with the stick, hands, arms, feet or legs.
Occurs when a player uses the handle of his lacrosse stick between his hands to make contact with an opponent.
: Occurs when any player or coach commits an act which is considered unsportsmanlike by an official, including taunting, arguing, or obscene language or gestures.
: Occurs when a player strikes an opponent with his stick or body using excessive or violent force.
: Occurs when a player uses a lacrosse stick (crosse) that does not conform to required specifications. A lacrosse stick may be found illegal if the pocket is too deep or if any other part of the stick was altered to gain an advantage.
Illegal Body Checking
: Occurs when any of the following actions takes place:
1. body checking an opponent who is not in possession of the ball or within five yards of a loose ball.
2. avoidable body check of an opponent after he has passed or shot the ball.
3. body checking an opponent from the rear or at or below the waist.
4. body checking an opponent above the shoulders. A body check must be below the shoulders and above the waist, and both hands of the player applying the body check must remain in contact with his crosse.
: Occurs when a player uses gloves that do not conform to required specifications. Although not enforced at the post-collegiate or pro level, a glove will be found illegal if the fingers and palms are cut out of the gloves, or if the glove has been altered in a way that compromises its protective features.
: Occurs when a player impedes the movement of an opponent or an opponent's stick.
: Occurs when a player interferes in any manner with the free movement of an opponent, except when that opponent has possession of the ball, the ball is in flight and within five yards of the player, or both players are within five yards of a loose ball. Can also occur when an offensive player moves into and makes contact with a defensive player with the purpose of blocking him from the man he is defending.
: Occurs 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.
: Occurs when a player thrusts or shoves a player from behind.
: Occurs when a team intentionally holds the ball, without conducting normal offensive play, with the intent of running time off the clock.
A non-time serving foul; occurs when a player in possession of the ball uses his free hand or arm to hold, push or control the direction of an opponent's stick check.
Glossary of terms
Attack Goal Area:
The area defined by a line drawn sideline-to-sideline 20 yards from the face of the goal. Once the offensive team crosses the midfield line, it has ten seconds to move the ball into its attack goal area.
Contact with an opponent from the front - between the shoulders and waist - when the opponent has the ball or is within five yards of a loose ball.
: An area used to hold players who have been served with penalties, and through which substitutions "on the fly" are permitted directly from the sideline onto the field; also used as way to describe the indoor version of the game of lacrosse ("box lacrosse").
A call given by the goalie to tell each defender to find his man and call out his number.
: A face-off maneuver executed by quickly pushing the back of the stick on top of the ball.
: Running or passing the ball from the defensive half of the field to the attack goal area.
: A circle around the goal with a radius of nine yards into which only defensive players may enter; no player may enter the crease with possession of the ball.
The equipment used to throw, catch and carry the ball.
Defensive Clearing Area:
The area defined by a line drawn sideline-to-sideline 20 yards from the face of the goal. At higher levels, once the defensive team gains possession of the ball in this area, it has twenty seconds to move the ball across the midfield line.
Extra man Offense (EMO):
The situation that results from a time-serving penalty where the offense has at least a one-man advantage.
A technique used to put the ball in play at the start of each quarter, or after a goal is scored. The players squat down and the ball is placed between their crosses.
A transition scoring opportunity in which the offense has at least a one-man advantage.
: A loose ball on the playing field.
: An aluminum, wooden or composite pole connected to the head of the lacrosse stick.
: The plastic or wood part of the stick connected to the handle.
Man Down Defense (MDD)
: The situation that results from a time-serving penalty which causes the defense to play with at least a one man disadvantage.
: The line which bisects the field of play.
: A substitution made during play.
: An offensive maneuver in which a stationary player attempts to block the path of a defender guarding another offensive player.
: The strung part of the head of the stick which holds the ball.
: A move in which a player sweeps the ball to the side with the head of their stick.
: The act of trying to prevent a team from clearing the ball.
: The term used by an official to notify a penalized player in the box that he may re-enter the game. Also used by teammates in a ?Man-Ball? ground ball situation: teammate #1 yells ?Man!? and shields an opposing player from the ground ball. As soon as teammate #2 successfully picks up the ball, he should immediately yell ?Release!? to communicate to teammate #1 to cease contact with the opposing player.
: An offensive maneuver in which a player without the ball attempts to block the goalie?s visual path of a shot by his teammate. Offensive players with the ball will sometimes attempt to use a defenseman as a screen by either shooting around his defenseman or taking a shot when there is a lot of traffic in front of the goal.
: Any situation in which the defense is not positioned correctly, usually due to a loose ball or broken clear.