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Lacrosse Rules: Master the Basics

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Lacrosse Rules: Master the Basics

If you are on the hunt for a fast-paced, exciting sport guaranteed to get the blood pumping, lacrosse is the perfect pick. As one of the oldest team sports in North America – some experts believe that the game was played as far back as the 17th century – lacrosse has evolved into a team triumph enjoyed all across the world.

Whether you are anticipating your first match, or just interested in learning the basics, we have put together the ultimate guide to lacrosse rules, allowing you to brush up on the basics and show up knowing your stuff!

What are the basic rules of lacrosse?

When learning how to play lacrosse, the first thing to understand is that the rules of lacrosse are not universal; they can differ between boys, men, and women’s teams. Here are a few main areas to get your head around, but please note that there can be rather large differences in girl's lacrosse rules.

Team sizes

As a general rule, men’s lacrosse has ten players on the field – 3 attacks, three middles, three defenders, and one goalie, while a women’s game will have 12 – 5 attackers, six defenders, and one goalie. 

Contact with the ball

In both men's and women’s games, there is one golden rule; the ball must never be touched by a player's hand unless they are the goalie. Otherwise, all contact with the ball must be via sticks.


While the game is in play, getting your hands – or stick – on the ball is the number one priority! Participants will have the option to body check. One player can attempt this when their opponent has the ball or is within five yards of the ball.

A body check consists of contact from the front of the body, between the waist and the shoulders. You can also stick check other players to try and knock the ball away, or prevent an opponent from getting the ball.

Area restrictions

The area around the goal is called a crease, and opponents are not permitted to enter this space.

They can, however, reach in using their stick, and pick up the ball.

If either the ball or a player with the ball goes out of play, the opposing team will get the ball. The only exception is when the ball goes out of bounds after a shot has been played; here, whichever team had a player closest to the ball at the time it went out of bounds will get the ball.

The rules may seem a little complicated, but once you have seen them in motion and practiced a few times, you will be playing or cheering like a pro!

Holding the ball

Timing is essential in a game of lacrosse; once your team has gained possession of the ball in their defensive area, they need to move the ball over the midfield line within 20 seconds. This requirement is part of what makes the sport so exciting; players need to move fast, make decisions quickly, and keep the ball moving.

There are also time restrictions and requirements for the goalkeeper; if they have possession of the ball in the crease, they will need to either pass the ball to another player or vacate the area within 4 seconds.

Game length

So, just how long is a lacrosse game? Again, this depends largely on the circumstances present. Games tend to be two halves for a total of 60 minutes, and these may be divided further into quarters, depending on the specifications and age of the players.

Fouls in lacrosse

To fully understand the rules of lacrosse, you need to understand what can go wrong, and the potential consequences for this. Plays that are not permitted are known as fouls, and there are two types: personal fouls and technical fouls.

1. Personal fouls

Personal fouls include tripping another player or using unnecessary roughness or force.

Cross-checking is also forbidden; this involved making contact with another player with the stick between your hands, and slashing – a stick check not on the opponents stick or gloves – is another no-no.

Any illegal body checking will also be punished. 

2. Technical fouls 

These may include setting screens, stalling or pushing, holding, or offsides – when the incorrect number of players are on each half of the field.

Punishment and penalty

Lacrosse penalties are a little different than what you see in basketball or other sports.

In lacrosse, any player committing a foul will be removed from play 1 to 3 minutes. At five personal fouls, the player will be ejected from the game. 

Practice makes perfect!

Mastering the lacrosse basics will put you in the perfect position to tackle your first game.

If you are really looking to up your game as a player (or spectator) practice your stickhandling with a rebounder so that the next time you see a great play you can really understand just how impressive that form was!

Katherine Holden

Katherine Holden

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