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Confused? You Needn't Be. Here's a Quick Overview

Lacrosse has many similarities to both basketball and hockey. Simply put, the lacrosse team that ends the game with the most goals wins. A game clock dictates the length of the game, and scoring goals is the sole determiner of who wins and who loses. The following list offers a few of the technical essentials that you need to know to better understand the game.

  • Four quarters equals a game: The length of a box or field lacrosse game is approximaely 60 minutes.  Unless you are playing the girls game which is timed by halves.
  • Two halves do make a whole (game): Depending on the age and/or gender of the teams playing, variations on the length of a lacrosse game do exist. Women's lacrosse matches are divided into halves instead of quarters, and can range in length from 50 to 60 minutes. Youth league lacrosse games offer a wide variety of lengths and divisions, from 8-or 12-minute quarters to three 20-minute periods, much like a hockey contest. High-school field games have 12-minute quarters.
  • Whatever the length of the game, remember that any individual contest will include at least one intermission. There's a lot of running and bumping and hitting and missing to recuperate from.
  • Facing down the opposition: A faceoff at the center circle starts each game and each quarter, and it begins play after every goal scored.  Girls games begin with a 'draw' as well as after every goal scored.
  • A faceoff is one of the many areas where lacrosse resembles both hockey (the only other sport with faceoffs) and basketball (with its jump-ball set-up at the beginning of games). Essentially, a faceoff is an organized, if sometimes frenetic, way to initiate play at the beginning of a game, or to restart play that has been stopped for some reason (opening a new playing period, after a scored goal, in a dead-ball situation, and so on). Any game can present many faceoff opportunities, so you better be pretty good at it to have a chance of controlling the ball and therefore giving your team more scoring opportunities.
  • Faceoffs in field lacrosse come at the start of each quarter and after each goal. They consist of two players at the center X and two players from each team perched on the wing area lines (20 yards from the middle of the field and 20 yards long, parallel with the sideline). Once possession is gained by one of these eight players, the rest of the players can cross the restraining lines that are perpendicular to the sideline and 20 yards from the midline.
  • Games don't end in ties: Well, at least not generally. Except for youth lacrosse, when games end regulation play with the two teams tied, a sudden-death overtime period determines the winner. In sudden death, the first team to score a goal wins. 
  • Stay out of the crease: Offensive players must stay out of the crease area in front of the goal. The crease is a 9-foot semicircle that arcs from goalpost to goalpost.
  • The crease in field lacrosse is a 9-foot radius, and it sits farther away from the endline (15 yards from the goal). Much of a team's offense starts behind the goal, so management of the crease from defensive as well as offensive standpoints is very important. Players are not allowed to step into or land in the crease, unless they are forced in by a defender. If this violation occurs, goals are waived off and possession is given to the defense.
  • Stay in your own backyard: Field lacrosse defenders always stay in the opposition's offensive zone, and the offensive players always stay in their own offensive zone. Only midfielders can run the entire field without restriction.
  • Penalties regulate the game's physical tendencies: Referees monitor the physical play to help prevent injuries and control too aggressive play.

How Do Boy’s and Girl's Lacrosse Differ?

Womenl's lacrosse is exploding in popularity — there are three times as many women’s collegiate lacrosse programs today as there were in 1990. The women’s field game differs from the men’s field game in some critical ways:

  • Physical contact: The main difference between men’s and women’s lacrosse comes down to contact. In the men’s game, body-checking is legal — and encouraged (especially by coaches) — while in the women’s game, it is not. As a result, there is far less protective equipment in the women’s game: Men wear helmets, mouth guards, gloves, shoulder pads, elbow pads, and often ribs pads, whereas women wear mouth guards and protective eyewear, but (with the exception of goalies) no helmets or padding.

  • Number of players: In the men’s game, ten players are on the field — three attackmen, three midfielders, three defensemen, and a goaltender. In the women’s game, there are 12 players on the field — offensive players (first home, second home, third home, and two attack wings) and defensive players (center, two defensive wings, point, cover point, third man, and goalie).  Small-sided competitions are incorporated into our youth divisions following the USA Lacrosse LADM model.  Each division is designed specifically for the age of the player and grows in complexity as the player ages up.

  • Sticks: Unlike men’s lacrosse, mesh is not permitted for the pockets of women’s sticks; the pockets must be strung in the traditional way. Also, the top of the ball must be above the sidewall when it’s in the pocket. As a result, stick handling and shooting are more difficult in the women’s game.

  • In addition, the standard stick length in men’s field lacrosse is 40 to 42 inches from the end of the head to the end of the handle; sticks for defensive players (as well as one midfielder) can measure 52 to 72 inches in length, and the goalie’s stick can be 40 to 72 inches long. Women’s lacrosse sticks must measure 35½ to 43¼ inches in length; the goalie’s stick must measure 35½ to 48 inches in length.

  • Field size: In men’s lacrosse, the field measures 110 yards long and 60 yards wide. In women’s lacrosse, the field is a bit bigger: 120 yards long and 70 yards wide.  Small-sided competitions utilize half field (two fields in one turned sideways).

Lacrosse Player Positions

The easiest way to know the positions on the field is to know the responsibilities that come with them. In a nutshell, players have three main assignments that come with their positions: score goals (attack players), prevent the other team from scoring goals (defenders), and stop the ball from entering the net (goaltenders). In addition, in lacrosse, one set of players — known as the midfielders — is regularly assigned the task of playing both offense and defense.

That said, the names of the positions and their precise responsibilities do vary in men’s and women’s lacrosse.

Here are the men’s lacrosse positions:

  • Attackmen: The attackmen are the primary offensive weapons looking to feed and score. They create most of the offense and generally don’t play defense. They’re the three players kept on the opposite side of the midline while the ball is at the other end.

  • Midfielders: Midfielders play offense and defense, following the flow of the game and getting involved at both ends of the field. Midfielders, or “middies,” are crucial to a team’s transition offense and defense.

  • Defensemen: The role of the defensemen is generally to stop the opposing attackmen from creating offense or scoring. Occasionally, a defenseman will be dispatched to cover a dominant opposing midfielder.

  • Goaltender: In addition to stopping shots and getting the ball out of the defensive end, goalies are also responsible for directing the defense. 

Here are the women’s lacrosse positions:

  • Attack: The attack positions are made up of first, second, and third homes, and two attack wings, all of whom are responsible for scoring goals.

  • Defense: Defensive assignments are broken down into these areas: center, two defensive wings, point, cover point, and third man. Wing players move the ball from defense to offense.

  • Goaltender: The only player on the field wearing a helmet, her job is to prevent goals from being scored.

Below are some quick and easy guides to help you in understanding lacrosse & how the game is played.