Rules of men’s lacrosse

Men’s lacrosse rules of play

The rules of lacrosse vary between the different versions of the game with different laws and equipment. Here we concentrate on some of the basic rules of men’s lacrosse which is a much more physical version of the sport.

The basics

Rules of men's lacrosse
  • Men's lacrosse is played by 10 players: a goalkeeper, three defensemen, three midfielders and three attackmen.
  • The playing field is generally 110yd (100m) long and 60yd (55m) wide with a 6ft (1.8m) x 6ft (1.8m) goal at each end.
  • The object of the game is to shoot the ball into the opponent’s goal, with the team scoring the most goals winning.
  • Each team must keep at least four players, including the goalie, in its defensive half of the field and three in its offensive half. Three midfielders are allowed to roam the entire field.
  • An attacking player cannot enter the crease around the goal, but may reach in with the stick to scoop a loose ball.
  • There are four quarters in a game. The length of a game is 60 minutes, which is generally four quarters lasting 15 minutes each (although there are variations depending on the age of the teams playing). Teams change sides between periods.
  • Penalties regulate the physical tendencies of the game with a referee monitoring play.

Starting and playing the game

  • The team winning the coin toss decides which end of the field it wishes to defend first.
  • Matches begin with a face-off (much like in hockey) with the ball placed between the sticks of two players in the centre of the field who then contest possession.
  • Face-offs are also used at the start of each quarter and after a goal is scored.
  • Players use their crosses to pass, catch and run with the ball. They are not allowed to touch the ball with their hands; only the goalkeeper is allowed to do this.
  • Players can attempt to gain possession of the ball by knocking it from an opponent’s crosse with a stick check. A stick check is the poking and slapping of the stick and gloved hands of the player in possession — but it must be done in a controlled and safe fashion.
  • Body checking is allowed if the player is in possession or is within 5 yards of a loose ball. Body contact must be from the front or side, above the waist and below the shoulders, and with both hands on the stick. Overly aggressive body checking is penalized.
  • A player may also stick check an opponent’s crosse if they are within 5 yards of a loose ball or ball in the air.
  • Possession goes to the opposition if the ball goes or is taken out of bounds.
  • 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.

Clearly there is a whole host of other rules specific to the finer details of the men’s game. Much of this relates to personal fouls (such as tripping, illegal body checking and unsportsmanlike conduct), technical fouls (such as holding, interference or offside), and timing issues (such as those dictating how quickly a team must release or move the ball) but there should be enough here to allow you to start to understand the very basics of the game.

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