If your child is jumping into the world of lacrosse, the sport might be unfamiliar to you. You might need an idea of what the game is all about so you can cheer your child on from the sideline. Look at our parents’ guide to boys’ lacrosse rules below so that you can understand the basics of this sport.
The first thing parents should understand is the field that lacrosse is played on. A lacrosse field is very similar to a soccer field, with white lines and either natural grass or field turf. Both will also feature a sideline for the teams on one end of the field separated by a penalty/substitution area. Here are some other important things to note about lacrosse fields:
- 110 yards long and 60 yards wide
- Restraining lines
- Wing area
The length of a lacrosse game mainly depends on which age group they compete in. Many youth leagues across the country follow US Lacrosse’s rules, which are as follows:
- 8U: Two 12-minute running halves with a 4-minute halftime intermission.
- 10U: Four 10-minute running quarters with a 5-minute halftime intermission.
- 12U/14U: Four 10-minute stop time quarters with a 2-minute intermission in-between quarters and a 5-minute half-time intermission.
As players progress to levels, the game becomes longer. In high school, games will be 48 minutes long with four, 12-minute quarters. College games are 60 minutes long with four, 15-minute quarters.
Lacrosse is a fast-paced game with plenty of goal scoring. Despite games reaching 10-20 goals by one team, each is still only worth one point. This is the case all through college, but in the pros, there is a 2-point arch about 20 yards from the cage.
At the start of each quarter and after every goal, a face-off will occur in the middle of the field between two players. A player who will do a faceoff is usually a midfielder with a short stick. The ref will start the face-off by placing the ball in-between the players’ lacrosse stick heads that are on the ground. When the whistle blows, the two players will battle for possession by trying to clamp and scoop up the ball.
When someone eventually gets the ball, they will move forward to the offensive zone. Players will then need to get a touch in the restraining line before the time expires, or else it will result in an automatic turnover. In some high school conferences, there is now a shot clock, and it won’t rest until there is a shot in on the net. If a ball goes out of bounds off a shot, whoever is closest to the ball will get possession.
The next part in our parents’ guide to boys’ lacrosse rules has to do with the positions on the field and the important things to know about each of them. Overall, there are 10 players out on the field at a time. Here’s a breakdown of their role and some limitations that come with it:
- Midfielder (3 on the field): Play both offense and defense, which means they can go anywhere on the field.
- Attackman (3 on the field): Just play offense and can only stay on the offensive side of the field.
- Defender (3 on the field): Just play defense and can only stay on the defensive side of the field. Defensemen will also play with a long lacrosse stick.
- Goalie (1 on the field): Will stand in the goal and can only be on the defensive side of the field.
It’s worth nothing that an attackman, defender, or goalie can cross the middle of the field if a midfielder stays back and avoids offsides.
In lacrosse, there are also several penalties that can land a player in the penalty box and give a team a man-up advantage (like a power play in hockey). Penalties can range from 30 seconds to a minute or longer depending on what’s called. Here are some common technical and personal fouls that occur in lacrosse:
Technical Fouls (Ranges from a 30-second penalty to a change of possession):
- Crease violation: When an offensive player enters the circle around the net. This can either overturn a goal or result in a change of possession.
- Offsites: When a team has seven or more field players on one side of the field.
- Warding: When a player with possession of the ball uses their off-hand to keep their opponent from getting the ball. Players can avoid this by protecting the ball and keeping their opposite arm still.
- Holding: This foul will get a whistle if a player uses their arm, feet, or stick to keep another player from moving on the field.
Personal Fouls (Ranges from a 1-3 minute penalty):
- Slashing: When a player uses their stick too aggressively against their opponent against their back, legs, or helmet.
- Push: When a player pushes an opponent who possesses the ball.
- Body check: Pushing or checking a player in the back.
Penalties can also be releasable or non-releasable at the ref's discretion. If the opposing team scores and the penalty is non-releasable, then the team will still be man-up and remaining time on the penalty is served.
While lacrosse is typically played outside, the game can also be played indoors. Indoor lacrosse in known as box lacrosse and originated in Canada. Some key differences between box lacrosse and traditional lacrosse include the following:
- The field is smaller with boards like hockey or indoor soccer.
- It’s 5v5 with one goalie each and players can go all over the field.
- Goalies will wear more equipment and the goal is smaller.
Safety is also a priority in lacrosse with many rules to protect the players. Players wear equipment, but it needs to be compliant with the standards in place. Two major pieces of equipment that must follow regulations are helmets and chest protection approved by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE).
A rule change for chest protection started this year and you can find a selection of legal NOCSAE lacrosse chest protectors for goalies that meet the (ND) 200-18 standard and SEI certification at Lacrosse Fanatic. Starting in 2022, all field players must wear chest protection that meets NOCSAE and SEI standards.
Rules are also in place for the type of stick a player uses, and if it’s found illegal, then a player cannot use the stick until it’s fixed. A player can also face a two-minute non-releasable penalty or face ejection from a game.
Another common rule young players are guilty of breaking relates to wearing a mouthguard properly. If a player is “fish hooking” (wearing the mouthguard on one side of the mouth) or not wearing a mouthguard, then it can result in a penalty.
Lacrosse is full of so many different components that can be confusing to a first-time parent of the sport. However, lacrosse becomes incredibly exciting to follow once you brush up on the rules.