Interested in having your son or daughter play lacrosse?
This is the place to learn about the game, the association programs, and what it takes to enroll your child in the fastest-growing sport in the US.
Here you will find several sections, covering the basics of the game, what type of equipment is needed to play, and information about seasonal play and leagues. New for parents this year is a document from US Lacrosse called "Raise Your Game" which explains the key rules of the sport. If your son or daughter is interested in lacrosse and you want to know what is up and coming, check out the Events section at the top of the site that highlights our current calendar of events as well as any clinics, tournaments, or games you just can't miss!
Finally, we have added a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section to cover the basic questions.
Let us know if we've missed anything, and we hope to see you on the fields!
If you are new to lacrosse, this is an overview that will assist you to better understand the game for both boys and girls. Lacrosse is a team game where a ball is passed and controlled using a stick with a mesh head (or pocket) at one end. If you have never seen lacrosse played, it is probably easiest to compare it to hockey or soccer. It is fast-paced with a lot more scoring than those other “net goal” sports. The object is much the same, shoot the ball into the opponent’s goal to score. The ball is made of rubber and is about the size of a tennis ball. The origins of the sport of lacrosse wins it some “cool points” for sure. Native Americans invented the game and used it as preparation for war as well as a means to solve conflicts.
Today, lacrosse is the fastest-growing youth, high school, and college team sport in the United States for both boys and girls. The combination of cool-looking gear, a fast-paced tempo, and the physical nature of the game really does stand out as being a sport born from battle. Also known as “the fastest game on two feet,” lacrosse seems to attract any kind of athlete, once they are exposed to it. The greatest thing about getting your child involved in lacrosse is that they do not have to be physically dominating to excel. Many of the best players in the nation rely on speed, agility, and determination, rather than brute strength or size.
When analyzing the "cool factor" of lacrosse across the country right now, it is impossible to ignore the fact that while it is the fastest-growing sport, it is not yet as popular as sports like football, baseball, and basketball. However, in many areas, it is getting close. Many athletes who play those sports add lacrosse to their schedule as a means to compete, stay in shape, and develop important motor skills such as hand-eye coordination.
Lacrosse has also become a major recruiting and college acceptance consideration at all levels of the game. As the sport of lacrosse grows, there will be more and more opportunities for athletes at all levels to enjoy the sport born centuries ago on the plains of North America from warriors and tribes. Other sports use terms like “going to battle” but lacrosse might be the only one born from actual tribal conflicts, making its origin story pretty hard to beat compared to other sports. Involving your son or daughter in any sport means evaluating the positives and negatives before signing them up. Lacrosse is a team sport requiring protective gear and game equipment in order to participate for both boys and girls.
Things To Consider:
Lacrosse is a physical game. It requires near-constant movement, which is fantastic for conditioning and overall fitness. Though youth lacrosse doesn’t allow full-body checking, there is still contact between players. The game uses a stick with a head on it that holds a ball. The ball can hurt. It is important to note the physical nature of the game because not all athletes and not all kids like contact sports. You and your child should talk openly about this, as it will be part of your decision to play.
Lacrosse requires coordination. Players use a stick with a head to catch and throw a rubber ball. The coordination required to run and handle using the stick, as well as being hit by the sticks of their opponents, means that most kids aren’t fully prepared until at least third or fourth grade. That doesn’t mean you can’t start your child out earlier. Stick skills are so important, so if they begin really young their aptitude should exceed that of their peers who join later. Every child is different and you know yours better than anyone, so evaluate their ability but also their willingness to practice and your willingness to help.
Lacrosse is a game of practice. As mentioned before, stick skills become a major asset or liability for players. Handling the stick while running and getting comfortable and adept at catching, passing, and shooting the ball will require many hours of practice and drills outside of team play. Players can use a tennis ball against a wall to start, doing various drills to learn techniques for handling their stick, but they won’t improve without committing to practicing a lot. Everyone develops at a different rate but it is important to consider your child’s ability to focus for long periods of time and whether they have the kind of personality that drives them to master something or become frustrated at the first signs of trouble. It takes persistence to excel at anything and lacrosse is certainly no exception.
Lacrosse is all about being part of a TEAM. One of the great things about the sport of lacrosse is, with the sport growing in popularity, there are more opportunities than ever to join a team so kids can start at any time that makes sense for them. While it can take some time to learn the fundamentals, and begin to become adept with handling the tools of the sport, the game offers a chance for even the entry-level player to compete and enjoy themselves. Getting your child involved should mostly come down to their enthusiasm about embracing a new sport and being part of a team. Lacrosse is not an individual sport. It will quickly teach your child to share, pass, and back up their fellow players.
How Women’s Field Lacrosse Differs from Men’s Field Lacrosse
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).
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.
Credit: By James Hinkson and Joe Lombardi
Part of the Lacrosse For Dummies Cheat Sheet
Download PDF Guide
Boy’s lacrosse teams use netted sticks to carry, pass, and shoot a ball along a field in an effort to score goals. A goal counts as one point and is scored when the lacrosse ball completely crosses the opposing goal line between the posts and under the crossbar. The team scoring the greater number of goals in the allotted time wins the game.
Lacrosse stick, solid rubber ball, helmet with face guard and chin strap, lacrosse gloves, shoulder and elbow pads, cleats or sneakers, shorts and team jersey, mouth guard, and athletic supporter with cup.
How Long Is A Game?
A game is divided into four quarters. Depending on league rules, each quarter ranges from ten to fifteen minutes with a ten-minute break at halftime. Each period begins with a “face-off” at midfield. Teams switch playing sides after each period and are allowed two time-outs per half. If a game ends in a tie, teams may play overtime periods of sudden death; the team to score first wins.
Check This Out!
Body Check - Defensively using the body to hit an opposing ball carrier or a player within fifteen feet of a loose ball. The body check must always be done above the waist and from the front or side. Body checking is NOT permitted at the U11 (5/6) level and below.
Stick Check - In an effort to dislodge the ball from the “pocket,” the defending player strikes his stick against the stick of an opposing ball carrier.
Poke Check - A defender jabs his stick at the hands of an opposing ball carrier in an effort to jar the ball loose. If in the act of going for the ball carrier’s hands, the defender pokes the body, no foul is called. It is a foul if a player “slashes” his opponent.
Slap Check - A type of poke check in which a player snaps his wrists, to slap his stick hard against an opponent’s hands.
Wrap Check - A stick check in which the defender’s stick is swung over the head or around the body of the ball carrier.
Any violation of the rules of play results in a penalty and the offending player is removed from the game for a designated time. The fouling player serves time in a penalty area and his position on the field cannot be filled. His team must play “man down” until the penalty is over or a goal is scored by the other team. If a player commits five fouls he is removed from play for good. The removed player’s position may then be filled by a teammate.
Personal Foul - A player may not trip, slash, recklessly charge, or use his stick or body to illegally check an opposing player. An illegal body check is a hit above an opponent’s shoulders, below the waist, or from behind. It is further illegal to use the stick as a means to interfere with an advancing opponent. Depending on the severity of the personal foul, the violating player sits out of play for one to three minutes in the penalty box.
Technical Foul - Called against a player who pushes an opponent, holds him or his stick, touches the ball with his hands or goes “offside” when his team does not possess the ball. Any of these fouls result in a thirty-second penalty. However, if a player commits one of these fouls while his team has the ball, he stays on the field and the opposing team gains ball possession.
Expulsion Fouls - Occurs if a player is overly aggressive in striking an opponent or is verbally abusive to an official. The offender is ejected for the duration of play. The removed player may be replaced by a teammate after three minutes.
Slashing - A reckless and illegal stick check to the body of a ball carrier. Slashing results in a personal foul. Only the hands holding the stick or the stick itself may be checked by the defender’s stick.
Offside - Called anytime a team has fewer than four players on its defensive side of the field or fewer than three players on its attacking side. If the defending team is offside when a goal scores, it counts. If the attacking team scores but is called offside, the goal does not count and the ball is turned over to the other team.
In-the-crease - Attacking players may never enter the opposing goal crease. They may only reach in with their sticks when attempting to get control of the ball. Defensive players may not enter their own goal crease when carrying the ball. And, the goalie cannot hold the ball in his crease for more than four seconds. Such fouls result in the loss of ball possession.
Did You Know That?
North American Indians began playing a form of lacrosse several centuries ago in preparation for battle. It was called “Baggataway” and games lasted up to several days. French missionaries to North America gave lacrosse its modern name, as the stick the Indians played with resembled a bishop’s staff - “crosse” in French. The game as it is played today originated around 1840. Canada declared lacrosse, not hockey, its national game in 1867.
Who Plays Where?
Two teams of ten players are on the field at one time. Teams usually line up with one goalkeeper, three defenders, three midfielders, and three attackers. On face-offs, players must remain in their respective playing zones until one team gains possession of the ball. Also, teams must have at least four players in their defending half and three players in their attacking half of the field at all times of the game.
Any player may score a goal and every player must contribute on defense when necessary. Substitutions may take place any time during the game.
Midfielders (or Middies) - As the main ball carriers on the team, middies cover the entire length of the field playing both offense and defense. Their responsibilities are to bring the ball up the field into the attack zone to set up offensive plays and scoring opportunities with their attackers.
Attackers - Positioned in the opposing goal area, they are typically the best stick handlers and are the primary goal scorers on the team. Together with the middies, the attackers work the ball offensively to set up scoring opportunities.
Defenders - Play in the defending goal area around their goal crease. These players use longer sticks (shafts up to 72 inches) that enable them to better “poke check” the sticks of opposing ball carriers. Defenders constantly check attacking players to prevent them from taking shots on their goal. They also work with their goalie to “clear” the ball from their defensive zone up to the midfielders.
Goalkeeper (or Goalie) - Plays inside the “goal crease” in front of his team’s goal. He uses a larger-headed stick (up to 15 inches wide) to best defend against oncoming shots. He is the only player allowed to touch the ball with his hands, but can only do so when blocking shots inside his goal crease. He may not control the ball with his hands, only with the stick.
Learn the Lingo!
Clamping - On the face-off, a player pushes the back of his stick down on the ball in an attempt to gain control of it.
Clearing - An important defensive maneuver where defending players run or pass the ball out of their goal area. The clearing is best done along the sidelines, away from the front of the goal.
Cradling - In order to maintain control of the ball when moving along the field, players turn their wrists and arms to cradle the ball in the stick pocket.
Crank Shot - A shot on goal in which a player takes a backswing wind-up and fires the ball underhand or sidearm.
Crease - The eighteen-foot diameter circle surrounding each team’s goal.
Cutting - An attacking player without the ball darts around a defender toward the goal in order to receive a “feed pass.”
Extra Man (or Man Up) - Describes the team at a player advantage in a penalty situation. Opposite of man down.
Face-off - Takes place at the start of each quarter, after every goal, and after certain dead balls. Two opposing players crouch down at midfield, hold their sticks flat on the ground and press the backs of their stick pockets together. The ball is then placed between the pockets and, when signaled to start, the players “rake” or clamp on the ball to vie for control.
Face Dodging - A player with the ball cradles the stick across his face in an attempt to dodge a stick-poking defender.
Fast Break - When an offensive team quickly mounts a scoring attack enabling them to gain a man advantage over the opposing defense. Usually a four on three.
Feed Pass - An offensive play in which one player passes the ball to a cutting teammate for a “quick stick” shot on goal.
Ground Balls - Players compete for the control of loose ground balls by stick checking opponents away from the ball while simultaneously trying to scoop it up.
Man Down - Describes the team which has lost a player to the penalty box and must play with fewer men on the field.
Man-to-man - A defensive setup in which each defending player guards a specific offensive opponent.
Out-of-bounds - When a shot goes out of play, the player closest to the sideline where the ball went out gets the ball.
Passing - An integral part to quickly moving the ball. Players throw overhand, underhand, or sidearm to each other.
Pick - An offensive player without the ball positions himself against the body of a defender to allow a teammate to get open and receive a pass or take a shot.
Pocket - The head of the stick in which the ball is held and carried. The pocket is strung with leather and/or mesh netting.
Quick Stick - When the ball reaches an offensive player’s stick on a feed pass, he catches it and then shoots it toward the goal in one swift motion.
Raking - A face-off move by a player who, in trying to gain possession of the ball, sweeps it away from his opponent.
Riding - When an attacking team loses possession of the ball, it must quickly revert to playing defense in order to prevent the ball from being cleared back out.
Roll Dodge - An offensive move in which a ballcarrier, using his body as a shield between a defensive player and the cradled ball, spins around the defender.
Scooping - The manner in which a player picks up loose ground balls. He bends toward the ground, slides the pocket of his stick underneath the ball, and lifts it into the netting of the stick.
Screen - An attacking player without possession of the ball positions himself in front of the opposing goal crease in an effort to block the goalkeeper’s view.
Slide - When an offensive player with the ball has gotten past his defender, a defending teammate will shift his position to pick up that advancing player.
Zone Defense - When defenders play in specific areas of their defensive zone, rather than covering man-to-man.
Download PDF Guide
Women’s lacrosse teams use netted sticks to carry, throw, and shoot a ball along a field in an effort to score goals. A goal counts as one point and is scored when the ball completely crosses the opposing goal line between the posts and under the crossbar. The team scoring the greater number of goals in the allotted time wins the game.
Lacrosse stick, solid rubber ball, team uniform with kilt or shorts, gloves, sneakers or cleats, mouth guard, and protective eyewear or helmet. Goalkeepers wear extra padding.
How Long Is A Game?
Generally, a game is divided into two twenty-five-minute halves, with a ten-minute break at halftime. Each half begins at the center circle with a “draw” between two opposing players. Team captains flip a coin to choose playing sides and teams switch sides at halftime. If a game ends with the score even, it is a tie. Some leagues may decide the result of a tie by playing overtime periods of sudden death; the team scoring first wins.
Stand And Draw!
The Draw - Takes place between opposing players in the center circle to start each half and after every goal. The two centers stand opposite each other across the centerline, holding their sticks waist high with the stick pockets touching back-to-back. The referee places the ball between the netting of the stick pockets. When the signal is given to start, each player pulls her stick upwards and backward to release the ball into the air. Players then attempt to gain possession of the ball. Prior to the start of the draw, all other players on the field must remain completely outside the center circle. If a violation of the draw occurs twice, a referee will restart play using a “throw.”
Throw - Used in a variety of situations when play has been stopped, such as when two opposing fouls occur simultaneously. On a throw, two opposing players stand side-by-side, three feet apart. The umpire throws the ball up in the air between the two players who then move to gain possession and control of the ball.
Stand - Anytime the whistle is blown to stop action, all players must stop moving and stand where they are on the field. They have to remain standing in their stationary positions until play restarts or is redirected by an official.
Out of Play - If the ball either rolls or is carried out of bounds, the official will blow the whistle and all players must stand where they are on the field. Regardless of which player sent the ball out of play, the player nearest to the ball (when it went out) gets possession.
Trapped Ball - If the ball gets caught in a goalie’s pads or clothing or in the netting of the goal itself, the ball is placed in the goalie’s stick and play resumes. However, if the ball gets trapped in another fielder’s clothes or her lacrosse stick, a throw is used to restart play.
Free Position - Awarded to a player after a major or minor foul has been committed anywhere on the field. The free position is always taken at least eight meters from the crease. On a major foul all other players must stand at least four meters behind the player taking the free position, while on a minor foul they may stand four meters to the side. The official places the ball in the stick pocket of the player taking the free position, who then passes, shoots, or runs with the ball.
A violation of the rules results in a major or minor foul, awarding a free position to the fouled player. It is a major foul when a player charges, pushes, trips, blocks, or makes physical contact with an opponent; “slashes” an opposing ballcarrier; commits a “shooting space violation;” or invades the body space of an opposing player, such as touching her stick to that player’s body. A minor foul is called if a player uses her stick or foot to shield a ground ball; if a player kicks the ball or touches it with her hands (except for the goalie inside her crease). Also, no part of a player’s body or stick may enter the crease while the goalie is in her position there.
Did You Know That?
The origin of women’s lacrosse can be traced back to the Indians of North America, who played a form of the men’s game in their preparation for battle. However, it was not until the mid-19th century that the English first played a unique style of a stick and ball game solely for women. Competing girls’ schools began playing this modern game in the 1860s. Many of the general rules of play in those first games resemble those used today.
Two teams of twelve players are on the field at one time. There are no set boundaries or perimeter lines on the playing field, therefore, no offside violations can occur. Players thus cover the entire length of the field. Positions are determined according to where players can best contribute on the field. In most leagues, unlimited substitutions are allowed during the course of a game.
Attack Players (1st, 2nd, and 3rd Home) - As the front line of the offensive attack, these players are usually the team’s primary goal scorers. They try to maintain offensive positions around the opposing team’s goal in order to gain scoring opportunities.
Midfielders (Two defense wings, two attack wings, and one center) - These five players contribute to both offense and defense while covering the entire length of the field. As the team’s main ball carriers, they control the tempo of the game.
Defensive Players (Point, Cover Point, and 3rd Man) - These three players help defend against offensive attacks and work to “clear” the ball from out of their goal area up to the midfielders. They generally remain on their defensive side of the field surrounding their team’s own goal. On a draw, they line up vertically from their goal toward the center circle.
Goalkeeper - Plays inside the “crease” directly in front of her own goal to block incoming shots. She uses a stick with an oversized head to best prevent shots from scoring. The goalie is the only player allowed to touch the ball with her hands but may do so only when she is standing inside the crease. Upon gaining control of the ball with her stick, the goalie has ten seconds either to pass the ball away or to run it out of her crease. If the goalie leaves the crease while in possession of the ball, she may not reenter the crease unless the ball goes back inside first or she passes the
Checking - Two forms of checking are permitted: the body check and the stick check. A body check occurs when a defending player moves her body in front of an opposing ball carrier to redirect her progress. On a stick check, a defender knocks her stick against an opponent’s stick in an attempt to knock the ball loose. The latter is done with sharp, quick jabs directed away from the face and body of the player being checked. Both styles are legal provided that there is no body contact and that the stick check is neither reckless nor touches any part of the ball carrier’s body. A player may not hold her stick on an opponent’s stick.
Clearing - An important defensive maneuver in which defending players run or pass the ball out of their goal area. The clearing is best done along the sidelines, away from the front of the goal.
Cradling - When moving with the ball, a player uses her wrists and arms to turn the stick, in order to maintain control of the ball while in the stick pocket.
Critical Scoring Area - The semicircle area in front of each team's crease from where most goals are scored. This area includes the twelve-meter fan and the eight-meter arc.
Cutting - An offensive player without the ball quickly moves around a defending player or into an open space in order to get free and open to receive a “feed pass.”
Fast Break - An offensive team speedily runs the ball upfield on an attack to gain a player advantage over the defense.
Feed Pass - Used by the offense when they are near the opposing goal. One player passes the ball to a cutting teammate who then takes a shot on goal.
Goal Circle (or Crease) - The nine-foot diameter circle surrounding each goal. Only one player is allowed in the goal circle at a time and no player from outside may reach in with her stick. It is also a foul when any player enters the circle while the goalkeeper is in position there.
Ground Balls - Describes the ball loose on the ground. Players will position their bodies in front of opposing players to block them from scooping up the ball.
Man-to-man - A defensive setup in which each defending player guards a specific offensive opponent.
Marking - The play of a defender who uses her stick and body to closely guard and follow an opposing offensive player.
Passing - Throwing the ball between teammates, done overhand, underhand, or sidearm, and sometimes along the ground.
Pocket - The head of the lacrosse stick where the ball is held and carried. Depending on the style of the stick, the pocket is strung with either leather and gut netting or mesh netting.
Pick-up - The manner in which a player picks up a loose ground ball. She crouches toward the ground, slides the pocket of her stick underneath the ball, and lifts it into the netting of her stick.
Shooting Space Violation - When a defender is more than a stick's length away from an opponent while inside the critical scoring area in front of her own goal. Thereby obstructing incoming shots.
Shovel Pass - A short underhand pass used between teammates who are in close proximity to one another.
Slashing - A major foul against any player who recklessly stick checks an opponent using a dangerous, sweeping stroke.
Stop Play - When a foul occurs or the ball goes out of play, the umpire blows a whistle to stop the action of the game. To restart play or redirect a player, a throw or free position is taken. If play stops as a result of an injury, the ball is given to either the player who held the ball last or who was closest to it before the whistle blew. The official game clock continues to run whenever play has stopped - except during injury time-outs or every time the whistle sounds during the last two minutes of each half.
Zone Defense - Defenders cover specific areas of their defensive zone as opposed to man-to-man coverage.
Lacrosse equipment is designed to safeguard the player during the game. The player is the most safe when the equipment is in good condition and fits properly. US Lacrosse has detailed information about fitting the equipment to the player. You can download the US Lacrosse Equipment Fit Guide or go to the US Lacrosse website for more information.
The crosse (lacrosse stick) is made of wood, laminated wood or synthetic material, with a shaped net pocket at the end. The crosse must be an overall length of 40 - 42 inches for attackmen and midfielders, or 52 - 72 inches for defensemen. The head of the crosse must be 6.5 - 10 inches wide, except a goalie's crosse which may be 10 - 12 inches wide. The pocket of a crosse 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. All lacrosse balls must meet NOCSAE (National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment) standards and include the words "Meets NOCSAE Standard".
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 players. All helmets and face masks must 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 is prohibited.
Other Protective Equipment:
All players, with the exception of the goalkeeper, must wear shoulder pads (NOCSAE approved) and a protective cup. Arm pads are required and rib pads are 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, gloves, and a protective cup.
The crosse (lacrosse stick) is made of wood, laminated wood, or synthetic material, with a shaped net pocket at the end. A girl's crosse must be an overall length of 35.5 - 43.25 inches. The head of the crosse must be seven to nine inches wide. The top of the ball when dropped in the pocket must remain above the side walls.* The goalkeeper's crosse may be 35.5- 48 inches long. The head of the crosse may be mesh and up to 12 inches wide.
* Modified Pocket allowed in girls' youth rules at 10U and below.
For 10U and above, the game ball must be yellow, lime green, or orange, and made of solid rubber, smooth without dimples. All lacrosse balls must meet NOCSAE (National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment) standards and include the words "Meets NOCSAE Standard".
All players must wear mouthguards that fully cover the teeth. The mouthpiece shall be of a readily visible color other than clear or white and must not have graphics of white teeth. There shall be no protruding tabs for field players.
All field players must properly wear protection that meets ASTM standard F3077 for women's adult/youth lacrosse for the appropriate level of play.
Close-fitting gloves and headgear that meets ASTM standard F3137 are optional and may be worn by all players.
See approved listings for: Eyewear | Sticks | Headgear