Lacrosse 101 - | Official Website of University of Louisville Athletics
Lacrosse 101


July 20, 2006

Women's lacrosse is a non-contact game played by 12 players: a goalkeeper, five attackers and six defenders. The object of the game is to shoot the ball into the opponent's goal. The team scoring the most goals wins.

Women's lacrosse begins with a draw, which is taken by the center position. The ball is placed between two horizontally held crosses (sticks) at the center of the field. At the sound of the whistle, the ball is flung into the air as the crosses are pulled up and away. A draw is used to start each half and after each goal, and it takes place at the center of the field.

The collegiate game is 60 minutes long, each half being 30 minutes. The high school girl's game is 50 minutes long, each half being 25 minutes. In both collegiate and high school play, teams are allowed one timeout per half.

There are visual guidelines on the side of the field that are in place to provide a consistent indicator to the officials of what is considered the playing field. The minimum dimensions for a field is 120 yards by 70 yards. Additional markings on the field include a restraining line located 30 yards from each goal line, which creates an area where only a maximum of seven offensive players and eight defensive players (including the goalkeeper) are allowed; a 12-meter fan, which officials use to position players after fouls; and an arc in front of each goal, considered the critical scoring area, where defenders must be at least within a stick's-length of their attacker.

The boundaries are determined by the natural restrictions of the field. An area of 120 yards by 70 yards is desirable.

When a whistle blows, all players must stop in place. When a ball is ruled out of play, the player closest to the ball gets possession when play is resumed. Loss of possession may occur if a player deliberately runs or throws the ball out of play.

Rough checks, and contact to the body with the crosse or body, are not allowed.

Field players may pass, catch or run with the ball in their crosse. A player may gain possession of the ball by dislodging it from an opponent's crosse with a check. A check is a controlled tap with a crosse on an opponent's crosse in an attempt to knock the ball free. The player must be one step in front of her opponent in order to check. No player may reach across an opponent's body to check the handle of a crosse when she is even with or behind that opponent. A player may not protect the ball in her crosse by cradling so close to her body or face so as to make a legal, safe check impossible for the opponent. All legal checks must be directed away from a seven-inch sphere or "bubble" around the head of the player. No player is allowed to touch the ball with her hands except the goalkeeper when she is within the goal circle. A change of possession may occur if a player gains a distinct advantage by playing the ball off her body.

Fouls are categorized as major or minor, and the penalty for fouls is a "free position." For major fouls, the offending player is placed four meters behind the player taking the free position. For a minor foul, the offending player is placed four meters off, in the direction from which she approached her opponent before committing the foul, and play is resumed. When a minor foul is committed in the critical scoring area, the player with the ball has an indirect free position, in which case the player must pass first.

A slow whistle occurs when the offense has entered the critical scoring area and the defense has committed a major foul. A flag is thrown but no whistle is sounded so that the offense has an opportunity to score a goal. A whistle is blown when a goal is scored or the scoring opportunity is over. An immediate whistle is blown when a major foul, obstruction or shooting space occurs, which jeopardizes the safety of a player.



First Home:

The first home's responsibility is to score. Located in front of the goal, the first home must continually cut toward the goal for a shot, or cut away from the goal to make room for another player. She should have excellent stickwork.

Second Home:
The second home is considered the playmaker. She should be able to shoot well from every angle and distance from the goal.

Third Home:
The third home's responsibility is to transition the ball from defense to attack. She should be able to feed the ball to other players and fill in wing areas.

Attack Wings:
The wings are also responsible for transitioning the ball from defense to attack. Wings should have speed and endurance and be ready to receive the ball from the defense and run or pass the ball.


The point's responsibility is to mark first home. She should be able to stick check, body check and look to intercept passes.

The coverpoint's responsibility is to mark second home. She should be able to receive clears, run fast and have good footwork.

Third Man:
The third man's responsibility is to mark third home. She should be able to intercept passes, clear the ball, run fast and have good footwork.

The center's responsibility is to control the draw and play both defense and attack. She should have speed and endurance.

Defense Wings:
The wings are responsible for marking the attack wings and bringing the ball into the attack area. Wings should have speed and endurance.

The goalkeeper's responsibility is to protect the goal. She should have good stickwork, courage and confidence.

The Basics!
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.

What's Needed?
Lacrosse stick, solid rubber ball, team uniform with kilt or shorts, gloves, sneakers or cleats, and mouth guard. (Some leagues require protective eye- wear.) 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 center line, 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 backwards 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 - Although there are no set boundary lines in women's lacrosse, the ball can still go out-of-bounds if it either rolls or is carried beyond an agreed upon boundary. When this occurs, the official blows the whistle and 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.

Foul Play!
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 1860's. Many of the general rules of play in those first games resemble those used today.



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