Growing the sport of lacrosse in the Tahoma School District since 1999.

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A Quick Guide to Lacrosse

The fastest game on two feet, Lacrosse is a combination of the speed of basketball and the contact of football.  Skill, power, speed, endurance and intelligence….THIS IS LACROSSE. 

The Game 

The Field: Lacrosse is played on a field approximately the size of a football field:  110 yards long by 60 yards wide.  The goals are 6 feet square and are placed in a crease, which is a circle with a 9-foot radius.  Offensive players are not allowed in the crease at any time during the game.  The sticks used are generally made of molded plastic with either a nylon mesh or a leather and nylon woven pocket, with either aluminum, titanium or alloy handle.  The sticks vary in length from 40 to 72 inches, depending on the position played. 

Players: There are 10 players in action at one time on a lacrosse team: a goalie, three defensemen, three midfielders, and three attackmen.  At all times, a team must have three men on its offensive half of the field and four men on its defensive half. 

Goalie: The goalie uses a wider stick and wears a chest protector, as his job is to stop the opponents’ shots, which may come flying at him at over 100mph.  The best goalies are either brave or crazy…or a little of both.  After making a save and gaining possession of the ball, the goalie is allowed to stay in the crease for only four seconds.  During that time, no one is allowed to touch him. 

Defensemen: Defensemen use a longer stick (72 inches) and generally stay on the defensive half of the field.  Their job is to guard the opponent’s attackmen and take the ball away from them.  Defensemen need to be quick, aggressive, and tough. 

Midfielders: Middies, as they are also called, play both offense and defense, thus, they must run the length of the field.  They are usually substituted frequently in units so as to keep them fresh.  Speed and endurance are essential for middies.  In recent years coaches have begun using “long-stick middies” – middies with defense sticks – as defensive specialists. 

Attackmen: Attackmen use the shortest stick so as to limit the chance of losing the ball.  They generally stay on the offensive half of the field and coordinate the offense.  They are usually the best stick handlers and must be quick and agile.  

Gear:  All players must wear helmets, shoulder pads, gloves and mouthpieces.  Arm pads are usually worn, especially by middies and attackmen, and rib pads have become more popular in recent times.  In addition, goalies wear a chest protector and a throat protector. 

Lacrosse Terminology 

Face-off: The game begins with the ball placed at the middle of the field between the sticks of two opposing midfielders.  At the sound of the official’s whistle, the two players try to clamp the ball under their sticks and gain control of it.  Face-offs also occur after each goal.  Attack and defensemen must stay in their “restraining area” until someone has possession of the ball. 

Clearing: Trying to get the ball from your defensive end of the field to the offensive end.   Riding: Trying to stop an opponent’s effort to clear.  

Slide: When a defender moves from his offensive man to another to help a teammate double-team an opponent threatening to score.  

Checking: Using your stick to hit the stick of an opponent in possession of the ball. 

Body Checking: Using your body to hit an opponent in possession of the ball or within five yards of a loose ball. 

Man-Up: When the opposing team has a player in the penalty box, the offensive team goes to a Man-Up offense. 

Man-Down: When a team has a player in the penalty box then it is in a man-down situation. 

Playing the Game 

Offensively: On offense, the attacking team will run set plays and formations just as a basketball team would, with cutters, picks (no moving picks allowed), and feeders.  They will usually go one-on-one, or free-lance.  Naturally, there are numerous opportunities for fast breaks or unsettled situations. 

Defensively: On defense, teams usually play man-to-man with a team concept of backups and slides to assist a teammate.  When a person has the ball, a defensive player may check (hit) his stick or his hands in order to try to dislodge the ball.  He may also deliver a body check to the player from the front between the waist and the shoulders.  In addition, in a loose-ball situation, a player may hit any opponent within 5 yards of the ball in the same manner. 


Penalties are classified as either technical or personal fouls.  Technical fouls either cause the offending team to lose possession of the ball, award the other team the ball, or place the offending player in the “penalty box” for 30 seconds if the opponents had possession of the ball at the time of the infraction.  Personal fouls result in a one, two or three-minute penalty or expulsion from the game.  In the case of a time penalty, the offending team must play a man short, thus yielding the opponents a “man-up” opportunity. 

Personal Fouls

Slashing: Striking an opponent’s body other than his hand with your stick.  (To an extent, striking the arms is allowed.)

Tripping: Obstructing the opponent below the knee with your body or stick.

Illegal body checking: Hitting an opponent from the rear, below the waist, above the shoulders, or when the opponent neither has the ball nor is within 5 yards of a loose ball.

Crosschecking: Hitting the opponent with the part of the stick between your hands.

Unsportsmanlike conduct: Official’s discretion. 

Technical Fouls

Offside: Failure to have either three players on your offensive half of the field or four players on your defensive half.  The normal position of these players is not significant, only the number is.

Holding: Holding an opponent or his stick with your body or stick.  This does not eliminate body checks or holding your position, but you may not wrap your stick around an opponent and thus stop his movement.

Pushing: Pushing an opponent from the rear, or when he is not within five years or the ball.  All body contact must occur with both hands on your stick.  You many not use your free hand to push off.

Interference: Moving picks, preventing cutters free movement, etc.  Also, hitting the goalie in the crease when he has possession of the ball. 

There are also other technical fouls from throwing the stick, lying on a loose ball, illegal substitutions, playing without a stick, delay of game, and more.