Essential Lacrosse Rules for Fans and Players

The Lacrosse Rules You Need to Know

Are you a new fan of lacrosse trying to learn more how the game works? Are you a new player trying to learn the rules of the game? Do you just want to learn more about lacrosse rules? Read on. 

Lacrosse is a fun sport to both watch and play, but sometimes the rules can be confusing, especially if you are not familiar with the game. Here are the basic rules of (boys) lacrosse that will help you become a better fan or player:


Table of Contents

Positions – What does each position do?

Specialty Players – Who are the specialty players in lacrosse?

Face-offs – What is a face-off?

General Rules – Game length, penalties, etc.

Lacrosse Rules – Positions

  • Attackmen: Attackmen can be compared to the “forward” position in soccer or hockey. Attackmen line up close to the goal, and their primary job is to score goals and assists. They must stay on the offensive side of the field, in other words, the half of the field that has the goal that the team is trying to score on. Here’s an illustration to show you what I meanLaxWeekly lacrosse rules attackman
  • Midfielders: Midfielders are the “do-it-all” lacrosse players. Unlike attackmen, midfielders can go anywhere on the field, which means that they play both offense and defense. Midfielders can score just like attackmen, but they are also must play defense then the opponent has the ball. 
  • Defensemen: Defensemen are the players that play defense against the opposing team’s attackmen. Just like attackmen, defensive players are only allowed to stay on one side of the field; the side that they are defending on. You’ll often find defensemen with longer lacrosse sticks than midfielders and attackmen. Each team is allowed to have 4 players with long sticks on the field at one time.

  • Goalies: In lacrosse, there are 2 goalies on the field, one for each team. Much like a goalie in hockey or soccer, goalies in lacrosse try to stop the ball from going in the net. The best goalies have quick hands and great reflexes.

Lacrosse Rules – Specialty Positions

  • Face-off man (FOGO): In recent years, this position has risen to popularity. FOGOs (face-off get off) are players whose sole purpose is to win possession of the ball when there is a face-off. Usually once the a player wins the face-off, he leaves the field in exchange for an offensive midfielder.lacrosse rules
  • Long-stick midfielder (LSM): As I alluded to earlier, each team is allowed 4 players with long sticks on the field at one time. When a team is playing defense, they will often times sub a regular midfielder in exchange for a long-stick midfielder. This gives the defensive team an advantage, since players with longer sticks have an easier time playing defense.


Note: If you’re watching youth lacrosse, you might not see any players at these specialty positions. These positions are geared toward a higher level of play, where coaches think more strategically about their offensive and defensive sets.


Lacrosse Rules – Face-off

Generally speaking, at the very beginning of each game, after halftime, and after every goal, a face-off happens. Face-offs happen when two players line up at the center of the field with the lacrosse ball in between them. Each player tries win possession for their team. You can think of the face-off like a “jump ball” in basketball. Here’s a gif showing you what a face-off is like:

Lacrosse Rules – General Stuff

  • Game Length: Every lacrosse game has 4 quarters, and these quarters vary by length depending on what level you are playing at. There is a short break after every quarter, and there is a longer break during halftime where players usually hydrate and coaches discuss strategy adjustments.
  • Penalties: Like in most other sports, lacrosse has penalties when players commit a violation of the rules. The most common penalties are “slashes,” this is when a player uses their stick to hit another player in the head, legs, or other areas that aren’t with the intent of trying to win possession. You also can’t push players from behind or in the neck. (see the gif)

    A high hit that would result in a penalty
  • Overtime: There are usually no “draws” in lacrosse, meaning, there will always be a winner at the end of each game. If each opponent has the same number of goals at the end of the game, there will be a “sudden death” style of overtime. This means that there will be a face-off, and the first team to score automatically wins the game.

Quick Notes: There are 10 players for each team on the lacrosse field at any given time. This usually includes 3 attackmen, 3 midfielders, 3 defensemen, and 1 goalie. Sometimes there can be more than 3 of a position on the field at a time, but there will always be 10 players on the field, unless there is a penalty. The team who has the most goals at the end of each game wins.

These are the basic rules of lacrosse. There are many nuances that will be explained in other articles, but knowing these rules will give you a better understanding of the game.

If you would like to learn more about lacrosse rules, here is a video that goes into greater detail about different facets of the game. 


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