Men's Field Lacrosse is played with 10 players.
How to Play Lacrosse - basic Play
Play begins with a face off in the center Face-off square or circle. The lacrosse face off is similar to a hockey face off. Two opponents face each other and try to win possession of the ball. The lacrosse face off is different because the two players basically start on their hands and feet with their sticks laying along the center line, and the ball between the heads of the sticks. At the officials signal each player can employ a number of different lacrosse face off skills and tactics to win possession of the ball, but there is no substitute for being quick or powerful. Most often the ball will be knocked or passed to a player other than the two fighting for the ball in the face off. Once a player is able to pick the ball up with their stick possession occurs. The object is to get close enough to the opponents net to throw the ball into the net scoring a goal. A goal counts as one point. In Major League (professional) Lacrosse there is a two point line where goals shot from behind that line score two points, but that is the only place the two point rule is in effect. Offensive players maneuver down the field toward the goal by running with or passing the ball to a team mate. Players can run the entire length of the field as long as they are not offside's by not leaving enough players in the defensive end.
Offensive players cannot enter the crease area that surrounds the goal. The crease is a circle that surrounds the goal and it is where the goalie works. Defensive players can enter the crease area. If an offensive player enters the crease, it is a crease violation and position goes to the opponent. Offensive layers cannot go into their own crease either unless they gain possession while in the crease they can take the ball out.
How to Play Lacrosse - transition Timing
If the goalie makes a save and gains possession of the ball he must pass or take the ball out of the crease within 4 seconds or the ball will be awarded back to the opponent.
As the ball is transitioned from the defensive end toward the offensive end the offensive team has 20 seconds to cross midfield. Once they cross midfield they have 10 seconds to move into the attack area. These time restrictions help greatly to keep teams from going into a shell. They must move the ball or possession is lost.
How to play Lacrosse - unique Rules
One of the real different rules in lacrosse is that when a player takes a shot and the ball travels out of bounds the team that is closest to the line where the ball went out of bounds has possession. Often the offense will position a player behind the goal so that when a shot is made they will be closest to the spot where the ball went out of bounds when the ball goes out of bounds. You will also see the goalie sprint toward the back line when a shot is made to try to be the closest to the line so that the defensive team will gain possession. The stick is an extension of the player so they will thrust their stick toward the line to be closest.
Another fantastic rule is that after a score there is a face off. So the team who just scored could easily gain possession again by winning the face off and this leads to runs where a team may score several unanswered goals which allows a team to come back and it is one of the reasons why lacrosse is such a tremendously exciting game.
In the final two minutes of the game the team that is ahead must play with the provision that they must stay within the attack zone. Failure to stay in the attack zone constitutes offensive delay of game and possession will be transferred to the losing team. This only applies to the team that is ahead.
How to play Lacrosse - the Possession
During a face off teams are required to keep four players including the goalie behind their own defensive restraining line, and three attackers behind the offensive restraining line. During the face off the 3 midfielders from each side fight for possession of the ball. Once a player picks the ball up with his stick and controls it possession occurs and the defensive players may now move forward to the midfield line if they so choose and attackers may move back to the midfield line as well if they so choose, but teams must maintain 4 defensive players in their own half of the field during play and three attackmen on the offensive half of the field. It does not matter which of the players stay on which half as long as 4 defensive players and three attack are maintained at all times. Defensive players are allowed to go on the attack including the goalie as long as a midfielder stays behind to keep the number of defenders at 4. If a defender crosses the midfield line and the number of defenders in their own end is less than four, offside's occurs and possession is awarded to the opponent. Likewise if an offensive player leaves the offensive half of the field and a midfielder does not stay behind to keep the number of offensive players at least three. This aspect of the game allows for creative transition play. Defenders can initiate a fast break as long as a midfielder stays behind. In today’s lacrosse world more and more teams especially at the higher levels are developing specialist midfielders that play strictly offense or defense, and do not transition from defense to attack and visa versa. Personally, while I understand the reasons why this is happening and the very diverse skills that are required at either end, I am greatly saddened because for me one of the most exciting plays in Lacrosse is the fast break involving the long stick defensemen or midfielder or even on a rare occasion the goalie taking the ball the length of the field and scoring or setting up a fast break goal. It can kind of be related to the days in football when players played both ways. Today that almost never happens in college or pro football, but it used to be very common. We are heading in a similar direction with lacrosse and this generation may be the last to see the really tremendous complete midfield players who are equally adept on both ends of the field. I hope that is not true.
How to Play Lacrosse - the Check
The game of lacrosse is very physical and contact is very much a part of the game. Being aggressive and physical is a very good quality to have. Checking is a basic lacrosse skill. There are two different types of check that can be employed. Stick Checks and Body checks. Stick checks can be made as long as the attempt is to try to contact the opponents stick. And in some of the older aged divisions body checks can happen as long as the check is to the body above the waist and below the neck.
The goal of the game is to score the most goals, but the real challenge is in maintaining possession of the ball until a shot can be made. Once a player establishes possession keeping it is not easy. Defending players attack the stick of the player in possession and try to knock the ball loose with their own stick. This is called stick checking. They can also hit the ball carrier or anyone within 5 yards of a loose ball with their shoulder like a football block. This is called a body check and is legal as long as it not from behind, above the waist, and below the shoulder.
If you are looking for how to play lacrosse information on a particular skill go to Lacrosse Skills.
If you are looking for how to play lacrosse information on how to coach a particular skill go to Lacrosse Drills.
How to Play Lacrosse - lacrosse Penalties
There are two types of penalties – Technical fouls and Personal fouls.
Personal fouls - Slashing, Tripping, Illegal Cross Checking, and checking from behind a player are usually given 1 minute penalties. Penalties can be increased to 2 or 3 minutes or even ejection can be assessed for major or especially sever personal fouls.
Technical fouls such as - Offside's, Crease violations, pushing from the rear, thumbing. and Warding Off constitute a loss of possession.
History of Lacrosse
Lacrosse is the oldest sport in North America, with its origin dating back to the 1400s. It did not become generally known and talked about however, until the 1600s when a Jesuit missionary named Jean de Brebeuf saw the Hyron Indians play it. In a report to his superiors, he stated little about the actual play of the game but seemed to be intrigued by the stick the Indians used while playing. Jean de Brebeuf likened the stick the indians competed with, to the "crosier" carried at religious ceremonies by a bishop. Thus, the name la crosse evolved, and this later became simply "lacrosse."
Indian lacrosse was a mass game and often teams were made up of one hundred to one thousand braves on each side. The goals were usually five-hundred yards to one-half mile apart. On occasion, the goals could be separated by several miles. Usually a large rock or tree was considered the goal and a score was recorded by hitting the rock or tree with a ball. Some tribes used goal posts six to nine feet apart, and the ball had to pass between them for a score, much like today's game.
Games lasted from sun up to sundown and stretched over the course of two or three days. Lacrosse games were originally used to toughen braves for actual combat. There were even times when games were played between two tribes to settle their differences or disputes.
It was not until the early 1800s that the French pioneers started playing lacrosse seriously. With their participation in the sport came the first signs of turning lacrosse into a more civilized game. Canadian dentist W. George Beers standardized the game in1867 with the adoption of set field dimensions, limits to the number of players per team, and other basic rules. Little did the French settlers know that they would be credited for being the forefathers of lacrosse, along with the indians. New YorkUniversity fielded the nation's first college team in 1877, and PhilipsAndoverAcademy (Mass.), Philips Exeter Academy (NH.) and the Lawrenceville School (N.J.) were the nations' first high school teams in 1882.
In the early 1900s lacrosse became recognized as a "force to be reckoned with." It was during this time that the game was first played in Olympic competition, and the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse League (USILL) was formed. In 1926, the USILL was replaced by the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association, which is still the governing body of lacrosse today.
Lacrosse continued to grow in America during the mid 1900s, and today the game is played by over 500 colleges and universities, as well as over 1400 high schools countrywide. Women's lacrosse is booming too. Over 100 colleges and universities, along with 150 high schools, currently sponsor programs.