The rules of women's lacrosse differ significantly from men's lacrosse and are specifically designed to allow less physical contact between players. As a result of the lack of contact, the only protective equipment required is eyewear and a mouthguard. Although these are the only protective equipment, there are still many injuries due to accidental checks to the head. The pockets of women's sticks are shallower than those of the men, making the ball harder to catch and more difficult to shoot at high speed. Women play with three attackers (or "homes"), five midfielders (or "middies"), three defenders (starting from the back, called "point", "cover point", and "third man"), and one goalie. Seven players play attack at one time and seven defenders are present. There is a restraining line that keeps the other four players (plus the goalie) from going into the attack. If those players cross the line, they are considered off-sides and a penalty is given.
In women's lacrosse, checking is quite different than in men's. One way it is different is that women may only check if the check is directed away from the ball carrier's head. Also, women may only check using the side of their stick. If caught by one of the referees using the flat of the head, it will be called as a "held check" and the opposing team will get the ball.
There are two types of fouls in woman's lacrosse, major and minor. When a minor foul is committed anywhere on the field, the player who fouled is set four meters to whichever side she was guarding the person she obstructed. If a major foul occurs outside of the 12 meter fan or eight meter arc, the fouler must stand four meters behind the player she fouled.
There are two different surroundings around the goal on both sides of the field. The 8 meter arc and the 12 meter fan. When committing a major foul inside either of these areas, all players that were previously inside the surrounding must take the most direct route out. The player who was fouled now moves to the nearest hash mark that is located around the edges of the arc or fan and either takes position to shoot or to pass (although, most often to shoot). When the whistle is blown, the player with the ball may move up and try for a goal.
The most important rule in women's lacrosse is shooting space. This is a violation of the rules. It occurs when a defender moves in at a bad angle on the offender while shooting in the 8 meter arc. This is a dangerous play made by the defender.
Women's games are played in two 25-minute halves. These 25 minutes are running time, except for the last two minutes, during which time stops when the whistle is blown (This can differ when playing high or middle school games). While the whistle is blown, players are not allowed to move. In women's lacrosse, players are not allowed to touch the ball with their body or cover the ball with their stick in order to scoop it into their stick or protect the ball from picked up by an opponent.
The women's lacrosse game has been modified significantly over the past ten years. Modifications include limiting the amount of players allowed between the two restraining lines on the draw to five players per team. Stick modifications have lead to offset heads, which allow the women's game to move faster and makes stick moves and tricks easier. In 2002, goggles became mandatory equipment in the United States (but not a requirement in international rules). In 2006, hard boundaries were adopted.
Penalties for women's lacrosse are assessed with the following cards:
The green card, given to the team captain, is for a delay of game.
The yellow card is for a first-time penalty and results in the player being removed from the field for five minutes (three minutes in high school competition).
The red card is the result either of two yellow cards or one unsportsmanlike behavior ruling, and causes the player to be ejected from the game. If the red card is for unsportsmanlike behavior, the player is also not permitted to play in the following game.
The ball is slightly smaller than a tennis ball and made of dense rubber. Girls’ games are played with a yellow ball. Sticks are between 35-1/2” to 43-1/4” long. The pocket is considered legal if the top of the ball is even with or above the sidewalls of the stick head when dropped into the pocket and slight pressure is applied. Mouth guards and eye protection are mandatory. Goalies wear a helmet with throat guard, gloves, and chest protector. (Many elect to wear additional protection.)
LENGTH OF GAME
Middle and high school games are two 25-minute halves. The only time the clock stops is after every goal and on any whistle within the last two minutes of each half. If a team has a four-goal advantage the clock will run after goals.
PLAYERS AND POSITIONS
There are 11 field players plus a goalie for each team. The lines on either side of the centerline are called restraining lines. Only seven field players from each team are allowed into the offensive side of their restraining line. This prevents congestion in front of the goal. First, second, and third home, also known as “line attack”, have roles that are primarily offensive; shooting on goal and feeding cutters. They will typically stay behind their opponents restraining line. The attack wings, center, and defense wings, also known as midfielders, are counted on to play equal parts offense and defense and they run the length of the field. The point, cover point and third man, also called line defense, are defensive specialists. They tend to stay behind the restraining line when the ball is on offense.
Clear: Any action taken by a player within the goal circle to pass or carry the ball out of the goal circle.
Critical Scoring Area: An area 15 meters in front of and to each side of the goal and nine meters behind the goal. An eight-meter arc and 12 meter fan are marked in the area.
Crosse (Stick): The equipment used to throw, catch, check and carry the ball.
Crosse Checking: Stick to stick contact consisting of a series of controlled taps in an attempt to dislodge the ball from the crosse.
Deputy: A player who enters the goal circle when the goalie is out of the goal circle and her team is in possession of the ball.
Draw: A technique to start or resume play by which a ball is placed in between the sticks of two standing players and drawn up and away.
Eight-Meter Arc: A semi-circular area in front of the goal used for the administration of major fouls. A defender may not remain in this area for more than three seconds unless she is within a stick's length of her opponent.
Free Position: An opportunity awarded to the offense when a major or minor foul is committed by the defense. All players must move four meters away from the player with the ball. When the whistle sounds to resume play, the player may run, pass or shoot the ball.
Free Space To Goal: A cone-shaped path extending from each side of the goal circle to the attack player with the ball. A defense player may not, for safety reasons, stand alone in this area without closely marking an opponent.
Goal Circle: The circle around the goal with a radius of 2.6 meters (8.5 feet). No player's stick or body may “break” the cylinder of the goal circle.
Grounded: Refers to any part of the goalkeeper's or deputy's body touching the ground for support outside of the goal circle when she attempts to play the ball from inside the goal circle.
Indirect Free Position: An opportunity awarded to the offense when a minor foul is committed by the defense inside the 12 meter fan. When the whistle sounds to resume play, the player may run or pass, but may not shoot until a defender or one of her teammates has played the ball.
Marking: Being within a stick's length of an opponent.
Penalty Lane: The path to the goal that is cleared when a free position is awarded to the attacking team.
Scoring Play: A continuous effort by the attacking team to move the ball toward the goal and to complete a shot on goal.
Stand: All players, except the goalkeeper in her goal circle, must remain stationary following the sound of any whistle.
Sphere: An imaginary area, approximately 18 cm (seven inches) which surrounds a player's head. No stick checks toward the head are allowed to break the sphere.
12 Meter Fan: A semi-circle in front of the goal used for the administration of minor fouls.
Warning Cards: A yellow card presented by an umpire to a player is a warning which indicates that she will next receive a red card and be suspended from further participation if she continues to play dangerously and/or conduct herself in an unsportsmanlike manner. A green card is presented by an umpire to the team captain indicating a team caution for delay of game.
The goal cage is 6’ by 6’. The circle around the goal is 8.5’ in diameter and is called the crease. Field players must treat this line as a cylinder and cannot break the plane of this cylinder with their bodies or sticks. The goalie is allowed to cover the ball when the ball is inside the crease. If the goalie leaves the crease with the ball in her stick, she may not step back in while still in possession. If the goalie leaves the crease a field player may go into the crease and take her place if her team is in possession of the ball. This deputy (the unpadded field player’s new name in goal) is not allowed to block shots.
The other lines around the goal are known as the 12-meter fan and the 8-meter arc. Major fouls by the defense occurring within its 8-meter arc result in a free possession for the offense. The player who is fouled moves to her nearest hash mark on the arc. The defensive player who committed the foul must stand on the 12-meter line behind the ball carrier. The arc is cleared of all other players. Any player who is within 4 meters of the player taking the free position must move to be 4 meters away. Upon the ref’s whistle, the player with the ball is allowed to shoot, pass or maintain possession.
The center circle is used for the draw, which happens after every goal and is done in a standing position with the ball placed between the backside of the two players’ sticks.
The draw takes place at midfield to start each half and after every goal. The ball must go higher than the midfielder’s head or else there is a redraw. Besides the players conducting the draw, 4 players from either team may stand on the edge of the circle. The other players must be behind their respective restraining lines. Players may move before the whistle but must remain outside the circle or behind the restraining line. A team with a 4 goal or more deficit is awarded an indirect free position at the center of the field in lieu of a draw. The opposing center must be 4 meters away at a 45° angle. The center with the ball may not score without first passing the ball. Occasionally you will see a throw. This is used when a draw has not been legal or when there are offsetting fouls (one by each team) on the field.
Out of deference to the games heritage as a Native American war game, there are no uniform boundaries in girls’ lacrosse. The ball is awarded to the player closest to the ball when it goes out of the playing area. That is why you see players running hard after the ball as it’s going out of the playing area until they hear the whistle.
STAND ON WHISTLE
All players must stop and stand still when the whistle blows to stop play. A player moving after the whistle can be called for a foul and change of possession awarded.
Substitution is unlimited and may occur at any time. Substitutions must check in at the scorer/timer table and enter the field through the team substitution area. The player coming off the field must completely exit the field before her substitute may run onto the field.
There are two types of fouls: Major and Minor. Major fouls usually pertain to offenses that are potentially dangerous. Players may not use their sticks recklessly or impede the progress of an opponent. Attackers may not hold or cradle the ball directly in front of her face. Players may not push, trip or back into an opponent with their bodies or set illegal picks. Some major fouls occur only within the 8-meter arc. A defender cannot play zone within this arc for more than 3 seconds; they must mark up and get within an extended stick’s length of an offensive player. Likewise a defensive player cannot be within the shooting space of an attacker, (defined as the cone between a ball handler in the act of shooting and the goal), unless they are within a stick’s length of the attacker. Minor fouls are things like checking an empty stick, covering a ground ball with a stick, (raking), or guarding the ball with ones feet. Players may not ward off with a free arm or play the ball with their hand or body. A minor foul by the defense that occurs within the 12-meter fan results in an indirect free position, which means the player with the ball must pass the ball before a shot can be taken on goal. The player who committed the foul is moved 4 meters away behind the player with the ball. A minor foul occurring with in the 8-meter arc also results in an indirect free position but the defensive player committing the foul is placed on the 8 meter arc directly in front of the player with the ball who is positioned on the 12 meter fan. When this type of foul is committed outside of the arc or fan, (the critical shooting area), change of possession is awarded and the player committing the foul must stand 4 meters behind the player with the ball.
Checking is the striking of an opponent’s stick head in an effort to dislodge the ball. Stick checks should be controlled, short, quick taps. There should not be a backswing. A defender may never check toward the head or body. The modified version of checking is employed at grades 7 and 8 A defender may not check a stick head that is above the opponent’s shoulder. To counter the advantage this gives the player with the ball, a 3-second count is employed when the defender has both hands on her stick and is in good position to check a stick that is above the ball handler’s shoulder. If the player with the ball doesn’t reposition her stick away from the defender or pass the ball by the end of the 3-second count, it is considered a minor foul and possession is awarded to the defender.
Guidance — No Checking/Modified Checking
US Lacrosse is attempting to send a consistent message regarding checking to youth players. It is the hope of the Rules Committee that mandating no full checking will allow the beginning player to work on the basic fundamentals of the game - passing, catching, footwork, proper positioning, and marking - before they are introduced to the more advanced skill of stick checking.
Once players have mastered the basic fundamentals, programs will want to introduce modified stick checking. Players on 5th through 8th grade teams will be allowed to use modified checking as an intermediate step towards full checking. Modified checking is defined as checking the stick if it is below shoulder level, using a downward motion away from the other player's body. Use of modified checking will allow the older youth player to learn proper checking skills, while at the same time encouraging good cradling and stick handling skills for the attack player. Umpires and coaches should strictly enforce this rule, never allowing checks near a player's head or face.
It should be noted that stick-to-stick contact is not necessarily a violation of the no checking/modified checking rule. A defender who is holding her stick in good defensive position may force the attack player to cradle into her stick causing contact. This is not considered a stick check, as the attack player initiated the contact, not the defender. A similar situation would exist when the defender puts her stick up in an attempt to block or intercept a pass and the attacker makes contact while in the act of passing or catching the ball.
Please note that it will be left to individual school districts, counties, and leagues to determine appropriate grade/age level groupings. For summer leagues and tournaments, 8th graders may be considered rising 9th graders as of June 1.
Official Rules for Girls Youth Lacrosse
The purpose of the Official Girls Youth rules is to familiarize young players with the sport of women’s lacrosse by introducing them to the terms, the field, the playing positions, the concept of teamwork and the skills required to play the game safely and fairly. These rules were written by the US Lacrosse Women’s Division and ratified by the US Lacrosse Youth Council in an effort to standardize youth rules for girls throughout the United States.
The girl youth rules are divided by levels (A, B, and C). Level B and Level C rules do not allow checking and do allow certain stick modifications to make throwing and catching easier for the beginning or younger player. Level A rules allow for modified checking and require the use of a regulation crosse and pocket. Leagues, tournaments and programs with players below the 5th grade level must use either Level B or Level C rules. Players from the 5th grade through the 8th grade should progress from Level B or C to Level A rules.
Goals - regulation lacrosse goal cages; smaller (street hockey type) cages may be used for indoor play and for Level C playing outdoors.
Ball - may use a regulation ball (yellow), or a “soft” ball. It is highly recommended that new or beginner programs use the soft ball until players have developed their throwing and catching skills. If a soft ball is used, it should be approximately the same size as a regulation ball. A regulation ball may be used for indoor play, however a “no bounce” ball is recommended.
Sticks - Level C may use a youth stick with mesh or traditional stringing or regulation women’s crosse and may have a modified pocket. With a modified pocket, only half the ball may fall below the bottom of the sidewall. Level B must use a regulation women’s crosse with either a regular or modified pocket. Level A must use a regulation women’s crosse with regular pocket.
Protective equipment - mouthguards are mandatory at all levels. Eye protection requirements for all levels must be the same as outlined in Rule 2-9 of US Lacrosse Women’s Rules. Close fitting gloves and soft headgear are permitted; no hard helmets may be worn except by the goalie. Goalie must wear helmet with face mask, separate throat protector, chest protector, abdominal and pelvic protection, goalie gloves, and leg padding on the shins and thighs. The protective helmet, designed for lacrosse, must meet the NOCSAE test standard. All protective devices used should be close fitting, padded where necessary, and not be of excessive weight.
- The field should be marked according to US Lacrosse Women’s Rules, including a restraining line. (See Rule 1). Team benches should be placed opposite spectators where possible.
Level A - desirable field length is 100 yards between goal lines, 10 yards behind each goal, and 70 yards wide.
Level B - desirable field length is 90 yards between goal lines, 10 yards behind each goal, and 50 yards wide.
Level C - desirable field length is 50 yards between goal lines, 10 yards behind each goal, and 25 yards wide. Field markings should include two goal circles (radius 2m) with a goal line in each, two 8m arcs around each goal circle and a center line.
- Level A and B - Coaches may move along the full boundary line on the bench/table side of the field only, except for the area directly in front of the opposing team and either team’s substitution area. Coaches may not stand near or walk in front of the opposing team area. Coaches must remain behind the level of the scorer’s table extended. Violation of this rule is a misconduct foul.
Level C - Coaches are permitted on the field for the purpose of instructing players.
- Each team (home and away) will provide a sideline manager whose duty shall be to control effectively the actions of spectators not in conformity with the standards of proper conduct.
Start of the Game
- The procedure for the start of the game/draw shall be the same as outlined in Rule 5-1, 5-2 of the US Lacrosse Women’s Rules with the following modification: for all levels, if score is kept, a free position will be taken at the center by the team with fewer goals if a four or more goal differential exists. When this occurs positioning for the draw will apply with the defender standing 4m away at a 45 degree angle and all other players must stand. The player taking the free position may run or pass, but may not shoot until another player has played the ball.
- All play is started and stopped with the whistle. All players must stop and stand when the whistle blows (to stop play). All may move again when the next whistle blows.
- A goal is scored when the ball passes completely over the goal line and into the goal cage. Scoring must be by an attacker’s crosse, and not off the body of an attack player. A goal may be scored off the defender’s body or crosse.
- Substitution is unlimited and the substitution procedure should be the same as outlined in Rule 5-20 and 5-21 of the US Lacrosse Women’s Rules, i.e. substitute any time during play, after goals, and at halftime.
Duration of Play
- Level A - 25-minutes running time per half (maximum)
Level B - 25-minutes running time per half (maximum)
Level C - 20-minutes running time per half (maximum)
At all levels, the clock will be stopped on every whistle (to stop play) in the last two minutes of each half. Teams may choose to play four quarters, but total playing time should not exceed the maximum time for each level. The clock will stop on every whistle (to stop play) in the last minute of each quarter.
- Fouls shall be the same as those outlined in Rule 6 of the US Lacrosse Women’s Rules with the following modifications:
1. No shooting on free positions, unless using a goalkeeper or modified goal opening (Level C). (Major Foul)
2. No checking (Level B and C). (Major Foul)
3. Modified checking only (see definitions) (Level A). (Major Foul)
4. No holding the ball for more than 3 seconds when closely guarded/marked (see definitions) and the defense has both hands on her stick and is in position to legally check were checking allowed. (All levels). (Minor Foul)
Note: If the player with the ball takes the stick to the other side of her body and thus away from the defender making a legal check impossible, the 3-second count would be over. If the defender adjusts her position to where a legal check could be made, or the stick is brought back to a checkable position, the count starts again. If another teammate joins the defender and that second defender is in good position to check, the count starts again. The umpire will give an audible 3-second count. The purpose of this rule is to encourage good defensive positioning and to make the offensive player aware of her defender. The attack player must try to keep the stick away from the defender, and, if she does not she will be forced to pass or she will lose the ball. Even when the defender may not check, if she is in good defensive position she will force the attack player to pass. This will give her team a chance for a play on the ball either by interception, by blocking the attempted pass, or by forcing a bad pass and causing a ground ball.
Penalties for Fouls
- The penalty for fouls is a free position with all players, including the offender, moving 4m away from the player with the ball. For specifics on major, minor, and goal circle fouls and carding, see Rule 7 in the US Lacrosse Women’s Rules. A 3-second count violation is considered a minor foul with the closest defender to the ball carrier being awarded the ball. The only modification for these youth rules is in Level C, where all free positions are indirect (i.e., the player with the ball may never shoot directly from the free position).
Definition of Terms
Closely Guarded - player with the ball has an opponent within a sticks length.
Free Position - penalty awarded for a foul. Player who has been fouled gets the ball and all others must move 4m away.
Indirect Free Position - no shot on goal may be made until the player with the ball passes the ball to another player.
Checking - checking the stick only if the entire stick is below shoulder level. The check must be in a downward direction and away from the body.
Pass - exchange of the ball through the air from one teammate’s crosse to another.
Possession - a player has the ball in their crosse.
Position to Check - player has an opportunity to legally check the stick without fouling (the 3-second count starts when the umpire deems that the player with the ball could be checked legally if checking were permitted.)
Level A Specifics
1. Eleven field players, one goal keeper.
2. Field size: 100 yds. x 70 yds. is recommended.
3. Regular field markings, including restraining line.
4. Regular women’s crosse, regulation pocket.
5. Modified checking only.
6. 25-minute halves (max.), running time.
7. May shoot from direct free positions.
Level B Specifics
1. Eleven field players, one goal keeper.
2. Field size: 90 yds. x 50 yds. is recommended.
3. Regular field markings, including restraining line.
4. Regular women’s crosse, modified pocket allowed.
5. No checking.
6. 25-minute halves (max.), running time.
7. May shoot from direct free positions.
Level C Specifics
1. Seven field players, use of a goal keeper is optional.
2. Field size: 50 yds. x 25 yds. is recommended.
3. 8m arc, no 12m fan, no restraining line, center line (no circle).
4. Youth sticks (mesh allowed) or regular women’s crosse, modified pocket.
5. No checking.
6. 20-minute halves (max.), running time.
7. May not shoot from any free position, unless using a goalkeeper or modified goal opening.
These rules were written with the safety of all the players being of utmost importance. Youth lacrosse should be fun, challenging and safe. To that end, the umpires shall have the authority to penalize any foul, unsafe play, or unacceptable behavior not covered specifically in these rules. Play should be as continuous as possible, and any foul which does not gain an advantage for the offender or her team should result in a “held” whistle whenever possible.