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Fan's Guide to Lacrosse Page 2 of 5 (The Essentials)

lacrosse1- History & Object
2- The Essentials (Offense & Defense, Scoring, Etc.)
3- Field Diagram and Positions
4- Fouls
5- Glossary of Lacrosse Terms

The Essentials

Game Length

A high school game is divided into 4 quarters of 12 minutes (other levels vary: 8- to 15-minute quarters). There are 2-minute breaks between each period with a 10-minute intermission after the second period. Teams switch playing sides after each period and have two time-outs per half. If a there is a tie after four periods, the first team to score in overtime wins.

Start of the game

The action begins at the start of each period and after each goal with a face-off at the center of the field. The team that takes possession of the ball during the face-off is on offense.

Offense and Defense


Lacrosse is played at a quick pace mixing various aspects of hockey, football, and soccer. With the exception of the goalies, players can only touch the ball with the crosse, or stick. Teams advance the ball toward the opponent’s goal by running and cradling it or passing it to a teammate. If given the opportunity, the offense attempts to score during the fast break, before the defense can set up. During the set offense, when players are near the opponent’s goal, proper spacing between players and balance in formation allow teams to execute plays that are designed to exploit defensive weaknesses. A player with the ball may attempt to drive during an isolation play, or feed the ball to an open player. Players without the ball are constantly cutting and setting picks to become open and create scoring opportunities.


The defense attempts to stop the other team from scoring by deflecting or intercepting passes, taking the ball from the opponent, or forcing bad shots. Man-to-man defense is the basic strategy, but a zone defense can be used for more advanced teams and is often used in a man-down situation. Physical contact is frequent in lacrosse, and most contact occurs within five yards of the ball. Stick checking and body checking are the most common tactics used to take the ball away from the offense. Once the defense takes possession of the ball, it tries to clear the ball to the midfielders who then transition the ball to offense.


One point is awarded every time the ball enters the goal.


The crosse, or stick, ranges from 40 to 72 inches in length, with offensive players opting for shorter sticks and defensive players opting for longer sticks. Both offensive and defensive sticks have an aluminum or titanium shaft that connects to the head of the stick. A plastic head at the top of the stick has strings or mesh that form a pocket to aid in catching and throwing the ball. Goalies use a larger stick and pocket. The ball is solid rubber and is about the size of a baseball. Players wear shorts or sweatpants, short-sleeved jerseys, and shoes with cleats. To prevent injuries, players wear large padded gloves, arm pads, shoulder pads, mouthpieces, and a protective helmet with a chin pad and strap attached to a face mask. Goalies must use throat and chest protectors and can also wear shin guards and football pants, with or without pads.

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