With a history that spans centuries, lacrosse is the oldest sport in North America. Rooted in Native American religion, lacrosse was often played to resolve conflicts, heal the sick, and develop strong, virile men. To Native Americans, lacrosse is still referred to as "The Creator's Game."
Ironically, lacrosse also served as a preparation for war. Legend tells of as many as 1,000 players per side, from the same or different tribes, who took turns engaging in a violent contest. Contestants played on a field from one to 15 miles in length, and games sometimes lasted for days. Some tribes used a single pole, tree or rock for a goal, while other tribes had two goalposts through which the ball had to pass. Balls were made out of wood, deerskin, baked clay or stone.
The evolution of the Native American game into modern lacrosse began in 1636 when Jean de Brebeuf, a Jesuit missionary, documented a Huron contest in what is now southeast Ontario, Canada. At that time, some type of lacrosse was played by at least 48 Native American tribes scattered throughout what is now southern Canada and all parts of the United States. French pioneers began playing the game avidly in the 1800s. Canadian dentist W. George Beers standardized the game in 1867 with the adoption of set field dimensions, limits to the number of players per team and other basic rules.
New York University fielded the nation's first college team in 1877, and Philips Academy, Andover (Massachusetts), Philips Exeter Academy (New Hampshire) and the Lawrenceville School (New Jersey) were the nation's first high school teams in 1882. There are 400 college and 1,200 high school men's lacrosse teams from coast to coast.
The first women's lacrosse game was played in 1890 at the St. Leonard's School in Scotland. Although an attempt was made to start women's lacrosse at Sweet Briar College in Virginia in 1914, it was not until 1926 that Miss Rosabelle Sinclair established the first women's lacrosse team in the United Sates at the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, Maryland.
Men's and women's lacrosse were played under virtually the same rules, with no protective equipment, until the mid-1930s. At that time, men's lacrosse began evolving dramatically, while women's lacrosse continued to remain true to the game's original rules. Men's and women's lacrosse remain derivations of the same game today, but are played under different rules. Women's rules limit stick contact, prohibit body contact and, therefore, require little protective equipment. Men's lacrosse rules allow some degree of stick and body contact, although violence is neither condoned nor allowed.
Field lacrosse is sometimes perceived to be a violent and dangerous game, however, injury statistics prove otherwise. While serious injuries can and occur in lacrosse, the game has evolved with an emphasis on safety, and the rate of injury is comparatively low.
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The position of attack requires the most stick skill of all positions, with the exception of the goalie. Attackmen should demonstrate good stick work with either hand and have quick feet to maneuver around the goal in heavy traffic. Effective attackmen have good peripheral vision, precision passes, and can effectively dodge, screen and shoot. The attack are always on the field as a scoring threat and, given an even match up, should score often. Typically the attack work behind the net, called the "X" area, and on the flanks of the crease, called the "wings". This gives the attackmen the most room to dodge and cut. Attackmen generally restrict their play to half of the field. They must work with the midfield to run an effective offense. An attackman should be quick, alert, confident in one-on-one situations and be able to withstand physical punishment by the opposing defensemen.
The attack use dodging, picks (just like in basketball), and passing to generate a good shot. Similar to basketball, the object is to move the ball around until the defense breaks and someone is left with an open shot. One way to do this is by letting an attackman go one-on-one with a defender. The attackman tries to beat his defender by dodging, causing another defenseman to slide, creating an unbalanced situation in which he can either shoot or pass to someone else who is wide open. The attackman can move in any direction with any amount of force, as there are no charging rules. The attackman, however, like all players cannot clamp the ball in his stick with his thumb, chest, or helmet. He is also not allowed to push or hit the defenseman's stick with his arms or hands. This is called warding.
The midfielder is considered by many to be the backbone of the lacrosse team. Good midfielders need speed, stamina, hustle and determination. They are required to play both defense and offense. However, the middies are largely responsible for a key aspect of the game - transition. Transition is by far the most important part of the game and helped create the nickname, 'The Fastest Game on Two Feet'. It involves retrieving loose balls, or clearing saved shots and running and passing the ball up the length of the field. If a team can get the ball and have an extra man advantage on the offensive end of the field, even for a split second, they have a good opportunity to score. When this advantage occurs in transition it is called a fast break. A midfielder should be able to shift quickly from offense to defense. Midfielders do not have to be proficient scorers, but should be able to "read" what is about to happen next.
Along the center of the field is the midfield line. It is this reference point that determines whether a team is offsides or not. The rules for offsides are simple: you must have 4 players on your defensive end at all times, and 3 players on your offensive end at all times. Since it doesn't matter which players stay on what side, it is up to the midfield to keep their team onsides, by staying on one side or the other. Since the position requires so much running, the midfielders often changes lines on the fly, as in hockey.
The defenseman′s responsibility is to defend the goal. Although size aids the defenseman, more importantly defensemen should be quick, agile and aggressive. Speed is always a valuable commodity, but the ability to act and react, to judiciously apply pressure and to recover are the key ingredients to an effective defenseman.
They must keep the attack at bay. Their job is to keep the ball away from the net so the opposing attack doesn't get a good look at the goal. The job is difficult: A defenseman doesn't know where the attack are going or what they are going to do. In his arsenal the defenseman has a long stick (14U and above). This stick allows a defender to keep the attackmen at a distance, thus allowing him to throw checks without being beaten on foot. Good footwork is an extremely important part of playing good defense â€¦â€¦to be able to apply pressure and be aggressive, without lunging a foot and body forward is key, otherwise the offensive player can then easily go around the overly aggressive defenseman. A defenseman must be able to think and react quickly, and most importantly communicate with his fellow defensemen.
Defensemen are allowed to check the attackmen they are covering. What this means is a defenseman is allowed to use his stick to hit the attackman's stick and arms. A defenseman cannot strike the attackman on the head, and cannot strike the attackman's body with the stick with any significant force. This penalty is called a slash. Most slash penalties occur when a defenseman employs the use of a 'slap' check, which is when the stick is swung perpendicular to the attackman's shaft in a slapping motion. The other common check is the 'poke' check, in which the defenseman simply jabs straight on at an attackman's stick in a motion like that of a pool cue. When the attackman is close enough, a defenseman can use his body for defense. Body checking, or hitting, in lacrosse is very similar to that in hockey. A legal body check is any hit that is head to head (no hitting from behind). People who are legal targets are anyone standing within five yards of a loose ball, or anyone with possession of the ball. Hitting someone without the ball, while another player has possession is called interference.
The position of goalie in lacrosse is probably one of the most intense positions of all sports. Essentially, you must play catch with people at a very high speed. Unfortunately for the goalie, most people don't throw at his stick. The goalie wears additional protective equipment: throat guard and chest protector. A goalie stick is typically of normal length, 40-50 inches, with an extra wide head. Unlike goalies in hockey, lacrosse goalies must be very mobile. They often come out of the circular crease that surrounds the 6′x6′ goal. Explosive speed and very quick hands are key ingredients in making a goalie, as well as a tolerance for pain. When a goalie comes out of the crease to fetch ground balls or to clear a saved shot, he becomes a target, much like the quarterback in football.
A good goalie leads the defense by reading the situation and directing the defensemen to react. A goalie also directs the clearing patterns and provides intangible cohesion that binds a team together. A good goalie should have excellent hand/eye coordination and a strong voice. Quickness, agility, confidence, a "thick skin" by not getting too down when scored on and the ability to concentrate are also essential.
The goalie defends a square goal six feet wide by six feet high. Around the goal is a circular crease. The crease area is limited to entry by the goalie and defensive players only. Once the goalie makes a save he has 4 seconds to either pass the ball or run the ball out of the crease. In these four seconds no one may touch him. Once the goalie steps outside the crease he is no longer allowed back into the crease unless he yields possession of the ball.
Men's lacrosse is a contact game played by ten players: a goalie, three defensemen, three midfielders and three attackmen. The object of the game is to shoot the ball into the opponent's goal. The team scoring the most goals wins. Each team must keep at least four players in its defensive half of the field and three in its offensive half. Three players (midfielders) typically roam the entire field.
Collegiate games are 60 minutes long, with 15-minute quarters. Generally, high school games are 48 minutes long, with 12-minute quarters. Youth games, spanning all ages prior to high school, are typically 32 minutes long, with eight-minute quarters. Teams change sides between periods, and each team is permitted two timeouts each half. The team winning the coin toss chooses the end of the field it wants to defend first.
The players take their positions on the field: four in the defensive clearing area (including a goalie), one at the center, two in the wing areas and three in their attack goal area. Men's lacrosse begins with a face-off. The ball is placed between the sticks of two squatting players at the center of the field. The official blows the whistle to begin play. Each face-off player tries to control the ball. The players in the wing areas can run after the ball when the whistle sounds. The other players must wait until one player has gained possession of the ball, or the ball has crossed a goal area line, before they can release. Center face-offs are also used at the start of each quarter and after a goal is scored. Field players must use their lacrosse sticks (?crosse?) to pass, catch and carry the ball. A player may gain possession of the ball by dislodging it from an opponent's stick with a stick check. A stick check is the controlled poking and slapping of the stick, gloved hands, or arms of the player in possession of the ball. A stick check may not be thrown at an opposing player's arm if the opposing player is not using that arm to control the lacrosse stick.
Body checking is permitted at most levels of lacrosse if the opponent has the ball or is within five yards of a loose ball. All body contact must occur from the front or side, above the waist and below the shoulders, and with both hands on the stick. An opponent's stick may also be stick checked if it is within five yards of a loose ball or ball in the air. Far more often than not, aggressive body checking is discouraged. If the ball or a player in possession of the ball goes out of bounds, the other team is awarded possession. If the ball goes out of bounds after an unsuccessful shot, the player nearest to the ball when and where it goes out of bounds is awarded possession.
An attacking player cannot enter the protective crease around the goal, but may reach in with his stick to scoop a loose ball.
Typically, a referee, umpire and field judge supervise field play. A chief bench official, timekeepers and scorers assist.
The attackman's primary responsibility is to score goals. The attackman generally restricts his play to the offensive end of the field. A good attackman demonstrates excellent stick skills with both hands and has quick feet to maneuver around the goal. Each team should have three attackmen on the field during play.
The midfielder's primary responsibility is to cover the entire field, playing both offense and defense. The midfielder is a key to the transition game, and is often called upon to clear the ball from defense to offense. A good midfielder demonstrates good stick skills including throwing, catching and scooping. Speed and stamina are essential. Each team should have three midfielders on the field.
The defenseman's primary responsibility is to defend the goal. The defenseman generally restricts his play to the defensive end of the field. A good defenseman should be able to react quickly in game situations. Agility and aggressiveness are necessary, but great stick skills, although important, are not essential to be effective. Each team should have three defensemen on the field.
The goalie's primary responsibility is to protect the goal and stop the opposing team from scoring. A good goalie also leads the defense by reading the situation and directing the defensemen to react. A good goalie should have excellent hand/eye coordination and a strong voice. Quickness, agility, confidence and the ability to concentrate are also essential. Each team has one goalie in the goal during play.
The Stick ("Crosse"): Traditional lacrosse sticks are constructed of wood, laminated wood or synthetic material, with a shaped net pocket at the end. The stick must be an overall length of 40-42 inches for attackmen and midfielders, or 52-72 inches for defensemen. The head of the modern-day lacrosse stick is constructed of plastic, and must be 6.5-10 inches wide; the goalie's head may be 10-12 inches wide. The pocket can be any number of styles, from catgut, leather and nylon strings in the traditional heads to a soft or durable one-piece mesh in many modern heads. Producing custom pockets in a lacrosse head is a popular activity for many young players today. The pocket shall be deemed illegal if the top surface of a lacrosse ball, when placed in the head of the crosse, is below the bottom edge of the side wall.
The Ball: The ball must be made of solid rubber and can be white, yellow or orange. The ball is 7.75-8 inches in circumference and 5-5.25 ounces.
The Helmet: A protective helmet, equipped with face mask, chin pad and a cupped four point chin strap fastened to all four hookups, must be worn by all men's players. All helmets and face masks should be NOCSAE (National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment) approved.
The Mouthpiece: The mouthpiece must be a highly visible color and is mandatory.
The Glove: All players are required to wear protective gloves. The cutting or altering of gloves at most levels of lacrosse is prohibited.
Protective Equipment: All players, with the exception of the goalkeeper, must wear shoulder pads. Arm pads and rib pads are also strongly recommended and often required, as are athletic supporters and protective cups for all players. The goalkeeper is required to wear a throat protector and chest protector, in addition to a helmet, mouthpiece and gloves.
Catching: The act of receiving a passed ball with the lacrosse stick.
Checking: The act of attempting to dislodge the ball from an opponent's stick.
Poke Check: A stick check in which the player pokes the head of his stick at an opponent's stick through the top hand by pushing with the bottom hand.
Slap Check: A stick check in which a player slaps the head of his stick against his opponent's stick.
Wrap Check: A one-handed check in which the defender swings his stick around his opponent's body to dislodge the ball. (This check is only legal at higher levels of play.)
Cradling: The coordinated motion of the arms and wrists that keeps the ball secure in the pocket and ready to be passed or shot when running.
Cutting: A movement by an offensive player without the ball, often toward the opponent's goal, in anticipation of a feed and shot.
Feeding: Passing the ball to a teammate who is in position for a shot on goal.
Passing: The act of throwing the ball to a teammate with the stick.
Scooping: The act of picking up a loose ball with the stick.
Screening: An offensive tactic in which a player near the crease positions himself so as to block the goalkeeper's view of the ball. This term can also be used as a synonym for "picking", where a player sets a stationary pick off of which a teammate can cut or dodge.
Shooting: The act of throwing the ball with the stick toward the goal in an attempt to score.
Personal and Technical Fouls
There are personal fouls and technical fouls in men's lacrosse. The penalty for a personal foul results in a one to three minute suspension from play and possession to the team that was fouled. Players with five personal fouls are ejected from the game. The penalty for a technical foul is a thirty-second suspension if a team is in possession of the ball when the foul is committed, or possession of the ball to the team that was fouled if there was no possession when the foul was committed.
Slashing: Occurs when a player's stick viciously contacts an opponent in any area other than the stick or gloved hand on the stick.
Tripping: Occurs when a player obstructs his opponent at or below the waist with the stick, hands, arms, feet or legs.
Cross Checking: Occurs when a player uses the handle of his lacrosse stick between his hands to make contact with an opponent.
Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Occurs when any player or coach commits an act which is considered unsportsmanlike by an official, including taunting, arguing, or obscene language or gestures.
Unnecessary Roughness: Occurs when a player strikes an opponent with his stick or body using excessive or violent force.
Illegal Crosse: Occurs when a player uses a lacrosse stick (crosse) that does not conform to required specifications. A lacrosse stick may be found illegal if the pocket is too deep or if any other part of the stick was altered to gain an advantage.
Illegal Body Checking: Occurs when any of the following actions takes place:
1. body checking an opponent who is not in possession of the ball or within five yards of a loose ball.
2. avoidable body check of an opponent after he has passed or shot the ball.
3. body checking an opponent from the rear or at or below the waist.
4. body checking an opponent above the shoulders. A body check must be below the shoulders and above the waist, and both hands of the player applying the body check must remain in contact with his crosse.
Illegal Gloves: Occurs when a player uses gloves that do not conform to required specifications. Although not enforced at the post-collegiate or pro level, a glove will be found illegal if the fingers and palms are cut out of the gloves, or if the glove has been altered in a way that compromises its protective features.
Holding: Occurs when a player impedes the movement of an opponent or an opponent's stick.
Interference: Occurs when a player interferes in any manner with the free movement of an opponent, except when that opponent has possession of the ball, the ball is in flight and within five yards of the player, or both players are within five yards of a loose ball. Can also occur when an offensive player moves into and makes contact with a defensive player with the purpose of blocking him from the man he is defending.
Offsides: Occurs when a team does not have at least four players on its defensive side of the midfield line or at least three players on its offensive side of the midfield line.
Pushing: Occurs when a player thrusts or shoves a player from behind.
Stalling: Occurs when a team intentionally holds the ball, without conducting normal offensive play, with the intent of running time off the clock.
Warding Off: A non-time serving foul; occurs when a player in possession of the ball uses his free hand or arm to hold, push or control the direction of an opponent's stick check.
Glossary of terms
Attack Goal Area: The area defined by a line drawn sideline-to-sideline 20 yards from the face of the goal. Once the offensive team crosses the midfield line, it has ten seconds to move the ball into its attack goal area.
Body Check: Contact with an opponent from the front - between the shoulders and waist - when the opponent has the ball or is within five yards of a loose ball.
Box: An area used to hold players who have been served with penalties, and through which substitutions "on the fly" are permitted directly from the sideline onto the field; also used as way to describe the indoor version of the game of lacrosse ("box lacrosse").
Check-up: A call given by the goalie to tell each defender to find his man and call out his number.
Clamp: A face-off maneuver executed by quickly pushing the back of the stick on top of the ball.
Clearing: Running or passing the ball from the defensive half of the field to the attack goal area.
Crease: A circle around the goal with a radius of nine yards into which only defensive players may enter; no player may enter the crease with possession of the ball.
Crosse (Stick): The equipment used to throw, catch and carry the ball.
Defensive Clearing Area: The area defined by a line drawn sideline-to-sideline 20 yards from the face of the goal. At higher levels, once the defensive team gains possession of the ball in this area, it has twenty seconds to move the ball across the midfield line.
Extra man Offense (EMO): The situation that results from a time-serving penalty where the offense has at least a one-man advantage.
Face-Off: A technique used to put the ball in play at the start of each quarter, or after a goal is scored. The players squat down and the ball is placed between their crosses.
Fast-Break: A transition scoring opportunity in which the offense has at least a one-man advantage.
Ground Ball: A loose ball on the playing field.
Handle (Shaft): An aluminum, wooden or composite pole connected to the head of the lacrosse stick.
Head: The plastic or wood part of the stick connected to the handle.
Man Down Defense (MDD): The situation that results from a time-serving penalty which causes the defense to play with at least a one man disadvantage.
Midfield Line: The line which bisects the field of play.
On-The-Fly Substitution: A substitution made during play.
Pick: An offensive maneuver in which a stationary player attempts to block the path of a defender guarding another offensive player.
Pocket: The strung part of the head of the stick which holds the ball.
Rake: A move in which a player sweeps the ball to the side with the head of their stick.
Riding: The act of trying to prevent a team from clearing the ball.
Release: The term used by an official to notify a penalized player in the box that he may re-enter the game. Also used by teammates in a ?Man-Ball? ground ball situation: teammate #1 yells ?Man!? and shields an opposing player from the ground ball. As soon as teammate #2 successfully picks up the ball, he should immediately yell ?Release!? to communicate to teammate #1 to cease contact with the opposing player.
Screen: An offensive maneuver in which a player without the ball attempts to block the goalie?s visual path of a shot by his teammate. Offensive players with the ball will sometimes attempt to use a defenseman as a screen by either shooting around his defenseman or taking a shot when there is a lot of traffic in front of the goal.
Unsettled Situation: Any situation in which the defense is not positioned correctly, usually due to a loose ball or broken clear.