Understanding How Lacrosse Is Played

Lacrosse has many similarities to basketball and hockey. Simply, the team that ends the game with the most goals wins. A game clock dictates the length of the game, and scoring goals is the main factor determiner of which team wins and who loses. The following list offers a few of the technical factors that you need to know to better understand the game.

Four quarters equals a game:

The length of the field lacrosse game is 60 minutes, which 15 minutes each is 4 quarters. Unless . . .

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Two halves do make a whole (game):

Depending on the teams playing age and/or gender, variations on the length of a game do exist. Instead of quarters, women’s lacrosse matches are divided into halves and can range in length from 50 to 60 minutes. 

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Much like a hockey contest, minor league games offer a wide variety of lengths and divisions, from 8-or 12-minute quarters to three 20-minute periods. High-school field games have 12-minute quarters.

Any individual contest will include at least one intermission no matter the length of the game. There’s a lot of running, bumping, hitting and missing to recuperate from.

Facing down the opposition:

Each game and each quarter starts with a faceoff at the center circle, and it begins play after every goal scored.

A faceoff is one of the many areas where lacrosse similar to both hockey (the only other sport with faceoffs) and basketball (with its jump-ball set-up at the beginning of games). In a box lacrosse faceoff, two players in the center of the circle waiting for the referee’s whistle to being play and go for the ball, with the teams surround one of the lined circles on the floor.

Basically,  if sometimes frenetic, a faceoff is an organized, way to initiate play at the beginning of a game or to restart play that has been stopped for some reason such as opening a new playing period, after a scored goal, in a dead-ball situation, and so on. 

Any game can bring many faceoff opportunities, so you better be pretty good at it to have a chance of controlling the ball and therefore giving your team more scoring opportunities.

Faceoffs in field lacrosse come at each quarter beginning and after each goal. They include two players at the center X and two players from each team perched on the wing area lines (about 18 meters from the middle of the field and about 18 meters long, parallel with the sideline). 

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Once possession is gained by one of these eight players, the rest can cross the restraining lines that are perpendicular to the sideline and about 18 meters from the midline.

Games don’t end in ties:

When games end regulation play with the two teams tied, a sudden-death overtime period determines the winner, except for minor lacrosse. The first team to score a goal wins in sudden death. 

Minor leagues typically allow a single sudden-death overtime period; however,  the game is called a tie if the game is still tied at the end of the period.

Stay out of the crease:

Offensive players must stay out of the crease area which is in front of the goal. The crease is about 2.7 meters semicircle that arcs from goalpost to goalpost.

The crease in field lacrosse is about 2.7 meters radius, and it sits farther away from the end line (about 13.7 meters from the goal) than in the box game. 

Much of a team’s offense starts behind the goal, so it is very important management of the crease from defensive as well as offensive standpoints. Players are not allowed to step into or land in the crease unless they are forced in by a defender.  Goals are waived off and possession is given to the defense if this violation occurs.