Lacrosse 101



By: Dr. Scott Townsend and Dr. Derek Mohr, Appalachian State University

What sport is…

Considered the fastest game on two feet?
The national summer sport of Canada?
Originally derived from a game called Baggataway?

You got it – Lacrosse a.k.a. Lax!

Think you don’t know anything about lacrosse? Think again! Lacrosse is a field-based invasion game that is similar in strategy to sports like soccer or team handball. So while the skills of the sport are unique, the tactics are likely familiar.

Whether you are looking to freshen up your curriculum with new content or teach lacrosse again, the tips and resources below can help you be successful.

The Terrific 10

Here is a list of 10 basic rules of traditional lacrosse:

  1. Teams. 10 players per side; three defenders, three midfielders, three attackers, one goalkeeper.
  2. Games. Four 12-15 minute quarters with a running clock.
  3. Scoring. One point per score.
  4. Starting Play. Game starts with a coin toss to determine defending ends. Teams switch ends after each period.
  5. Restarting Play. After a goal with a face-off.
  6. Out-of-Bounds. Over a sideline: use a thrown-in to restart play. Over an endline: use a throw-in or run-in (possession of a missed shot that crosses an endline is awarded to the team with the player nearest the endline as the ball goes out).
  7. When a team fails to have at least three players in the attack half of field and less than four players in the defensive half; results in a 30 sec. penalty.
  8. Tie Game. Games tied are decided by extra time play, then penalty goal shootouts.
  9. Breaches of rules result in time-out penalties, divided into technical (non-injurious fouls such as holding; 30 sec.) and personal (severe foul such as slashing; 1-3 min.). While penalties are served, teams play shorthanded until the penalty time-out is over.
  10. May stop the ball with any part of their body or stick while inside crease. Consequently, offensive players may not contact or interfere with the goalkeeper in the crease.

Terms of Endearment

Whether watching or playing, knowing the terms below will make you more lacrosse-literate:

  • Clearing: Passing or running the ball from the defensive area to the attack area
  • Crease: Circle around the goal area
  • Extra Player: When a team has a player advantage due to a penalty on their opponent
  • Loose Ball: An uncontrolled ground ball
  • Quick Stick: Catching and passing or shooting in one fluid motion
  • Riding: A quick transition from offense to defense to prevent a clear

So Skillful

While the tactics of lacrosse are similar to other invasion type games, the skills are unique. Some of the most important stick-based skills include:

  • Scooping: Retrieving the ball from the ground quickly
  • Catching: Securing the ball in the pocket in preparation for a pass, shoot, or to run
  • Passing: Moving the ball around the field from player to player
  • Cradling: Maintaining possession of ball without passing, catching, or shooting
  • Dodging: Changing direction and speed to free a player up to either pass or shoot
  • Shooting: Similar to a pass but its intent is to score a goal
  • Stick-Checking: Defensive use of the stick to keep offensive player from scoring or passing

Did You Know?

SPARK is hosting a free lacrosse webinar on October 19, 2016 (click here to register) and has just rolled out a web-exclusive SPARK HS Lacrosse unit located on Please join us to learn more about this exciting sport and experience the vast array of educational resources SPARK offers to help you implement lacrosse in your PE program.

What are your experiences teaching or playing lacrosse? What advice would you give to someone who has never played the game or a teacher wanting to add this to their curriculum? Post a response below and let us know!

Click here to shop lacrosse equipment & resources.

Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.