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Field Lacrosse 101 

Adapted from:

The Differences between Field and Box Lacrosse are Like Night and Day by John Atchison,   


Lacrosse, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,   


Going back as far as the beginnings of each sport, you see one that was born from the land, played by the Indians, and past down for generations. The other arose from owners looking to add patrons during slow times for ice rinks. From field types and sizes of different areas, to things such as length of sticks, you will find that Field and Box lacrosse are vastly different games. So let us take a moment now and examine the differences between these two exciting varieties of this sport.  

The Field of Play    

In the game of field lacrosse, the game is played out in the elements, usually on large, grass fields within a stadium or college setting. For the most part, this is the game you will see on the TV set most often, and the one that is played on NCAA and high school fields throughout the country.


The field of play is 110 yards (100 m) long and 60 yards (55 m) wide. The goals are 6 feet (1.8 m) by 6 feet (1.8 m). The goal sits inside a circular "crease", measuring 18 feet (5.5 m) in diameter. Each offensive and defensive area is surrounded by a "restraining box." Each quarter, and after each goal scored, play is restarted with a face-off. During a face-off, two players lay their stick horizontally next to the ball, head of the stick inches from the ball and the butt-end pointing down the midfield line. Face-off-men scrap for the ball, often by “clamping” it under their stick and flicking it out to their teammates. Attackers and defenders cannot cross their “restraining line” until one player from the midfield takes possession of the ball or the ball crosses the restraining line. If a member of one team touches the ball and it travels outside of the playing area, play is restarted by awarding possession to the opposing team. On a shot, though, possession is given to the player closest to the ball when it leaves the field. It is for this reason you will often see players racing after the ball following a missed shot, holding their sticks out, trying to win possession by being closest to the ball. During play, teams may substitute players in and out freely. Sometimes this is referred to as "on the fly" substitution. Substitution must occur within the designated exchange area in order to be legal.    

Game Length


In field lacrosse you are playing 4 quarters, broken into 15-minute intervals. This gives a team a few more additional breaks to recover from the fast pace of the game.


Shot Clocks? That's a basketball term, right? No my friends, it's not. In the game of box lacrosse, the offensive team is definitely on the clock per say. They have 30 seconds to take a shot at the goal, or the possession resorts back to the defensive team. You will not find the same thing in a field lacrosse game, where a team can take as much time as they like, as long as they are not whistled for a stalling infraction.



Goalies have a bit of a different time as well.  There are two big differences in this area.  In the field lacrosse game, the goalie is asked to protect a goal that is 6 feet wide and 6 feet tall, whereas in the game of box lacrosse, the goaltender is dealing with only a 4 by 4 foot goal.  There is also a great disparity though in equipment for the goaltender as well.  If you ahve watched field lacrosse, you nitice that the goaltender basically looks like he has the same equipment as all the other players on the field, with the exception of a bigger crosse at the end of his stick.  The box lacrosse goalie could not look any more different.  They wear a combination of:  gloves, helmet, shoulder pads, chest protector, leg pads and sometimes thigh pads.  It is a wonder with all the padding and the smaller size of the goal that anyone scores in box lacrosse, but they do.


The number of players on the field, and the name of the positions they play also differ in bothtype of lacrosse. In the indoor game, you will find there are only 6 total players (1 goalie, 5 forwards) on the field at any one time. Gone are the distinctions as well of defender, midfielder, and attackers. All the players on the field, with the exception of the goalies, are forwards and do it all on the field. This is because in the box game, there are no offensive and defensive zones per se, and offsides is not in the rulebook. In field lacrosse, a much different setup ensues. You have a total of ten people on the field, but instead of everyone doing the same thing; you do have players playing those specific roles mentioned above. The field is broken up into zones, and of course, the offsides rule has to be abided to. During play, each team must keep four players in its defensive half of the field and three in the offensive half, or be called offsides. Offensive players may not step into the crease that circle around the goal, in their offensive half of the field. Defensive players may step in the crease, but not carry the ball into it.




Each player carries a lacrosse stick (or crosse). A "short crosse" (or "short stick") measures between 40 inches (1.0 m) and 42 inches (1.1 m) long (head and shaft  together) and is typically used by attackers or midfielders. A total of four players per team may carry a "long crosse" (sometimes called "long pole", "long stick" or "d-pole") which is 52 inches (1.3 m) to 72 inches (1.8 m) long; typically used by defenders or midfielders. The head of the crosse on both long and short crosses must be 6.5 inches (17 cm) or larger at its widest point. There is no minimum width at its narrowest point; the only provision is that the ball must roll out unimpeded. The designated goalkeeper is allowed to have a stick from 40 inches (1.0 m) to 72 inches (1.8 m) long and the head of a goalkeeper's crosse may measure up to 12 inches (30 cm) wide, significantly larger than field players' heads to assist in blocking shots.


For most penalties, the offending player is sent to the penalty box which is located between the teams' benches.  His team then must play without the player for a designated amount of time based upon the foul. (Most penalties are "releasable", that is, the penalty ends when a goal is scored by the non-offending team.  Technical fouls (such as offsides and holding) result in either a turnover or a player's suspension of 30 seconds, while personal fouls are generally penalized one minute (although some infractions, such as playing with a stick that does not meet with the specifications of their designated level of play, may serve non-releasable penalties of up to three minutes).  The team that has taken the penalty is said to be playing man down while the other team is on the man up.  Teams will use various lacrosse strategies to attack and defend while a player is being penalized.  Offsides is penalized by a 30 second penalty.  It occurs when there are more than 7 players on the defensive side of the field (three midfielders/three defensemen/one goalkeeper), or more than 6 players from one team on the offensive side of the field (three midfielders/three attack).  The zones are separated by the midfield line.

Personal Fouls

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 crosse, hands, arems, feet or legs.

Cross Checking:  Occurs when a player uses the handle of his crosse 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 crosse that does not conform to required specifications.  A crosse may be found illegal if the pocket is too deep or if any other part of the crosse was altered to gain an advantage.

Illegal Body Checking:  Occurs when any of the following actions take 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 waise.
  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.  A glove will be found illegal if the fingers and palms are cut out of the gloves, or if the gloves has been altered in a way that compromises its protective features.

Technical Fouls

Holding:  Occurs when a player impedes the movement of an opponent or an opponent's crosse.

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.

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.

Screening:  Occurs 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.

Stalling.  Occurs when a team intentionally holds teh ball, without conduction normal offensive play, with the intent of running time off the clock.

Warding Off:  Occurs when a player in possession of the ball uses his free hand or arm to hold, push or control the diretion of an opponent's stick check.

Hand Signals



Think Outside the Box! Play Field Lacrosse! 

The Fort Saskatchewan Rebels provide an opportunity, through the Greater Edmonton Lacrosse Council, for boys and girls, aged 9 to 16, to explore the sport of Field Lacrosse.  Field is very similar to Box in the fundamental skills of passing and catching, and the physical nature of the play. The games differ in the style of play and strategy. There is no controlling shot clock and Field is played on a soccer-sized field, making it more strategic and more reliant on possession and control of the ball. 

The GELC provides two streams of play for players to experiment with and excel at the field game.   

The Grassroots program gives an opportunity for box players to try field in a structured format. Each box team will have a day to gain instruction and an opportunity to scrimmage in May each year. Those that want to build on this experience are invited to participate in the Edmonton Razorback program.   

The Razorback program runs weekly practices and one or two tournaments in July and August to practice for participation in the Alberta provincial championships at the Novice, Pee Wee, Bantam and Midget levels. Though still in its initial stages of rebirth, the Razorback’s proudly claimed the 2010 Novice provincial title!   

For more information visit the GELC website:    

Call the GELC office: 780-466-0981

or email Kevin Parker at: