Lacrosse : The Fastest Game On Two Feet!

If you are new to field lacrosse we have included a short introduction to the game below. Whilst this is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to the sport, we hope that it will provide a few pointers to help you get started. If you would like to know more, or want to try the' fastest game on two feet' for yourself, please contact us

Please note : this information relates to Men’s field lacrosse. If you are looking for information on Women’s lacrosse please have a look this guide…

The Origins Of Lacrosse

The Origins Of Lacrosse

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.

Lacrosse first found it's way to these shores in the same year when Canadian teams undertook several exhibition tours. Interest was such that a few clubs were formed in England and later, in 1876, a further tour took place-this time with teams that included Native Americans, who reputedly played in traditional war paint and feathers. More clubs were soon established and the game began to grow, particularly in and around the North West of England where the North Of England Lacrosse Association was founded in 1879. Several clubs formed around this time still exist today.

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 States 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.

Adapted from 'The Facts About Lacrosse' at US Lacrosse

The Basics Of The Game

The Basics Of The Game

Men’s field lacrosse is played by two teams of 10 players each. Teams are made up of three attacking players, three midfielders and three defensive players plus a goalkeeper. The object of the game is to score goals by putting the ball into the opponent’s net, and to prevent the opposing team from scoring. Players catch and throw using a stick with a meshed head (the ‘crosse’) and they can also use their feet to kick the ball, though they must not touch it with their hands. Matches are divided into four quarters of 15 minutes each for juniors, and 20 minutes for seniors.

At the start of the game, before each quarter and after a goal has been scored, play is started with a ‘face-off’. A single player from each team contests the ball which is placed on the centre spot on the field of play. On the sound of the referee’s whistle the players on the wing may move in towards the ball, but all other players must wait until possession is called by the referee. Once a team has possession, players will run with the ball in their stick, pass it through the air to their team mates, or even run the ball along the ground where it can be scooped up and moved on. Unlike many other ball sports, the area behind each goal is also part of the playing area , so the goalkeeper must have great awareness and speedy reactions.

Lacrosse is played at a fast pace (the ‘fastest game on two feet’ is a phrase often associated with the sport!), and a combination of precise stick handling skills and athleticism are crucial to success. Players must be able to pass and catch the ball whilst at speed, and to dodge opposing players on their way to the goal. Lacrosse tends to be a closely fought and high scoring game with a goal tally often in double figures by the end of a match.

During the game, controlled contact is allowed by way of body and stick checking. A player may use his body to check an opponent from the front or side in an attempt to move them off the ball, or he may use his stick to try to dislodge the ball from his opponent’s crosse. Contact is carefully monitored by the referee, any overly aggressive play is penalised by instant penalties (usually the sending off of the offending player for a short period - the time being dependent upon the seriousness of the offence). During the penalty period the offending team may not replace the player who has been removed from the game. Though lacrosse can appear to be quite aggressive, violence is neither condoned nor allowed.

Substitutions are made ‘on the fly’ with players moving on and off the field when required by the coach. For this reason, although the team on the field at any one time is made up of just 10 players, the squad may be larger. Players will rarely take part for the full length of the match, indeed the speed and overall pace of the game being such that a short break can often be a welcome relief! This system also means that every squad member will have an opportunity to take part in the game.

The Lacrosse Referee

The Lacrosse Referee

In junior lacrosse there will, ideally, be a minimum of two referees (umpires) on the field. For senior lacrosse games there will usually be three referees on the pitch, such is the pace of the game.

As well as facilitating the free flow of the game, the referee is also responsible for ensuring that the technical rules are adhered to, and for ensuring that players do not use excessive force to win possession and score goals.

Lacrosse players can commit both personal (serious) and technical (less serious) fouls which result in the offending player leaving the pitch for a penalty period.

The referee uses a series of arm signals to communicate his decisions to the players on the field and to other officials. You can find out what they mean here

The Field Of Play

The Field Of Play

Lacrosse Equipment

Lacrosse Equipment

Lacrosse Balls

The ball used in field lacrosse is made from hard rubber and measures approximately 2 inches in diameter. The ball travels at high speeds with top adult players managing shot speeds approaching 100mph.

Lacrosse Sticks

Lacrosse sticks were originally made from wood (often hickory), but nowadays most comprise of an aluminium alloy shaft with a separate head made from durable plastic. A cloth net in the head is formed into a ‘pocket’ for catching, throwing and cradling the ball. Most players will carry a ‘short’ stick (in the British game measuring between 40 and 42 inches) which is easiest to handle for all round play. Each team may also have up to a maximum of four players on the field carrying a ‘long’ stick (with an overall length between 52 and 72 inches). These are most often used by defensive and occasionally by midfield players. They are less easy to handle, but allow for a longer reach and allow the players to contest a grounded ball from a greater distance. Goalkeepers use a shorter stick, but with a much larger crosse.

Lacrosse Goals

A regulation lacrosse goal is 6 feet tall by 6 feet wide and has a pyramid shaped net which is fixed 7 feet behind the centre of the goal line. The goal itself is situated in a marked circle known as the ‘crease’ which has a radius of 9 feet. No attacking player may enter the crease, though a player may reach inside the crease with his stick in an effort to pick up the ball.

Player Protection

Whilst serious injuries in Lacrosse are thankfully rare, it is important to wear the correct gear when practicing and playing. All players wear a helmet with an integral face guard. The helmet is made from a lightweight but strong high impact plastic and is usually decorated in club colours. Upper body protection in the form of chest, shoulder and elbow pads are worn underneath the jersey. Gloves are heavily padded around the wrist area and fingers to offer maximum protection from checks made to the players stick. As most games take place on soft grass surfaces, players will wear lacrosse cleats, or studded football or rugby boots.

The lacrosse goalkeeper wears additional protection. He must attach a throat guard to his helmet and his gloves may have extra padding, particularly in the area of the thumb. The goalkeeper’s chest protector is usually longer than that worn by outfield players, covering both the chest and abdominal area. Many goalkeepers also choose to wear shin and thigh protection.

Lacrosse : Fast Facts

  • Lacrosse is considered the oldest team sport in North America and is Canada’s national summer sport
  • In the original Native American version of the game, teams consisted of between 100 and 1000 men, on fields that were often several miles long.
  • In 1867 members of the Caughnawaga tribe came to England and played a demonstration game for Queen Victoria.
  • Women's lacrosse rules are closer to the original than in the Men's game which changed significantly in 1930's.
  • Lacrosse is currently the fastest growing team game in the USA, and is enjoying widespread growth throughout the UK and Europe.
  • Many famous names have played lacrosse in their youth including actors Tom Cuise and Michael J. Fox.
  • The North West of England has a long tradition of lacrosse, with the game being played here since the early 1800’s
  • Lacrosse has been contested at the Summer Olympic Games only twice-in 1904 and in 1908. It featured as a demonstration event at the 1928, 1932 and 1948 games.
  • In July 2010 the Men's World Lacrosse Championships was held in Manchester.
  • Lacrosse is addictive - Once you picked up a stick you won't want to put it down!



Want To Play?

Poynton Lacrosse Club welcomes new members of all ages. Please click here to find out more.