I work in investment banking and enjoy running marathons, hiking in the mountains, and pampering my cat. I've also had many moles removed.
When I was a freshman in high school, my school started a girl's lacrosse team. Being the mousy bookworm that I was, I had never even heard of lacrosse and on another one of my strange, demonic whims I decided to try out for the team. Everyone else was new to the sport as well, so I figured the loss of dignity and pride would be minimal. It was the first sports team I had ever joined, and it literally changed my life. The sport is a blast to watch and even more enjoyable to play. However, lacrosse is still climbing toward recognition as many people do not understand how it is played. This article is divided into equipment, terminology, field markings, the object of the game, players and basic rules.
Girl’s lacrosse is played with a minimal amount of equipment: A lacrosse stick, a face mask that covers the eyes and nose and a mouthguard. Girl’s lacrosse is also played in a skirt that usually ends just above the knees and is made of a stretchy or loose fabric. Girls are required to wear spandex shorts beneath their skirts. Depending on the team, jerseys can be loose-fitting or tight and come in a variety of styles. Socks are chosen depending on the weather and players usually wear cleats. Some players choose to wear gloves to protect their hands, but they are by no means required. Goalies wear helmets and significant amounts of padding.
Lacrosse has many unfamiliar words, and it is necessary to understand a few of them before moving deeper into the different aspects of the game.
- Shaft, Head, and Butt: Okay, you can stop giggling now. These are the actual names for the part of the lacrosse stick. The shaft is the long stick-like part of the lacrosse stick that players hold on to. It can be made of metal, plastic or wood. The head of the stick is the vaguely pear-shaped netting at the top. The netting is usually attached to a framework made of plastic or wood. The butt of the stick is the rubber cap at the bottom of the shaft, where a player usually rests their bottom hand to better control the motion of the lacrosse stick while throwing.
- Cradling/ To Cradle: Cradling is the twisting and rocking motion of a lacrosse stick as a player runs. Holding a lacrosse stick still makes it very easy for an opponent to knock it out of your stick. Cradling the ball by moving your stick in a swift back and forth motion near your head utilizes physics to keep the ball in the net. Cradling can be hard to describe, but it is an innate part of a player’s game. Most players develop their own unique cradle which protects the ball.
- Checking: If you don’t cradle the ball and allow your stick to get too far away from your head, you are at risk of being checked. Checking is a swift downward slicing motion with your stick against the head of someone else’s stick. The collision must be quick and clean, and the goal is to knock the ball out of the other player’s net.
- Draw: The draw is how the game starts. Two girls in the center of the field stand together on the center line and put their stick heads together and apply pressure. A referee places the ball in between the heads of their sticks. Still applying pressure against the other girl’s stick, both girls bring their sticks upward rapidly together, releasing the ball at the top. The first girl to get the ball ‘wins’ the draw and then play begins.
Object of the Game
Lacrosse is very similar to soccer, but played in the air instead as players throw the ball to one another. When not attempting to make a pass, players ‘cradle’ the lacrosse ball in the shallow basket at the end of the lacrosse stick as they move across the field. The object of the game is, of course, to score a goal with the small (generally yellow) Indian-rubber ball that is used. The game is divided into two 30 minute halves (although when I played, it was 25-minute halves). Each team is allowed two 90 second time outs.
- Center Circle: The circle in the center of the field is where the play begins. Two girls start the draw in the very middle and four girls from each team stand at the edge of the circle, waiting for the ball to be launched into the air before they can move in to go after it.
- Restraining Line: Restraining lines divide the field into thirds and keep defensive and offensive players on their two-thirds of the field. There must be at least three girls from each team behind their restraining line at all times, or a foul is called.
- Twelve Meter Arc: Two arcs fan out from the goal in lacrosse. The furthest one out is called the twelve meter and is where girls must stand if a foul has been called and the other team awarded a free shot.
- Eight Meter Arc: The eight-meter arc is just inside the twelve-meter arc, and a girl can only be in the eight-meter arc for three seconds unless she is closely following (defending) another player. This is partially for the player’s protection as it keeps them from being in front of the goal when a shot is taken. Since it is only the goalie that wears protective gear, players can and will get a foul if they are in the ‘shooting lane’ as another player takes a shot.
- Goalie’s Circle (Crease): This is the small circle surrounding the goal and the goalie. No one but the goalie is allowed inside this circle. There is a small line inside the goalie’s circle that marks where the inside of the goal begins so the goalie cannot stray inside.
- Defenders: There are four defenders on a field at a time. Three stand on the closest restraining line during the draw (although they are not restrained by it after the draw has been completed) and the fourth is called a Defensive Wing (D-wing) and essentially plays as a ‘middie,’ running the entire field. The D-wing stands on the circle during the draw or just outside.
- Offensive Players: There are also four offensive players. The same as defenders, three offensive players, must wait on the closest restraining line until the draw is completed. The fourth is called the Attack-wing (or A-wing) and also waits on the circle or just outside.
- Center: The center is the person who takes the draw and functions as a midfielder running the entire field.
- Midfielders: There are two distinct midfielders (although there are technically five including the center, D-wing, and A-wing) who ring the circle and run the field.
- Goalie: The goalie completes the team of twelve players.
Lacrosse has some basic rules, many of which have already been mentioned. Girls are not allowed to knock each other around, like boy’s lacrosse. Physical contact must be minimal and not harmful. Checks must be swift and clean and not enter the ‘sphere’ around the girl’s head or neck, which is why a close cradle is essential. However, cradling the lacrosse stick directly against the head, or hunching over to protect the ball is also against the rules.
Girls are also not allowed to ‘cover’ the ball. When the ball is on the ground, several seconds of field hockey-esque scrambling can occur as girl’s jam their stick heads together, trying to scoop the ball up. If a girl’s stick head covers the ball, it is called covering or raking and will be called quickly. A quick, smooth scooping movement is essential to capturing ‘ground balls.’
Being in the shooting lane while not following another girl will be called quickly as will being in the eight-meter arc for more than three seconds without following another girl. Again, entering the goalie’s circle is against the rules.
Beyond these basics, girl’s lacrosse is fairly easy to pick up, despite how impossible catching a ball with a tiny net on the end of a stick may seem to be. Even if you don’t plan on playing, you will now be able to competently watch and confidently comment on a girl’s lacrosse game. Enjoy this competitive, fast-paced game!
Questions & Answers
Question: I want to try out for girl's lacrosse as a freshman, but I have absolutely no experience and very little athletic ability, what do you recommend I should do to prepare myself?
Answer: I would recommend buying a cheap lacrosse stick. Do not spend a lot of money when you don’t know if you’ll make the team, but find a very cheap one. Practice cradling the ball first and foremost and then practice scooping the ball up off the ground while running towards it (Don’t just practice picking it up while you stand still because you wouldn’t be doing that in a game). Do those first and then try catching the ball after throwing it and bouncing it off a hard surface.
Stick skills will be the most important when trying out, but if that’s not possible, then work on your physical athleticism, because that’s the real foundation.
Start by running- I used to run for half an hour every night when training, and work on lunges, in particular. Push-ups, planks- basic bodyweight exercises are very helpful. Sprints also are great!
Question: If you have never played lacrosse before, is it easy to learn?
Answer: It is! I started playing as a freshman in high school without knowing anything about it before. Getting a good cradle down will probably the most challenging long-term, but learning how to catch and throw come with time.
Question: My school doesn't have a lacrosse team, but I am very much interested in playing. What do you suggest I do?
Answer: My school didn't have lacrosse when I first started, either. You could approach your school's athletic director/coordinator and ask them what you would need to do to start a lacrosse team for the school and go from there. You could also simply start a lacrosse club for the school, instead of a sanctioned team sport. You could approach another school in the district, and see if they have a team and you could potentially play with them. You could search online to see if your city has any casual lacrosse leagues/teams you could join and play with or take the initiative and start your own!
© 2012 Shanna
lanahnxx on August 25, 2020:
I'm 18 year old girl but never played lacrosse, im not sure what stick i should get.
LJS on July 18, 2020:
Thanks I just started playing lax and I know the rules now thx.
necha on May 10, 2016:
I am trying to start playing lacrosse but I did not know the rules but now I know how to play. Thanks
Katie on March 06, 2016:
I signed up to play lacrosse on my girls freshmen team and I had absolutely no idea what to do so this post really helped me out a lot! Thank you
Billy Packard from Maryland USA on August 04, 2015:
Thanks for the great post
Shanna (author) from Utah on March 15, 2012:
Thank you Vellur! :) I love your username, by the way. It's very pretty.
Nithya Venkat from Dubai on March 14, 2012:
A new game to me,very well explained. Sounds like fun. Voted up.
Shanna (author) from Utah on February 03, 2012:
Ahhh, really embarrassing mistake in that post. That should be "Realized while" not "realized why". UGH!
Shanna (author) from Utah on January 29, 2012:
Astra- It is a very cool game, but I realized why writing this, it's kind of hard to explain. I'm not sure why this is, but I found myself struggling a bit to organize it and explain sufficiently!
Cathy Nerujen from Edge of Reality and Known Space on January 29, 2012:
Someone I know plays this game, or is trying to. Not many people seem to know the rules of it. But is seems like a cool game. :)
dipless from Manchester on January 27, 2012:
Played mans lacrosse at Uni and it definitely is contact :) It was great fun but i was never really that good, thank you for sharing this, it's a very interesting read especially as many schools in the UK don't offer this sport.
Shanna (author) from Utah on January 26, 2012:
Steph- Thank you! Boy's lacrosse is a contact sport though, so he'll be wearing a helmet and significant padding. Also, if he plays Defense, his lacrosse stick will be about six feet long. Girl's lacrosse sticks are all uniform size at about three-three and a half feet long.
Simone- Our school offered lacrosse at just the right time, and I'm so glad they did!
Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on January 26, 2012:
I always thought that lacrosse looked like tons of fun. It's a shame none of my schools offered it! Well, at least I know the gist of it now- thanks for the introduction!
Stephanie Marshall from Bend, Oregon on January 25, 2012:
My middle school son is going to be starting lacrosse this spring, so this is an excellent, helpful guide to the game. Well done and rated up! Cheers, Steph