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Lacrosse Rules Clarified aka Laxology 101

Below are NFHS rulings that are commonly misinterpreted, misconstrued, not well known, or forgotten. Please send any additions, correction, or comments to us at

Last update: Jan 28, 2017


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Player Losing Equipment

Per Rule 4.27.6, if a player loses any mandatory equipment in the scrimmage area, play shall be suspended immediately. If there is possession, the team in possession maintain's possession on the restart. If the ball is loose outside the crease, the ball is awarded using the alternate-possession rule. If the ball is loose inside the crease, the ball is awarded to the defensive team laterally outside the goal area. If A1 loses mandatory equipment in a legal way and no other players are in the immediate vicinity, then the play may continue until A1 enters the scrimmage area or until the play is completed. A loss of equipment during the play of the game triggers an official's time-out and should not be confused with a player entering the game without some item(s) of mandatory equipment which is a personal foul.

End of a Period - Uneven situation

If a period ends with an uneven situation, possession to start the next period is awarded to the team with possession at the end of the prior period. If there is an even situation, or a flag down creates an even situation, then there is a faceoff. For example, Team A has a man in the penalty area as the period is ending. There is a a flag down for a slash by Team B and the period expires with Team A possessing the ball. RESULT: We will start the next period with a faceoff because the B penalty creates an even situation.

How much can the wings on a faceoff be involved in the "scrum"?

Just as any other time, the players coming in from the wings cannot contact an opponent who is touching the ground with anything other then his feet. This would be an illegal body check. For example, a face off guy still on his hands and/or knees. Beyond that, there's wording in 5.7.3 "Slashing" that prevents them from beating on a faceoff man's hand.

Slashing 5.7.3
Striking an opponent in any part of the body with the crosse (including its end cap), except when done by a player in the act of passing, shooting or attempting to scoop the ball. In all situations, the player's gloved hand shall be considered part of the crosse, except when in contact with a line marking.

Also a player cannot kick a crosse but they can kick the ball or attempt to rake the ball out.
Be sure to get a wide enough view so you can see all the action. You don't want to be right on top of it.

Is a crosse without an end cap illegal?

There is no penalty for not having an end cap on a crosse but that crosse can not be in the game until it has a end cap on it. You should include this information in your pregame conversation with the coaches. Some of them think that the stick should be penalized because of no end cap. The same applies to shooting strings. They cannot be longer than 2 inches but there is no penalty. The player should cut the strings.

Are all hits to the head a 2 or 3-minute non-releasable penalty?

No. Only for cross checks and illegal body hits to the head. A typical slash that hits the helmet is 1 minute and releasable. Targeting or direct contact to the head is a 2 or 3 minute non-releasable penalty not a 1 minute penalty. You must consider time and distance, could he have held up or did he speed up and create a bigger impact on the player. Both officials need to be on the same page when calling this. If you call this wrong you can wind up having 3 to 6 targeting the head calls that are not actually that during a game. This means that 12% to 25% of the game time you will have players serving non-releasable penalties. A hard intense hit to the head should be 2 minutes or more because some players are just trying to injure the other player. Make sure you call them if they are there but don't lock players in the box without fully knowing the rule. If you cannot communicate to your partner and the coach why this penalty deserves to be a locked penalty then maybe it is not.

How much time do the teams get to sub once we throw a flag and stop play?

20 seconds. We just put someone a man down why would we not let him play man down defense. This is what we are looking for. With a flag down, once the ball hits the ground the official who threw the flag tells his partner the penalty so both officials know what is going on. The trail official reports the penalty to the box. Then put your 20 second timer on. If you put a team down and then put the ball in play without them being able to properly sub, you've created a situation where the team could be 2 or 3 men down. If your partner blows the ball in and the defense is not ready then blow your whistle and reset the field.

If a team is up by 12 goals in the first half, does the mercy rule apply?

No. Only in the 2nd half. If a team is up by 12 goals then the clock only stops for timeouts and injuries. If the goal differential goes down to 11 then you go back to a stopped clock. If you have a running clock, then penalty time is also running time and the penalty time will start on the next whistle.

Do goalies serve their own penalty time at the freshman or JV level?

Yes, all goalies will have to serve their penalty time. If you have a penalty and only have one goalie you must switch equipment. You are not allowed to play without a goalie. Allow the team some time to switch equipment and then in high school they can have a 1 minute warm up. Once the penalty is over, the coach must take a timeout to switch equipment back to the other goalie.

Can a coach have a different player serve penalty time?

No. The player must serve his full penalty unless he is injured or ejected. A coach can bring a sub into the box with a few seconds left on the penalty. Once the penalty is over the subbing player enters the field and the penalized player just leaves the box. If the penalized player is going back onto the field just have him go to the top of the box just before his penalty is over. Keep the penalized player in the back of the box until the penalty is over for safety reasons.

Play On or Flag Down

If you have a play on or a flag down, be aware of what is going on. If nothing good is going to happen then stop the play. A play on should be very very short in front of the crease. If you have a penalty and you cannot find your flag, blow your whistle to stop the play and then get the flag out. This has happened a couple of times where the official is looking for his flag and the player gets at least 2 more slashes before play stops. All time serving penalties must have a flag, and remember, the whistle kills the play not the flag.

What is the penalty for an improperly marked field?

Many of the lacrosse teams are lucky to get their stadiums for a few games. If the lines are not exactly the way they should be, be somewhat lenient for underclass games. Some fields use the soccer lines or do not have an end line in the middle of the end zone. Per the Rule Book, lack of a center line or shadow line through the logo is a technical foul. The visiting team will begin with initial possession instead of a face-off to begin the game.

Goalie Interference - Free Clear or Not?

If the goalie has possession in the crease and is interfered with, indicate "Play-On". If the goalie does not run the ball out of the crease or complete a pass, award the ball at center X, i.e. a "free clear". If there is goalie interference with no possession, indicate "Play-On". If the goalie gains possession, the "Play-On" is over, otherwise, award the ball to the defense in the alley.

Offsides - Free Clear or Not?

In high school, if the team that is offsides is in possession of the ball, award the ball to the other team at the spot of the ball, or in the alley if it's in the box. If the other team has the ball when a player goes offsides, you have a flag down situation. If you have a loose ball then award the ball to the team that is not offsides at the spot of the ball, or in the alley if it's in the box.

They only have 2 men on defense - they're offsides!

Per Rule 4.11.13 "A team is not considered offside if a team with too few players at either end of the field has not gained an advantage because the player(s) in question is off the field of play." We just call this bad substitution, they're playing with less than 10 players.

What's the penalty for throwing a crosse?

Penalty is 1 to 3 minute Releasable penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Can a player wear tinted glasses (e.g. sunglasses?)

Yes, per rule 1.9... A player may wear a clear, molded and non-rigid helmet eye shield. A player may wear eye glasses, either tinted or clear. A player may not wear both a clear, molded and non-rigid helmet eye shield and tinted eye glasses.

What ends a flag down slow whistle?

Some people like the GOODIE acronym:

  • Goal
  • Out of the box, out of bounds, or on the ground
  • Offensive foul
  • Defense gains possession
  • Injury
  • Expiration of a clock (game clock, timer, etc)
Officially, Per Rule 7.8.2, "The official shall withhold the whistle until:"
  1. A goal is scored by the attacking team.
  2. The ball goes out of bounds.
  3. A player on the defending team gains possession of the ball.
  4. A player on the attacking team commits a foul.
  5. An injury occurs to a player on either team and is deemed by the official to be serious enough for an immediate whistle.
  6. A player loses any of the required equipment in a scrimmage area, and the official is required under the rules to blow the whistle.
  7. The attacking team requests a team time-out
  8. The period ends
  9. A second defensive foul is committed, unless a scoring play is imminent
When does the 10 second count start?

A team has 10 seconds to get the ball into the goal area (i.e. attack box) once they cross midfield and have possession or regain possession after the defense has had possession. The 10 second count should not be started until there is possession. Article 1 states: A team shall bring the ball into the goal area within 10 seconds in each of the following situations:

  • After crossing the center line with possession.
  • After initially gaining possession in the offensive half of the field.
  • After regaining possession in the offensive half of the field following a defensive possession.
Flag down and a score - Does the penalty serve or not?

If the flag was thrown for a personal foul and a goal is scored, the penalty must be served. If it is a releasable penalty it will be released on the next goal scored by the opponent, but the player must serve the penalty so you will have a man-down faceoff. A technical foul is waived off and not served if a goal is scored while the flag is down.

Late Hit on a Shooter - faceoff or not?

If the late hit on the shooter was part of the goal scoring play then you should assess the penalty and have a man-down faceoff. If the hit was obviously a dead-ball foul, well after the score, then the penalty should be Unsportsmanlike Conduct. If the foul is a slash, late hit, illegal body check type of foul and it occurs as a part of the scoring play, then the faceoff will still occur.

Multiple Fouls

(Microsoft Word version)

  1. Possession, foul by B, FDSW, technical by A
    • Team A has possession
    • Team B commits a foul, flag down; while the ball is still live, Team A commits a technical foul
    • Team A’s technical serves only to end the flag down
    • Team B serves the appropriate penalty time, Team A serves no time.
    • Team A is awarded possession.
    • Technically a simultaneous foul but since only one team is serving time, do not give the simultaneous foul signal.
  2. Possession, foul by B, FDSW, personal by A
    • Team A has possession
    • Team B fouls, flag down; while the ball is still live, Team A commits a personal foul
    • Team A’s personal ends the flag down
    • Team A and B players serve penalty time. Both players locked in for longest common penalty time.
    • The ball is awarded to the team with the least total penalty time; if equal, A keeps possession.
    • No free clear (exception to Rule 7-3)
    • This is a simultaneous foul situation
  3. Loose ball, technical by B, play-on, technical by A
    • Ball is loose
    • Team B commits a technical foul, play on
    • While the ball is still live, Team A commits a technical foul
    • Team A’s technical foul ends the play-on
    • Team A is awarded possession
    • No one serves penalty time
    • This is a simultaneous foul situation – when all fouls are technical, no time is served
  4. Loose ball, technical foul, play-on, personal foul
    • Ball is loose
    • One team commits a technical foul, play on
    • While the ball is live, the other team commits a personal foul
    • The personal foul ends the play on
    • Technical foul serves 0:30; Personal foul serves 1:00–3:00; 30 seconds non-releasable
    • The ball is awarded to the team with less total penalty time
    • No free clear (exception to Rule 7-3)
    • This is a simultaneous foul situation
  5. Dead ball, simultaneous technical fouls
    • Dead-ball simultaneous technical fouls
    • If Team A has possession, Team A maintains possession
    • No penalty time served by either team
    • If a face-off is pending, have the face-off or award the ball by A.P.
  6. Dead ball, simultaneous personal fouls
    • Dead-ball simultaneous personal fouls
    • Award ball to the team with less total penalty time
    • If penalty time is equal and one team was entitled to possession, they maintain possession
    • Both players locked in for shortest penalty time
    • If penalty time is equal and a face-off is pending, have the face-off or award the ball by A.P.