A lacrosse field is a sacred place for sport. In the earliest days of the game, lacrosse fields spanned over many miles and very intense terrain. Today, we are lucky to have regulation fields of grass or turf that all players share for fair play. Current lacrosse fields are slightly bigger than football fields and share some similar marking lines that will be discussed later. The substitution game in lacrosse is also slightly confusing, but it will be covered as well. What’s most important about substitutions and the field dimensions, is knowing the rules. Once you understand the rules that are explained in this article you will have plenty of opportunities to make great plays because of your knowledge. After all, it’s best to work smarter not harder.
Lacrosse Field Dimensions and Sideline Rules
The outdoor lacrosse field can be roughly split into three sections for the easiest explanation. There is an offensive zone, defensive zone, and the midfield that need to be worried about. These three zones are divided by the midline and the restraining lines, which will be explained later. Each zone applies to the field’s dimensions and, more importantly, the substitution rules. Learning the size of a lacrosse field and where to go can make all the difference during a game.
How Big is A Lacrosse Field?
A regulation boy’s and girl’s unified lacrosse field is 110 yards long with 53 1/3 to 60 yards in between the sidelines. An NCAA Men’s lacrosse field requires a 60-yard width between sidelines with 110 yards between endings. An NCAA Women’s lacrosse field can be between 110 to 120 yards long with 60 to 70 yards from sidelines.
In men’s and boys lacrosse, each half of the field contains a 40 yard by 35-yard “box” that surrounds the goal and touches the endline.This box is where the majority of offensive and defensive possessions take place. Infront of the endline and behind the goal line is a 15-yard separation that is still inbounds and commonly referred to as “X”.
Once you understand the size of a lacrosse field then you need to understand where to line up.
Lining Up on A Lacrosse Field
Each team must start the game with ten players dispersed through the three zones listed above. The defensive zone must have four players from that team in the zone and no more. The offensive zone and midfield both need three players in them prior to the faceoff.
The defensive four are normally three d-poles, and a goalie. Conversely, your offensive three are normally all short sticks. The midfield normally begins with two short sticks and one d-pole, called an LSM, but this can be changed. Lacrosse only allows four d-poles on the field per team, but there is no rule about where they can go. This means you can start with three d-poles in your midfield or offensive zone, just as long as you don’t have more than four. Some teams use this as an advantage and put two d-poles on the faceoff for a better chance of getting the ball, or if the other team has a very strong midfield and they need to defend them more aggressively.
Where to Line Up?
First, for boy’s or men’s lacrosse there are 10 players on a team. Most players begin in their offensive or defensive zone behind the restraining line, or 30-yd line. The offensive three and defensive four must stay behind their restraining lines until the faceoff is completed and possession gained. The players that are involved in the face either line up on the wings or take the actual face while the others wait.
The two players taking the face meet in the very middle of the field, while the wings are to their sides. Wings are 20 yards long and go 10 yards out from the midline on each side. The wings are also 10 yards off of the sideline and 20 yards from the faceoff. Players may line up anywhere on a wing as long as they aren’t in front of or passed the line, and only one player from each team is allowed on each wing.
Once the face-off has been completed and one team has recovered the ball, it has moved passed a restraining line, or gone out of bounds, the players behind the restraining lines are free to move.
Lacrosse Sidelines, Endlines, & Other-Lines
Your general lacrosse fields are 60 yards wide and 110 yards long for boy’s or girl’s lacrosse. This field is slightly larger than a football field, so don’t get distracted by their lines when playing if it is a multisport field. Lacrosse sidelines are normally in or passed the thick white sideline used in football, and the endline is 5 yards into the endzone.
The restraining line also extends down towards the endline as well and creates a box. This box is 10 yards off the sideline but reaches the endline with no extra boundary. Within this box is the goal, which is 40 yards from the midfield line, or on the 10 yard line of a football field. The line that the goal rests on is often called “Goal Line Extended”, or GLE, and is a marker for offenses and defenses to get into position or scoring areas.
Another extremely important part of the field to pay attention to is the substitution area, often called the “box”. All players entering or exiting the field must move through the box which extends 10 yards from the midline to each side on one sideline. This is a high traffic area and clearing the ball on that side of the field is often not advised.
Subbing in lacrosse is done “on the fly” like in hockey, which means play doesn’t stop for substitutions like in basketball. Subbing on the fly means you must be careful to not break any rules while subbing because there isn’t any extra time to think. The easiest way to make sure you don’t mess up is to simply take one player off and put one player on, but that can be too simple.
Teams may use the whole 20 yards of the box for subbing on both sides. A player entering on one side of the box can have his sub leave on the opposite side. This can be huge for getting back on defense or potentially helping start a fast break.
You can also sub through the midline, which is meant for controlled subs. To sub through the midline, you simply exchange a player from the defensive zone with a player crossing over. The best example for this would be clear.
If a D-middie clears the ball for your team and you want to quickly get an offensive midfielder on, first pull off a defender. This pull of the defender allows your offensive middie on the field, but he can’t cross into the offensive zone. Once the d-middie gets the ball to someone else they simply run back to the midfield and exchange with the offensive middie. At that point, the D-middie must substitute through the box for the defender to come back on; but, they both must stay on the defensive half of the field. This is because you must keep four players in your defensive zone at all times. The same process can be replicated for a defensive player to come on, but with the attack coming off instead of a defender.
Here are some quick tips to help you with boundaries and subbing:
- When stuck behind the restraining line on a faceoff you can reach over for the ball. As long as your body doesn’t touch the ground past the line, your fine.
- There’s no penalty for no having enough players on the field during play. If you need to step off for a drink while the ball is on the other side you can.
- Goalies can cross the midline as long as a player stays back for them.
- Try to clear on the opposite side of the box to avoid all the players subbing on and off.
- When carrying the ball by the sideline, keep your stick close to the sideline. No one can reach it there.
- Once possession is gained on a faceoff any player can move to any side as long as 3 are in the offensive zone and four are in the defensive zone.
- Always run when subbing, the slow man loses.
- When subbing off, if someone is trailing you, you can try to trick them by stating and stopping. If you can get them to stay when you go off, or the opposite, it creates positive numbers for you.
- If your man is subbing off keep an eye on them, or follow them.
- You can change sticks mid-game, but not while on the field. You must step off the field, change sticks, and then step back on.
- Listen to your coach, but pay attention. Subbing can get confusing and result in penalties so be aware of what is going on. If your coach tells you to sub, do it. If they are wrong you shouldn’t get in trouble for following orders.