Lacrosse Face Off Rules

Lacrosse Face-Off

The faceoff is an essential element of the game of lacrosse that occurs at frequent intervals throughout the game. Coaches emphasize the importance of winning the faceoff; if one team can control the faceoffs and earn outright possession of the loose ball consistently, they are much more likely to win the game. Read below to learn the basic procedure of the faceoff, faceoff techniques, faceoff violations, and the differences between the faceoff procedures in the men’s and women’s game.

Lacrosse Faceoff Definition

In lacrosse, a faceoff is a method of starting play at the beginning of each quarter and after every goal. In a faceoff, two members of the opposing teams, usually short-stick midfield players, battle one-on-one for possession of the ball close to the ground at the center of the field. The faceoff ends when one player has gained clear possession of the ball.

Lacrosse Faceoff Procedure

A faceoff is administered by the official at the start of each quarter and after each goal. The faceoff occurs at the faceoff X, located in the center of the field on the centerline. One player from each team, almost always a short-stick midfielder, lines up in their defensive half at the midfield line (or “centerline”).

The opposing players kneel or crouch in an athletic stance on the ground, holding a two-handed grip on the shaft, to the left of the throat. Prior to the whistle, each stick is parallel to the other, with the sidewalls upright and on the ground. Players must not touch the midfield line with their stick or any part of the body.

The official sets the ball on the ground between the two pockets and blows the whistle to start play. The players then use stick techniques and body positioning to win possession of the ball. A faceoff is considered over when one team gains clear possession or the ball travels out of bounds.

During a faceoff, a team at full strength must keep three defensemen plus the goalkeeper in the defensive area, three attackmen in the offensive area, and one player in each wing area. Once the whistle blows, midfield players on the wings may release and move towards the faceoff X to help win a loose ball or get open for the next pass. Defenders and attackmen must wait for one team to gain possession before they can leave their designated areas after a faceoff.

Faceoff Violations

There are several illegal actions that can occur during a faceoff. A player may not use their hands to handle the ball or hold the opponent’s crosse. Faceoff play is intended to be quick, so a player receives a penalty if they hold the ball to the ground under the pocket for too long. Players cannot use their head or helmet to push their opponent away from the ball.

Teams are allowed two faceoff violations in one half or overtime period without incurring a time-serving penalty. After the third violation, the offending player must serve a 30-second technical penalty.

Draw vs. Faceoff

In women’s lacrosse, the equivalent of the faceoff is the draw. As in the men’s game, the players hold their sticks parallel with the sidewalls facing up, but unlike men’s lacrosse, they stand upright, and the ball is placed between the opposing players’ pockets. The centers quickly draw their sticks up and overhead to put the ball in play. Similar rules apply to the positioning of other field players around the center circle and behind the restraining line.

Lacrosse Faceoff Rules Summary

  • A faceoff begins play at the start of each quarter and after every goal.
  • Faceoffs take place at the center of the field.
  • During a faceoff, each team must have three players plus the goalkeeper in their defensive zone, three players in their attacking zone, and a player in each wing.
  • When the official says, “down,” the two opposing players must get into a kneeling position with their sticks and gloves touching the ground.
  • The sticks must be parallel to the centerline but not touching it.
  • When the official places the ball on the faceoff spot and says, “set,” players must stay in position and not move.
  • When the official blows their whistle, the faceoff begins and the two players may attempt to gain control of the ball.
  • The faceoff is over when one player has possession of the ball.
  • If a violation occurs during the faceoff, it will be redone.


What are the rules for a faceoff in lacrosse?

A faceoff is used to start play at the beginning of each quarter and after goals are scored. To perform a faceoff, one member of each team must get into a kneeling position with sticks on the ground at the faceoff spot in the center of the field. They must remain still until the referee blows their whistle. The faceoff is over when one player gains possession of the ball. If a faceoff violation occurs, the faceoff will be redone.

What is the result of a faceoff violation?

The first two faceoff violations in a half or overtime period result in the faceoff being redone. For the third faceoff violation, and any subsequent infractions, the offending player is assessed a 30-second technical penalty, leaving their team man-down for that period.