Lacrosse Game Format
In this tutorial, we will cover the structure of a lacrosse game and review the most important game procedures that take place before, during and after the game.
A lacrosse game is divided into four 15-minute quarters in regulation play. In indoor lacrosse, regulation play is divided into three 15-minute periods with a 2-minute break in play between each period. After each period, teams make a change of goals and switch their respective defensive and offensive areas. This allows each team to have a fair chance at winning. If the teams did not perform a change of goals, one team might benefit advantageously from sun, wind or field surface conditions. If the game is tied at the end of regulation play, the game proceeds to sudden death overtime.
Before the Game
A lacrosse game begins with a warm-up period for each team, followed by the coin toss. The visiting team calls the coin toss and, if they win the coin toss, the visiting team decides between taking the first alternating possession or choosing which half of the field to defend first.
Before the start of play in a women's lacrosse game, the officials will conduct a stick check to ensure that the pocket depth on each player's stick meets regulation standards. Players line up during the playing of the national anthem before the starting lineup takes their spot on the field.
Start of the Game
Following the coin toss and stick check, a women's game begins with a draw, and a men's game begins with a face-off. One team lines up in the defensive area, and the other team lines up on the opposite side of midfield. Aside from the center taking the face-off of the draw, players must stand in designated positions outside the center circle and outside the restraining lines until the official blows the whistle to start play.
When the official blows the whistle to start play, the timekeeper starts the game clock. The game clock is a running clock with stoppages for certain penalty violations and when a goal is scored. The game clock is managed by a timekeeper on the sideline.
The objective in lacrosse is to score more goals than the opposing team. After a goal is scored, the teams resume their positions for another face-off or draw. In the event of a disallowed goal, the official makes the necessary ruling and play continues on the field after the goal is reviewed. In indoor lacrosse, coaches have the ability to challenge a disallowed goal on a goal-scoring opportunity.
At the end of the first half in men's and women's field lacrosse, there is a ten-minute halftime period. During halftime, players step off the field and group together on the sideline. The coaches will review performance and strategy from the first half and suggest tactical approaches for the second half. Players use this opportunity to hydrate and rest before re-entering the field of play when halftime is over.
End of Game Procedures
At the end of the second half, the team with the most goals is declared the winner. In the event of a tie, the game proceeds to sudden-death overtime. The first team to score a goal wins the game. In collegiate play, teams play as many four-minute intervals as necessary to decide the winner with two-minute breaks in between each period. In indoor lacrosse, the length of each overtime period is 15 minutes.