Lacrosse Unsportsmanlike Conduct Penalty

Lacrosse Unsportsmanlike Conduct Penalty

As with many other contact sports, lacrosse has strict rules regarding the conduct of its players and coaches. In a game of lacrosse, players and coaches must abide by various rules that forbid them from actions that are considered unsportsmanlike and detrimental to the game. Violators of these rules often receive a personal foul for unsportsmanlike conduct, with various consequences imposed for the different types of violations that occur.


In lacrosse, unsportsmanlike conduct comprises a wide range of violations, most of which are included in the category for lack of their own unique name. These violations are grouped together as unsportsmanlike conduct violations because they cause disturbance to the normal play of a game and violate the integrity of the gameplay, other players, or the officials involved in the game. According to NCAA and US Youth Lacrosse Rules, unsportsmanlike conduct penalties can be given out for a number of reasons. A penalty can be given to any player, substitute, non-playing team member, or coach who verbally argues with an official over a decision or attempts to sway their decision in any way. Unsportsmanlike conduct can also be called on anyone who uses threatening, foul, or obscene language and gestures on the field or deliberately attempts to bait, taunt, or call excessive attention to themselves via their conduct.

Unsportsmanlike conduct penalties can also be given out for various illegal actions during play. For example, unsportsmanlike conduct is called whenever a player in a faceoff uses their hands or fingers to grasp the ball or their opponent’s lacrosse stick. Unsportsmanlike conduct is also assessed whenever a particular player repeatedly commits the same type of technical foul, of any nature, over the course of the game. Finally, unsportsmanlike conduct is called whenever a player throws their lacrosse stick at the ball, at another player, at the goal cage, or at other game personnel, such as officials.

In US Youth Lacrosse, another form of unsportsmanlike conduct occurs whenever a defensive player who is not the goalkeeper enters the crease with the intention of blocking a shot as a goalkeeper.   


In NCAA and US Youth Lacrosse, unsportsmanlike conduct is a personal foul with various penalties. For instances where the unsportsmanlike conduct involves arguing with an official, foul language or gestures, baiting and taunting, grabbing the ball during a faceoff, or throwing the lacrosse stick, both NCAA and US Youth Lacrosse require a non-releasable penalty of one to three minutes. This type of penalty must be served in full by the penalized player, who cannot re-enter the field even if the opposing team scores a goal during their penalty. However, in the case of unsportsmanlike conduct involving repeated technical fouls or delaying return to the field, a releasable penalty can be issued, meaning that the player can re-enter the field if a goal is scored during their penalty time. In extreme circumstances, repeated unsportsmanlike conduct penalties can result in ejection from the game.   

Referee Signal

Lacrosse Unsportsmanlike Conduct Referee Signal

In both NCAA and US Youth Lacrosse, the signal for unsportsmanlike conduct involves the referee holding his arms outward from his body and parallel to the ground forming a T-shaped position. The referee may or may not make other signals to indicate additional types of fouls alongside the unsportsmanlike conduct.  


  • While the ball is either dead or live, one of the coaches of the two opposing teams enters the field and proceeds toward an official, angrily questioning his recent call. The coach receives a non-releasable penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct and must take one of his players out of the game for two minutes.
  • Player 1 slashes Player 2, a member of the opposing team, and is issued a releasable personal foul of two minutes. After the play, Player 3, a teammate of Player 1, criticizes the penalizing official and receives a one-minute, non-releasable unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
  • Players 1 and 2 are facing off for the ball. After the official blows his whistle to start play, they struggle for the ball, and in the process, Player 2 reaches out with one hand and grabs the stick of Player 1. Player 2 receives a one-minute non-releasable penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
  • After the official blows his whistle for players to return to the field, Player 1 deliberately remains outside the field, causing a delay. Player 1 receives an unsportsmanlike conduct foul and is given a one-minute releasable penalty.

Similar Penalties to Unsportsmanlike Conduct

  • Illegal Body Check
  • Illegal Equipment
  • Cross-Checking
  • Slashing
  • Tripping


What is unsportsmanlike conduct in lacrosse?

In lacrosse, unsportsmanlike conduct occurs whenever a player or coach acts in a way that is detrimental or disruptive to the game, other players, or officials. There are many types of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls, including, but not limited to: arguing with or criticizing an official, using foul or obscene language or gestures, baiting and taunting, using the hands or fingers to grab a ball or crosse during a faceoff, delaying return to the field, or throwing a lacrosse stick at the ball, another player, or other game personnel.

What are the consequences of being called for unsportsmanlike conduct in lacrosse?

Unsportsmanlike conduct can earn various penalties in lacrosse, depending upon the type of conduct being fouled. For most forms of unsportsmanlike conduct, such as arguing with an official, using foul language, baiting, faceoff violations, and throwing the lacrosse stick, a non-releasable penalty of one to three minutes is given to the offending player. For certain lesser fouls, such as repeating technical fouls or delaying return to the field, a one to three-minute releasable penalty may be issued. Some other penalties, like contacting the goalkeeper, may be releasable or non-releasable, and in some leagues, two unsportsmanlike conduct fouls can result in a player being ejected from the game.  

Can unsportsmanlike conduct be called on a coach in lacrosse?

Yes, unsportsmanlike conduct can be called on a coach in lacrosse. Most often, coaches are called for unsportsmanlike conduct when they enter the field to argue with or berate an official, which violates the first rule against unsportsmanlike conduct. If a lacrosse coach is found guilty of unsportsmanlike conduct, they will be given a non-releasable penalty of one to three minutes, for which they must remove one of their players from the game to serve the penalty.