The positions resemble those in soccer: goalie, defensemen, midfielders, and attackmen. The game play is more like hockey and basketball. There's non-stop end-to-end action, with whistles blown for out of bounds and penalties. Offensive plays include both fast breaks, and "half-court" setups, using basketball-like picks and cuts. Like hockey, the field is extended beyond the goals, so plays can begin from the back of the goal, as well as out front.
Lacrosse is a contact sport, but not at the level of football or hockey. Padding is limited to the waist up, and required equipment includes a helmet, gloves, a mouthguard, shoulder pads, arm (or elbow) pads and, of course, a stick. Unlike hockey gloves, lacrosse gloves have a flexible thumb. Youth hockey shoulder pads can be used for lacrosse, as can another sport's arm or elbow pads.
Although it's a contact sport, that contact is carefully regulated. For example, it's legal to body check an opponent if he has possession of the ball or is within five yards of a loose ball. The body check must be made from the front or side with contact made above the knees and below the shoulders. A player may check his opponent's stick with his own stick if the opponent has ball possession or is within five yards of a loose ball or a ball in flight. Stationary offensive screening of an opponent is permitted (the pick play). The team that controls the ball obviously has the better chance of being the victor. Therefore, ball handling and control of ground balls are primary.
• Teams – All high school and college lacrosse is 10v10 as is almost all youth lacrosse at the “travel” and “club” level. US Lacrosse, the national governing body for lacrosse, has recently changed the rules for youth lacrosse to encourage a “small-sided” game with fewer players. As such, PGYLL will be 7v7 for 3rd-7th Grades and 4v4 for Kindergarten-2nd Grade.
• Goal Value -- Each goal counts one point.
• The Goal – 6 feet x 6 feet, made from pipe, strung with netting. Younger ages play on 4 feet x 4 feet goals.
• The Ball -- Solid rubber -- orange, yellow or white -- weighing roughly 5.5 oz.
• The stick- offensive players typically play with a stick around 36 inches in length. Goalies and defensemen have specialized sized and shaped sticks.
What to Watch For:
• Face Off -- One on one play, where the referee places the ball between the two player's sticks to begin play at start of a period, or after a goal.
• Fast Break -- Similar to basketball, generally a four offensive player against three defenders situation that's difficult to defend.
• Clearing -- Term used by the defensive team to move the ball from their half of the field to the attack half -- seven clearing players against six riding players.
• Riding -- Term used by the attacking team to keep the defensive team from clearing the ball.
• Man Up (extra man) -- When the attacking team has a man up advantage due to an opponent being in the penalty box. Teams typically use a special offensive group, like ice hockey.
• Man Down Defense -- When the defensive team is a man short due to a penalty. Man down defenders will play either a shifting or zone defense.
• Offensive Stalling -- Team in possession of ball must make an effort to move ball towards the goal.
• Fouls and Penalties -- There are two categories of fouls, personal (which calls for a suspension of one to three minutes) and technical (30 seconds if the opposing team has the ball at the time, or possession of the ball if it's loose or the offending team has it). The penalties are released when time is up, or if a goal is scored by the team with the extra man.
• Personal Fouls -- Illegal body checking slashing, cross checking, tripping, unsportsmanlike conduct or fighting.
• Technical Fouls -- Interference, holding, pushing, playing without a stick, withholding the ball from play, illegal procedure (such as stepping in the crease, checking the goalie's stick when he is in the crease, touching the ball with your hand), and offsides (each team has to have at least four men on each half of the field at all times).
• Crease -- No attacking player is allowed in the crease. No defensive player, nor the goalie with the ball, once he's left the crease, may enter it. The goalie can receive a pass in the crease.
• Ball Out Of Play -- The ball is given to the team which did not cause it to go out of bounds, unless it went out after being shot at the goal. In that case, the team whose player is closest to the ball when it goes out is given possession.
US Lacrosse parent handbook for young boys: include basic explanation of rules and fouls.