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Women's lacrosse
Womens lacrosse1.jpg
A women's lacrosse player carries the ball past a defender
Highest governing body Federation of International Lacrosse
Nickname(s) Lax
First played 1890, at St Leonards School in Scotland
Contact Limited contact
Team members 12 at a time
Equipment Lacrosse ball ((lacrosse stick)) ((goggles)) ((mouthguard))

Women's lacrosse, sometimes shortened to wlax or lax, is a non-contact sport played with twelve players on each team. Originally played by the indigenous peoples of the Americas, the modern women's game was introduced in 1890 at the St Leonards School in Scotland. The rules of women's lacrosse differ significantly from men's field lacrosse.

The object of the game is to use a long handled racket, known as a lacrosse stick or a crosse, to catch, carry, and pass a solid rubber ball in an effort to score by ultimately hurling the ball into an opponent's goal. The triangular head of the lacrosse stick has a net strung into it that allows the player to hold the lacrosse ball. Defensively the object is to keep the opposing team from scoring and to dispossess them of the ball through the use of stick checking and body positioning.

At the highest level it is represented on the collegiate level by the National Collegiate Athletic Association in the United States with an NCAA Women's Lacrosse Championship held each spring, and internationally by the thirty-one member Federation of International Lacrosse, which sponsors the Women's Lacrosse World Cup once every four years.



Known as the "fastest sport on two feet,"[1] lacrosse is a traditional Native American game which was first witnessed by Europeans when French Jesuit missionaries in the St. Lawrence Valley witnessed the game in the 1630s.[2][3] These games were sometimes major events that could last several days. As many as 100 to 1,000 men from opposing villages or tribes would participate.[4] Native American lacrosse describes a broad variety of stick and ball games played by the indigenous people.[5] Geography and tribal customs dictate the extent to which women participated in these early games.

"Lacrosse, as girls play it, is an orderly pastime that has little in common with the men's tribal warfare version except the long-handled racket or crosse that gives the sport its name. Its true that the object in both the men's and women's lacrosse is to send a ball through a goal by means of the racket, but whereas men resort to brute strength the women depend solely on skill."

The first modern women’s lacrosse game was played in 1890 at the St Leonards School in Scotland, where women's lacrosse had been introduced by Louisa Lumsden. Lumsden brought the game to Scotland after watching a men's lacrosse game between the Canghuwaya Indians and the Montreal Lacrosse Club.[7] One of Lumsden's students, Rosabelle Sinclair, established the first women's lacrosse team in the United States was at the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, Maryland.[8]

Men’s and women’s lacrosse were played under virtually the same rules, with no protective equipment, until the mid-1930s.


A women's lacrosse player goes for a catch

Women’s lacrosse is played with a team of 12 players; one of the players is usually the goalkeeper. The ball used is typically yellow. But, if both teams agree then the game can be played with a bright orange ball. The duration of the game is 60 minutes, two halves of 30 minutes each. Each team is allowed one 90-second team time-out per half. Time-outs may be taken after a goal has been scored. In 2008, a new rule was regulated if a team has possession in their attacking end, then they may call a time out.

The rules of women's lacrosse differ significantly from men's lacrosse. The details which follow are the USA rules. International women's lacrosse rules are slightly different.[9]

The women's lacrosse game saw numerous rule changes in 2000.[10] Modifications include limiting the amount of players allowed between the two restraining lines on the draw to five players per team. Stick modifications have led to offset heads, which allow the women's game to move faster and makes stick moves and tricks easier. In 2002, goggles became mandatory equipment in the United States (but not a requirement in international rules). In 2006, hard boundaries were adopted.


Women play with three attackers (or "homes"), five midfielders (or "middies"), three defenders (starting from the back, called "point", "cover point", and "third man"), and one goalie.[11] Seven players play attack at one time and seven defenders are present.[11] There is a restraining line that keeps the other four players (plus the goalie) from going into the attack. If those players cross the line, they are considered offsides and a penalty is given.[11]


Women's lacrosse rules are specifically designed to allow less physical contact between players. As a result of the lack of contact, the only protective equipment required is eyewear and a mouthguard.[11] Although these are the only protective equipment, there are still many injuries due to accidental checks to the head and the overall aggressiveness of the sport. The pockets of women's sticks are shallower than those of the men, making the ball harder to catch and more difficult to shoot at high speed.

Playing area

Women's lacrosse field dimensions based on 2007 IFWLA women's lacrosse rules

There are two different surroundings around the goal on both sides of the field. The eight meter arc and the 12 meter fan. When committing a major foul inside either of these areas, the offense regains the ball and has a direct opportunity to goal. If outside the 8-meter arc, but inside the fan, a "lane" to goal is cleared of all other players and the person who committed the foul is relocated 4 meters behind the offender. If inside the 8-meter-arc and a defensive foul occurs, all players that were previously inside the surrounding must take the most direct route out. The player who was fouled now moves to the nearest hash mark that is located around the edges of the arc and has a direct lane to goal. The defender who committed the foul is relocated on the 12-meter fan directly behind the shooter.

The shooting space rule in women's lacrosse is very important in keeping the players safe. It occurs when a defender moves into the offender's shooting land to goal, at an angle that makes the defender at risk of being hit by the ball if the offender were to shoot.

Duration and tie-breaking methods

Women's games are played in two 30-minute halves. These 30 minutes are running time, except for the last two minutes, during which time stops when the whistle is blown (This can differ when playing high school or middle school games).[11] While the whistle is blown, players are not allowed to move. In women's lacrosse, players are not allowed to touch the ball with their body or cover the ball with their stick in order to scoop it into their stick or protect the ball from picked up by an opponent.[11]

Ball in and out of play

The "draw" is what starts the game and keeps the game going after a point. The draw is when two girls, one from each team, stand in the center circle with the backs of their sticks facing each other. Then the referee places the ball between the two sticks. Each player has to push their sticks together parallel to the ground to contain the ball. There are allowed four players from each team to stand along the circle surrounding the center circle during the draw. The players’ sticks around the circle cannot break the line until the whistle is blown. The centers must lift and pull their sticks over their heads releasing the ball.

When the referee blows the whistle during play everyone must stop exactly where they are. If the ball goes out of bounds on a shot then the player that is closest to the ball receives the possession. If the ball goes out of bounds not on a shot then the other team is awarded with the possession. For example, if a player threw a bad pass to her teammate and the ball went out of bounds then the other team would receive the ball.

Protecting one's stick from being checked is a very important key in the game of women's lacrosse.[11] In order to protect the stick from being checked, the player must cradle the ball. If the player has a strong "cradle", it would make it much more difficult to recover the ball for the opposing team. "Cradling" is the back and forth movement and twisting of the head of the stick, which keeps the ball in the pocket with centripetal force.

In women's lacrosse, players may only check if the check is directed away from the ball carrier's head.[11] Also, players may only check using the side of their stick. If caught by one of the referees using the flat of the head, it will be called as a "held check" and the opposing team will get the ball.[11]

There are two types of fouls in woman's lacrosse, major and minor.[11] When a minor foul is committed anywhere on the field, the player who fouled is set four meters to whichever side she was guarding the person she obstructed. If a major foul occurs outside of the 12 meter fan or eight meter arc, the fouler must stand four meters behind the player she fouled.[11]


Penalties for women's lacrosse are assessed with the following cards:[11]

  • The green card, given to the team captain, is for a delay of game.
  • The yellow card is for a first-time penalty and results in the player being removed from the field for three minutes.
  • The red card is the result either of two yellow cards or one unsportsmanlike behavior ruling, and causes the player to be ejected from the game. If the red card is for unsportsmanlike behavior, the player is also not permitted to play in the following game. Women's lacrosse includes both major and minor fouls.

Major fouls

  • Rough/Dangerous Check
  • Check to the Head (Mandatory Card)
  • Slash(Mandatory Card)
  • Holding
  • Crosse in the sphere
  • Illegal Contact
  • Illegal Use of Crosse
  • Hooking
  • Reach across the body
  • Illegal cradle
  • Blocking
  • Charging
  • Pushing
  • Obstruction of the Free Space to Goal(Shooting Space)
  • Three Seconds
  • Illegal Pick
  • Tripping
  • Detaining
  • Forcing Through
  • False Start
  • Playing the ball of an opponent
  • Dangerous Propelling(Mandatory Card)
  • Dangerous Follow-Through(Mandatory Card)
  • Dangerous Shot
  • Illegal Shot

Minor fouls

  • Covering
  • Empty Stick Check
  • Warding off
  • Hand Ball
  • Squeeze the Head of the Crosse
  • Body Ball
  • Throwing her crosse in any circumstance.
  • Taking part in the game if she is not holding her crosse.
  • Illegal Draw
  • On the center draw, stepping on or in to the center circle or on or over the restraining line before the whistle.
  • Illegal crosse
  • Scoring a goal with a crosse that does not meet the field crosse specifications.
  • Adjusting the strings/thongs of her crosse after an official inspection of her crosse has been requested during the game. The crosse must be removed.
  • Jewelry
  • Illegal Uniform
  • Illegal Substitution
  • Delay of game
  • Play from out of bounds
  • Illegal re-entry
  • Illegal Timeout

International competition

Beginning in 1972, the sport was governed internationally by the International Federation of Women's Lacrosse Associations (IFWLA). The formation of the IFWLA actually predated that of the corresponding body for men's lacrosse, the International Lacrosse Federation (ILF), by two years.

In August 2008, after negotiations lasting four years, the IFWLA and ILF agreed to merge into a single governing body, the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL). All tournaments operated by the IFWLA will be taken over by the FIL.

Every four years, the Women's Lacrosse World Cup is held. It was organized by the IFWLA before its merger with the IFL, and will be organized in the future by the FIL. Australia is currently the world champion after a record making win over the United States in 2005.

Famous Players

  • Kristen Kjellman, two-time winner (2006, 2007) of the Tewaaraton Trophy.
  • Jen Adams, head coach at Loyola College and All-American lacrosse player at University of Maryland.


  1. ^ Pietramala, pp. 15-16
  2. ^ Vennum, p. 9
  3. ^ Liss, p. 13.
  4. ^ Vennum, p. 183
  5. ^ Vennum, Thomas (2007). Lacrosse Legends of the First Americans. JHU Press. p. 2. ISBN 0801886295.  
  6. ^ Fisher, p. 200
  7. ^ "History of Lacrosse at St Leonards". Retrieved 2008-05-01.  
  8. ^ "History of Bryn Mawr School". Retrieved 2008-07-18.  
  9. ^ 2007 IFWLA Women's Lacrosse Rules, International Federation of Women's Lacrosse Associations
  10. ^ "Women's Rule Changes for 2000". LaxPower. Retrieved 2007-03-18.  
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Women's Condensed Lacrosse Rules". US Lacrosse. Retrieved 2007-03-18.  

External links

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