There are ten players in each team: three attackmen, three midfielders, three defensemen, and one goalie.
Attackmen typically spend the entire game at the opponents’ end of the field. They cannot cross the midfield line during play unless they are replaced by a midfielder, so that there are always at least 3 players in the offensive end. Attackmen need to be extremely agile and excellent stick handlers. Good attackmen should be equally capable with either hand. The real test of a great attackmen is not just how adept they are at scoring goals, but how well do they pass (feed) the open man to set up the goal. Great attackmen usually also have large numbers of assists as well as goals.
Midfielders (also commonly known as Middies) roam the entire field. They should typically be your best all around athletes and they need to be in very good condition because they cover an enormous area. Middies need to be good defenders, and they need to be able to be strong on the attack, but their real value is in their ability to transition the ball from the defensive to the offensive ends of the field. Middy’s are the real work horses of the lacrosse team. Some coaches choose to have defensive and offensive midfielders. This meaning that midfielders specialize in one side of the field, defense or offense, and rarely play at both ends of the field during a shift.
Defensemen (Long Poles) are the enforcers. They are the players who are capable of dictating to the opponents attack where they can go, and where they will be punished for going. They need to be very physical, but still extremely agile. They utilize much longer sticks up to nearly 60″ long which allow them to disrupt the opponents attack. Great defensemen need to have exceptional feet. Position on the field is the key to being a great defender. Cutting off the opponents angles to the goal is critical. The longpole will generally abuse the enemy with a barrage of checks from the longer pole and work them selves between the attacker and the goal, all the while working to dislodge or intercept the ball. Longpoles like the attackmen must stay on the defensive half of the field unless replaced by a middy. The defenders job is often also to “Clear” the ball down the field after a turnover out of the defensive zone.
Each player carries a lacrosse stick (or crosse). A “short crosse” (or “short stick”) measures between 40 in (1.0 m) and 42 in (1.1 m) long (head and shaft together) and is typically used by attackers or midfielders. A maximum of four players on the field per team may carry a “long crosse” (sometimes called “long pole”, “long stick” or “d-pole”) which is 52 in (1.3 m) to 72 in (1.8 m) long; typically used by defenders or midfielders.
The head of the crosse on both long and short crosses must be 6.5 in (17 cm) or larger at its widest point. The throat of the lacrosse head for college must be at least 3 inches wide. For high school play, there is no minimum width at its narrowest point; the only provision is that the ball must roll out unimpeded. The designated goalkeeper is allowed to have a stick from 40 in (1.0 m) to 72 in (1.8 m) long and the head of a goalkeeper’s crosse may measure up to 12 in (30 cm) wide, significantly larger than field players’ heads, to assist in blocking shots.
The field of play is 110 yd (100 m) long and 60 yd (55 m) wide. The goals are 6 ft (1.8 m) by 6 ft (1.8 m). The goal sits inside a circular “crease”, measuring 18 ft (5.5 m) in diameter. Each offensive and defensive area is surrounded by a “restraining box.” Each quarter, and after each goal scored, play is restarted with a face-off. During a face-off, two players lay their stick horizontally next to the ball, head of the stick inches from the ball and the butt-end pointing down the midfield line. Face-off-men scrap for the ball, often by “clamping” it under their stick and flicking it out to their teammates. Attackers and defenders cannot cross their “restraining line” until one player from the midfield takes possession of the ball or the ball crosses the restraining line. If a member of one team touches the ball and it travels outside of the playing area, play is restarted by awarding possession to the opposing team, unless the ball traveled outside of the playing area after a shot on goal was made then the player with the closest lacrosse head to the ball at the point when it exits the field of play gains possession of the ball. During play, teams may substitute players in and out freely. Sometimes this is referred to as “on the fly” substitution. Substitution must occur within the designated exchange area (often called “the box”) in order to be legal.
For most penalties, the offending player is sent to the penalty box, which is located between each team’s bench. Play continues without the player for a designated amount of time based upon the foul, however, most penalties are “releasable,” meaning that the penalty ends when a goal is scored by the non-offending team. Technical fouls (such as offsides and holding) result in either a turnover or a player’s suspension of 30 seconds, while personal fouls are generally penalized one minute. (Some infractions, such as playing with a stick that does not meet the specifications of the designated level of play, may serve non-releasable penalties of up to three minutes). The team that has taken the penalty is said to be playing man down, while the other team is on the man up. Teams will use various lacrosse strategies to attack and defend while a player is being penalized. Offsides is penalized by a 30-second penalty. It occurs when there are more than 7 players on the defensive side of the field (three midfielders/three defensemen/one goalkeeper), or more than 6 players from one team on the offensive side of the field (three midfielders/three attack). The zones are separated by the midfield line.