man lying down with lacrosse gear in front of goal
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The popularity of adult lacrosse has been a slow burn that’s been heating up, so it’s no wonder you want to learn how to play this fun and physically challenging sport.

Lacrosse is a sport where there are many fundamental differences between the men’s version and the women’s version, but we’ve got you covered.

From basic game format and rules to stick handling to essential gear and, of course, where to play, you’ll get the A to Z on how to play the sport of lacrosse as an adult.

Key Takeaways

  • Check the Adults Play Sports directory to find adult lacrosse near you.
  • Understand the dimensions of a lacrosse field, the different player roles, and the game rules for effective gameplay. Knowing these basics will help you play better and enjoy the game more.
  • Discover the differences between men’s and women’s lacrosse.
  • Focus on conditioning through cardiovascular exercises, strength training, and agility drills. These workouts will improve your stamina, strength, and quickness on the field.
  • Use essential lacrosse equipment, such as helmets, sticks, gloves, and cleats, for safety. Proper gear is important for protecting yourself from injuries.

Lacrosse’s Growing Popularity Among Adults

Lacrosse’s popularity has been rising at the youth and collegiate levels, so it’s no surprise that interest is spreading among adults as well.

Adults are discovering the excitement that comes with playing lacrosse. You aren’t alone in seeking a sport that’s both physically challenging and socially rewarding. Lacrosse’s unique mix of speed, strategy, and teamwork brings people together.

Object of The Game

The objective of lacrosse is to score more goals than your opponent to win the game.

You do this by using a stick (also known as a cross) and with a net (pocket) on top of it to run and pass balls down the field with your teammates and shoot balls into your opponent’s goal. On defense, you protect your own goal from the opponent’s shots by blocking them or stealing possession of the ball.

Game Format

There are two types of lacrosse: field and box. Field lacrosse is traditional outdoor lacrosse. Box lacrosse is typically played indoors in a boxed-in area, similar to a hockey rink or indoor soccer field.

While the objectives of box and field lacrosse are the same, there are some differences in the game. This post will cover field lacrosse, but if you’re interested in learning the rules and format of box lacrosse, you can check them out in our detailed post here.

The game format for men and women is broken into four quarters ranging from 10 to 15 minutes each, with a two-minute break in between. There is a 10-minute halftime after two quarters of play.

This is a recent change for women’s lacrosse, which used to be played in two 30-minute halves.

women's lacrosse game at sunset

Field Layout Basics

Men’s Lacrosse Field Format

The standard size of a men’s lacrosse field is 110 yards long and 60 yards wide. Each end is flanked by a goal and a defensive area/attack area that is 35 yards long and 40 yards wide. The center zone of a lacrosse field is the midfield, which is 40 yards long and 60 yards wide. There is a 60-yard line marked on the left and right of the midfield.

An X marks the center of the midfield.

Women’s Lacrosse Field Format

The standard size of a women’s lacrosse field is 120 yards long and 65-70 yards wide with goals on either end. The women’s goal area is marked with an arc in front of it

There are a couple of differences between men’s and women’s markings and zones on lacrosse fields. The goals on women’s lacrosse fields have two semicircle marks in front of them. One is an 8-meter arc, and the outer is a 12-meter fan. They represent foul shot areas.

A circle marks the center of the midfield zone, which is 30-40 yards wide and is marked by a restraining line on each side.

Players & Positions

female lacrosse goale on her knees

Men’s lacrosse players and positions

Men’s lacrosse games have 10 players on the field: goalie, three defenders, three midfielders, and three attackers.

Women’s lacrosse players and positions

There are 12 players in a women’s lacrosse game. They include: goalie, four defenders, three midfielders, and four attackers.

Game Play

Contact vs. No Contact

One of the biggest differences between men’s and women’s lacrosse is that there is contact in men’s lacrosse and no contact (incidental contact is okay) in women’s. Checking is a huge part of the men’s game, although this might be limited in recreational leagues or senior men’s leagues.

Faceoff vs. Draw

Men start their games with a face-off. The ball is placed on the X in the center of the field, and when the whistle blows, they battle for possession with their sticks. The short video below demonstrates a faceoff.

YouTube video

Women, on the other hand, start their games with a draw. They place their sticks at waist level and the referee place the balls between the back of both their sticks. When the whistle blows, players push and pull to free the ball and try to get possession. The short video below demonstrates a draw.

YouTube video

Defending, Attacking, Passing, Catching

For both men’s and women’s versions of the game, each player has a specific role that contributes to the team’s overall strategy and success. Each position is important and requires different skills. By knowing where you fit in, you’ll play better and help your team succeed.

There are three main areas in lacrosse: attack, midfield, and defense. Attackers are your primary goal scorers. Positioned near the opponent’s goal, they use speed and agility to create scoring opportunities. Attackers need to move quickly and think fast to outmaneuver defenders.

Midfielders cover the most ground. They play both offense and defense, making them vital for switches and maintaining team balance. Midfielders should be fit because they run up and down the field constantly, helping both the attack and the defense.

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Defenders protect your goal. They use strength and positioning to block attacks and support the goalie. Defenders need to be tough and smart, knowing where to stand and how to stop the other team from scoring.

Goalies are the last line of defense. With quick reflexes and (hopefully) an ability to remain calm under pressure, they guard the net and direct the defense. Goalies need to be alert at all times, ready to make big saves, and communicate with their teammates to keep the defense organized.

male lacrosse players on turf field in an action shot from opposing teams

Penalty Rules

There are various penalty rules in men’s and women’s lacrosse, which can range from technical fouls like offsides to more egregious personal fouls like slashing (forcefully swinging your stick at an opponent).

There are different repercussions for penalties, and again, they differ for men’s or women’s play.

For a full breakdown of the rules for men’s and women’s lacrosse, check our post that breaks this down in-depth.

What Are Some Basic Lacrosse Drills for Beginners?

Stickhandling proficiency is imperative for playing lacrosse. You’ll need to learn how to control the ball and make plays with your stick. And it all starts with the grip. Make sure to hold the stick with your dominant hand near the top and your other hand about a third of the way down. This grip gives you the flexibility and control you need for quick moves.

Then, practice wall ball to improve your catching and throwing skills. Find a sturdy wall and throw the ball against it, catching it as it bounces back. This will help you improve your passing and receiving.

Next, work on cradling the ball while running. Cradling is a motion that keeps the ball secure in your stick while you move. Think of it as a rocking motion. Use your wrists and forearms to keep the ball nestled in the pocket of your stick. Practice cradling while walking. Then try it while jogging and, eventually, while running

Hold the lacrosse stick close to your body and move it back and forth to keep the ball secure. This builds coordination and helps you maintain control during a game.

Groundball drills are also important. Practice scooping the ball off the ground with your stick. Bend your knees, get low, and use a quick, fluid motion to pick up the ball. This skill is key for gaining possession during matches. Try it first when you’re standing still. Once you’ve mastered that, try it while running.

Once you’re proficient at those drills, you can move on to passing and catching with another player. When you pass the ball, snap your wrists and follow through to make sure your pass is accurate. To catch, keep your eyes on the ball. Give a little with your stick to absorb the impact when the ball hits it.

With consistent practice, you’ll get better at these skills. Remember, everyone starts somewhere, and every bit of practice brings you closer to mastering stick handling in lacrosse.

Conditioning and Fitness Essentials

To excel in lacrosse, you need a solid foundation in conditioning and fitness. Lacrosse is a fast-paced game, so you have to be quick on your feet, have good endurance, and possess a strong core.

Start with cardiovascular exercises like running sprints and distance to build your stamina. Aim for at least 30 minutes of cardio three to four times a week.

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Strength training is also essential. Focus on exercises that target your legs, core, and upper body. Squats, lunges, and planks can help you build the strength needed for powerful shots and sustained play.

Don’t forget about your agility. Incorporate ladder drills and cone drills into your routine to improve your footwork and reaction time.

Flexibility is often overlooked but is critical for preventing injuries. Include stretching exercises and yoga sessions to keep your muscles limber.

Essential Lacrosse Equipment

lacrosse gear spread on field

Your lacrosse journey won’t be complete without the right equipment. The gear you choose will keep you safe and help you play better.

Again, there are key differences in gear requirements for men’s and women’s lacrosse. Because the men’s version of the sport involves more aggressive contact, it requires more protective gear. Men typically wear additional padding and helmets for protection, while women don’t.

Men’s Standard Lacrosse Gear

  • Helmet: Lacrosse helmets are pretty rugged and feature a face cage to protect from errant balls, sticks, elbows, etc. There is also a throat protector for additional protection.
  • Stick: Unlike women’s lacrosse where all field players have the same size stick, men’s sticks vary in size depending on position. Attackers and midfielders sticks range from 40 to 42 inches, while defenders sticks measure between 52 and 72 inches. Goalie sticks range from 40 to 72 inches. Men’s net pockets are deeper and more tightly woven than women’s.
  • Gloves: Men’s lacrosse gloves are thicker and offer more protection than women’s because of more contact in the game.
  • Cleats: Lacrosse-specific cleats are designed for quick cutting moves that happen in the game.
  • Padding: Additional padding for men’s lacrosse includes shoulder pads, chest protector, elbow pads, and arm guards.

Women’s Standard Lacrosse Gear

  • Stick: Also known as the crosse, the stick is topped with a net known as the pocket. Women’s pockets are more shallow than the men’s version. Women’s lacrosse sticks are all the same size, except for the goalie. For adult women’s lacrosse players, the stick length will range from 35.5 inches and 43.25 inches, while the goalie stick can be up to 52 inches long.
  • Gloves: While goalies are required to wear gloves, field players are not, but many opt to wear them for extra protection and grip.
  • Cleats: Lacrosse-specific cleats are designed for quick cutting moves that happen in the game.
  • Eye Protection: Women’s lacrosse goggles are a requirement; in place of lenses, there are usually metal wires to prevent sticks and balls from penetrating to the eyes.
  • Mouthguard: Lacrosse mouthguards protect the teeth and look similar to football mouthguards.
  • Soft-shell helmet: Some women opt for a soft helmet instead of goggles.

Find Men’s, Women’s, and Co-ed Adult Lacrosse Leagues

In recreational adult lacrosse, most commonly, you’ll find separate men’s and women’s leagues. However, some places do have very casual co-ed leagues.

A lot of leagues are post-collegiate leagues where players have a lot of experience. But as the popularity of lacrosse grows, there are more leagues with beginner options cropping up.

The quickest and easiest way to find an adult lacrosse league near you is to check our directory. You’ll find the very popular ULAX leagues, as well as pickup leagues and more.

If you’re just starting out, be sure to ask leagues if they are open to beginners.