Women's lacrosse, sometimes shortened to lax, is a 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 Leonard's 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 stick (known as a crosse or lacrosse stick) to catch, carry, and pass a solid rubber ball in an effort to score by ultimately getting the ball into an opponent's goal. Usually there is a certain technique to the throw such as underhand, overhand, sidearm etc. The head of the lacrosse stick has a mesh 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. The rules of women's lacrosse are very complicated, and very different than the men's lacrosse game. Equipment required to play is also different than the men's. Women are only required to wear eyewear/lacrosse goggles, and a mouth guard. Their stick has restrictions too, it has to be a certain length and the pocket cannot be too deep.
At the collegiate level, lacrosse is represented by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. In the United States an NCAA Women's Lacrosse Championship is held each spring. Internationally women's lacrosse has a thirty-one member group called the Federation of International Lacrosse, which sponsors the Women's Lacrosse World Cup once every four years.
Known as the "fastest sport on two feet," 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.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. Native American lacrosse describes a broad variety of stick and ball games played by the indigenous people. Geography and tribal customs dictate the extent to which women participated in these early games.
"Lacrosse, as women 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 (stick) that gives the sport its name. It's 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." Rosabelle Sinclair
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'slacrosse game between the Canghuwaya Indians and the Montreal Lacrosse Club. One of Lumsden's students, Rosabelle Sinclair, established the first women's lacrosse team in the United States was at the Bryn Mawr School inBaltimore, Maryland.
Women's and mens field lacrosse were played under virtually the same rules, with no protective equipment, until the mid-1930s.
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 different coloured ball. The duration of the game is 60 minutes, two halves of 30 minutes each. Each team is allowed two 90-second team time-outs per game (two 2-minute timeouts in the USA). Time-outs may be taken after a goal has been scored. In the USA rules a team with possession of the ball may call a time out, although this rule does not apply to the International game.
The women's lacrosse game saw numerous rule changes in 2000. 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.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.
Women play with three attackers (starting with the position closest to the net that a team is shooting at, the attack positions are called "first home", "second home", and "third home"), five midfielders (a "right attack wing", a "left attack wing", a "right defensive wing", a "left defensive wing", and a "center"), three defenders (starting from the position closest to the net a team is defending, these positions are called "point", "cover point", and "third man"), and one goalie. Seven players play attack at one time and seven defenders are present. 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 off-sides and a penalty is given.
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 a mouth guard and face guard/goggles.Players have the option of wearing eye protection, although it is not mandated under international rules. In addition, players may choose to wear gloves. 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. The pockets also make it harder to cradle without dropping the ball. Jewelry is not recommended to be worn during play as it can get caught on a number of things, during a game no jewelry is allowed to be worn.
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. If a player fouled another player not in the arc, the victim receives the ball and the player who fouled must back away at least 4 meters. All other players standing closer than 4 meters to the ball holder must also back away to give the girl room to move with the ball.The size of the playing field depends on the players' age group. For U15 and U13 players, they must play on a regulation sized field with all appropriate markings. For U11, they must play on a regulation sized field with all appropriate markings whenever possible. Otherwise they may play on a modified field with reduced players. For U9 players the fields must be rectangular, between 60–70 yards in length and 30–40 yards in width to accommodate play on existing fields.
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 lane to goal, at an angle that makes the defender at risk of being hit by the ball if the offender were to shoot.
Women's games are played in two 30-minute halves (two 25-minute halves for high school varsity). These 30 minutes periods are running time (may be stop-clock after goals in USA rules), except for the last two minutes, during which time stops when the whistle is blown. While the whistle is blown, players must stand in place. In women's lacrosse, players are not allowed to intentionally touch the ball with their body to gain an advantage or cover the ball to protect it from being picked up by an opponent. Should a tie remain after regulation the teams play 5-minute golden goal overtime periods until one team scores, which wins them the game.
The "draw" is what starts the game and keeps the game going after a goal is scored. 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 ( two Midfielders, one Attack wing, and one Defense wing)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. If the ball goes out of bounds on a shot, it is common for the player to reach out her stick in an attempt to be ruled closest to the ball and gain possession.
Protecting one's stick from being checked is a very important key in the game of women's lacrosse. 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.
Allowable checking is based on what age level of the game is being played. Rules for U15 and above allow lacrosse players full checking above the head. However, this requires that at least one of the two umpires have a USL Local Rating so that they can judge the appropriate amount of contact. In most cases, a check into the head area is a mandatory red card. If a sufficiently experienced umpire is not available, then U13 checking rules must be used where modified checking only below the shoulder is allowed. Also in U13, a check into the head area is a yellow card rather than a mandatory red card. In U11 and U9 no checking is allowed. US Lacrosse rules recommend that Middle School/Junior High players play with U13 checking rules.
In women's lacrosse, players may only check if the check is directed away from the ball carrier's head. 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.
There are two types of fouls in woman's lacrosse, major and minor. When a minor foul is committed anywhere on the field, the player who committed the fouled is set four meters to whichever side she was last guarding the person she obstructed. If a major foul occurs outside of the twelve meter fan or eight meter arc, the fouler must stand four meters behind the player she fouled.
Penalties for women's lacrosse are assessed with the following cards:
- 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. In the U.S.: any player receiving two yellows sits out the rest of the game but is allowed to play in the next game.
- The red card is the result either of two yellow cards or a flagrant foul or extremely unsportsmanlike behavior, 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. U.S. rules differ in that a red card is not the result of two yellow cards and any player receiving a red card sits out the rest of that game and her team's next game.
Penalties assessed include:
- Rough/Dangerous Check
- Check to the Head (Mandatory Card)
- Slash(Mandatory Card)
- Crosse in the sphere
- Illegal Contact
- Illegal Use of Crosse
- Reach across the body
- Illegal cradle
- Obstruction of the Free Space to Goal (Shooting Space)
- Illegal Pick
- Forcing Through
- False Start
- Playing the ball of an opponent
- Dangerous Propelling (Mandatory Card)
- Dangerous Follow-Through (Mandatory Card)
- Dangerous Shot
- Illegal Shot
- 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.
- Illegal Uniform
- Illegal Substitution
- Delay of game
- Play from out of bounds
- Illegal re-entry
- Illegal Timeout
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 have been 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 is now organized by the FIL. The most recent edition was held in Prague in 2009, and saw the fourth consecutive matchup of the United States and Australia in the final. The USA avenged their 2005 defeat by Australia.
- Jen Adams, head coach at Loyola University (Md.) and All-American lacrosse player at University of Maryland.