An introduction to Lacrosse

Lacrosse originated with the Native Indians of North America and was played under various names including da-nah-wah’uwdsi, translating to ‘little war’ or baggataway, meaning ‘bump hips’.

The History of Lacrosse

 The game played an important role in tribal society and was used in religious ritual, warfare and as a means to settle tribal disputes. Lasting several days, games were played on an epic scale, often involving hundreds of players and with no pitch boundaries. The all male participants would play from sunrise to sunset, competing to score goals which ranged from 500m to several miles apart.

The French Canadians then adopted the game, calling it ‘La Crosse’ after the head of the stick, which resembled a bishops cross. It was not until 1867 that the game first entered Britain with women first reported playing in 1886. Its popularity soon spread and it was adopted by girls’ schools in the 1890s, becoming a key feature in the sports calendar.

How the game is played

Lacrosse is a fast paced and high scoring game that usually lasts 60 minutes. In the words of Rosabelle Sinclair, who first brought lacrosse to Britain ‘lacrosse, as women play it, is an orderly past time that has little in common with the men’s tribal warfare version… whereas men resort to brute strength, the women depend solely on skill’. With 12 players on each team, the object of the game is to use a long handled stick to catch, carry, and pass a solid rubber ball in an effort to score by getting the ball into the opponent’s goal. Players may gain possession of the ball by dislodging it from an opponents stick or scooping a loose ball off the ground.

The match is started by a Draw; when one player from each team holds the heads of their stick (or ‘Crosse’) back to back in the centre circle. The ball is placed between the heads of both sticks and when the whistle blows the players push against each other’s sticks, releasing the ball, which must go higher than the heads of both players taking the draw.


  • Protecting one’s stick from being checked (hit by an opponent’s stick) is a very important factor in the game of women’s lacrosse. In order to avoid this, the player must cradle the ball. This is the back and forth movement and the twisting of the head of the stick, which keeps the ball in the pocket.


  • When the umpire blows the whistle during play, all players must remain exactly where they are; any movement will result in a foul.
  • If the ball goes out of bounds on a goal attempt then the player that is closest to the ball receives possession. If the ball goes out of bounds in play then the other team is awarded with possession.

Offside rule:

  • A team must not have more than seven attacking players over the attacking restraining line. Four players must therefore be kept behind their line.
  • A goal will not be counted if the player crosses over or steps on the goal circle during or after a shot. If this happens, the goal keeper will be given possession to then pass to their players (a free clear).

Some examples of fouls include:

  • Head check. Legal checks must take place away from the seven inch ‘bubble’ around the head of the player.
  • Covering/ holding. The defence is not allowed to hold their stick over the pocket of their opponent who has possession of the ball, or use their stick to maintain long term contact with the opponents stick.
  • Rough checks- an overly rough or violent hit of an opponent’s stick is banned.
  • Body checks- hitting any part of an opponent’s body is not allowed.

Fouls are split into two groups; major and minor.

  • During a minor foul, the offender is made to stand four metres to whichever side she was last guarding the fouled player.
  • If a major foul occurs, the fouler must stand four metres behind the player she fouled.

The game is won by the team that has scored the most goals by the final whistle. A game can end in a draw, but this will normally be offset by extra time, or a penalty shoot-out.

If you have never seen this fast yet elegant game in action, be sure to get tickets to watch the best in the world compete at the FIL Rathbones Women's Lacrosse World Cup, between 12 and 22 July 2017. For information on the event, and how to buy tickets, visit

Read more about the World Cup and our involvement with Lacrosse.


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