Lacrosse Penalties: 3 Common Ones & Tips to Avoid Them

Understanding lacrosse penalties is crucial for anyone who wants to excel in the game.

Not having a grasp on lacrosse penalties may lead to giving your opponents an advantage with unnecessary penalties, thus impacting your team’s overall performance.

Comprehending the penalties’ regulations and consequences will keep you more in control and make you a better player in the long run.

Knowing about lacrosse penalties not only helps you avoid committing infractions but also helps you recognize when an opposing player violates the rules. This allows you to capitalize on penalty situations and maximize power plays.

As you delve deeper into this article, you will obtain valuable insight into various lacrosse penalties and their ramifications that can make a significant difference in your game.

Stay tuned as we discuss the specifics and enhance your overall understanding of lacrosse.

Understanding Lacrosse Penalties

Lacrosse, a fast-paced sport with a rich history, has a set of penalties to maintain fair and safe gameplay.

Lacrosse Fouls

There are different types of penalties: personal fouls and technical fouls. When you have a grasp on these concepts, you’ll be better equipped to enjoy and participate in the game.

Personal fouls are serious violations that affect safety and fair play. They usually result in a 1-3 minute penalty based on the severity of the foul. Some common personal fouls include:

  1. Cross-Checking: Hitting an opponent with the middle of the lacrosse stick between your hands.
  2. Slashing: Swinging your stick forcefully at an opponent.
  3. Tripping: Impeding an opponent’s movement with your body, stick, or any other part that leads to them falling.
  4. Illegal Body Checking: Using excessive force while making contact with your body.

Technical Fouls

Technical fouls, on the other hand, are less severe and primarily impact the flow of the game. They usually result in a 30-second suspension or loss of possession. A few common examples of technical fouls are:

  • Holding: Restricting an opponent’s movement with your crosse or body.
  • Offside: Crossing the midfield line when the required number of players are not on your side of the field.
  • Crease Violation: Stepping into the crease, a circular area surrounding the goal, with your body or stick.

Technical Fouls

Now we go to the details of technical fouls. Before going into detail, let’s watch this video:

Technical fouls are penalties due to gameplay infractions and are considered less severe than personal fouls.

The penalty for a technical foul typically involves a 30-second suspension or loss of possession.

This section will focus on some common technical fouls, including holdinginterferenceoffsidepushingscreeningstalling, and warding off.


Holding occurs when you use your stick or body to impede an opponent’s movement. Keep your hands and stick within a legal distance from your opponent to avoid this foul.


  • Grasping an opponent’s stick or body with your hands
  • Using your stick to pin an opponent’s stick to the ground


Interference is when you obstruct an opponent who doesn’t have the ball, preventing them from moving freely. This can be physical contact or positioning your body to limit their movement.


  • Blocking an opponent’s path without being within five yards of a loose ball
  • Moving into an opponent’s path or engaging in a pick without giving them a chance to avoid contact


Offside occurs when too many players are on one half of the field. In lacrosse, teams must maintain a certain number of players on each side of the field.

For field lacrosse, there must be three attackmen, three defensemen, and one goalkeeper on each field half.


  • An attacking player crossing the midline when the number of players on their defensive half is below the minimum
  • A defensive player crossing the midline when the number of players on their offensive half is below the minimum


Pushing is when you make contact with an opponent from behind or when they’re not expecting it. This can result in the loss of possession or a 30-second suspension.


  • Shoving an opponent in the back when they’re running for the ball
  • Applying pressure to an opponent’s back when they are not attempting to play the ball
Lacrosse Personal Fouls


Screening is when you use your body to obstruct an opponent’s view or ability to defend. To avoid this foul, make sure you maintain legal positioning when setting screens.


  • Standing in front of a defender in a way that prevents them from seeing the ball
  • Setting a screen without giving the defender a chance to avoid contact


Stalling is when you deliberately slow the game’s pace, typically by not actively trying to score. The referee may issue a warning or invoke a shot clock to ensure a team moves the ball towards the goal.


  • Holding the ball behind the goal without attempting to make a play
  • Passing the ball around without looking for scoring opportunities

Warding Off

Warding off is when you use your free hand or arm to gain an advantage over an opponent while holding the ball. This can result in a loss of possession or a 30-second suspension.


  • Using your free arm to push a defender away while cradling the ball
  • Holding your opponent’s stick away from your body with your free hand

Personal Fouls

Personal fouls are serious lacrosse violations involving illegal physical contact or equipment use. They impact the safety and fair play of the game.

Watch these 10 personal lacrosse fouls:

When a player commits a personal foul, they generally face a non-releasable penalty time of 1-3 minutes, depending on the foul’s severity and the official’s judgment. Let’s discuss some common personal fouls in lacrosse.


Slashing occurs when a player swings their stick at an opponent with force. Depending on the severity, this action can result in a 1-3 minute penalty.

To avoid slashing fouls, control your stick and only make contact with your opponent’s stick or gloves when trying to dislodge the ball.


Tripping is intentionally causing an opponent to lose balance or fall by placing your stick, body, or legs in their path. This personal foul results in a 1-3 minute penalty for the offending player.

Always be aware of your positioning on the field and avoid making dangerous moves that could cause your opponent to trip.

Illegal Body Checking

In lacrosse, body checking is allowed within certain parameters. However, illegal body checks, such as hits from behind or checks to the head or neck, are considered personal fouls. These actions can result in a 1-3 minute penalty.

Always practice safe and controlled body-checking techniques while respecting your opponents’ safety and well-being.

Cross Checking

Cross checking is using the portion of the lacrosse stick between the hands to make contact with an opponent. This personal foul can lead to a penalty ranging from 1-3 minutes.

Always use your stick’s head or handle to avoid cross-checking when contacting an opponent.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct

Unsportsmanlike conduct covers a range of actions, including taunting, disrespectful language, or deliberately delaying the game. Depending on the official’s judgment, personal fouls involving unsportsmanlike conduct can result in a penalty of 1-3 minutes.

Maintain a respectful attitude towards your teammates and opponents to avoid these fouls, reinforce good sportsmanship, and keep the game enjoyable for everyone.

Penalty Enforcement

Penalties are assigned to players who commit fouls. Understanding how these are enforced is crucial to playing by the rules and maintaining fair play.

Let’s discuss various aspects of penalty enforcement in lacrosse.

Time-Serving Penalties

Time-serving penalties are assessed when a player commits a personal foul or a technical foul with possession. These penalties require the player to serve time in the penalty box. Some common examples of time-serving penalties include:

  • Slashing: Swinging the stick at an opponent forcefully.
  • Cross-Checking: Using the lacrosse stick between the hands to contact an opponent.
  • Tripping: Causing an opponent to fall by obstructing their lower body.
lacrosse penalty

Typically, time-serving penalties last between 30 seconds and 3 minutes, depending on the severity of the foul. While the player serves their penalty, their team will play shorthanded.

Non-Time-Serving Penalties

Non-time-serving penalties involve a change of possession or a restart of play, without reducing the number of players on the field. Some examples of non-time-serving penalties include:

  • Holding: Impeding an opponent with the stick or body.
  • Illegal Screens: Setting a moving or stationary screen that impedes the opponent’s movement.
  • Crease Violation: An offensive player entering the opposing team’s crease.

Upon a non-time-serving penalty, the opposing team gains possession of the ball or the game restarts with a faceoff.

Penalty Release

In lacrosse, penalties can either be releasable or non-releasable, depending on the nature and severity of the infraction.

  • Releasable Penalties: Players serving releasable penalties can return to the field before their penalty time expires if their team has been scored on. Examples include technical fouls and some personal fouls.
  • Non-releasable Penalties: Players serving non-releasable penalties, however, must serve the entire penalty time, regardless of goals scored by the opposing team. This type of penalty is often assessed for more severe personal fouls, such as slashing or unsportsmanlike conduct.

Learning and understanding penalty enforcement will help you stay within the rules and avoid unnecessary fouls during a lacrosse game.

Special Situations

This section will discuss two special situations during lacrosse games: Flag Down and Slow Whistle. These situations are essential to understand, as they significantly impact gameplay and penalties.

Flag Down

The Flag Down situation occurs when a referee witnesses a violation that would result in a time-serving penalty. The official throws a flag to indicate the foul, but play continues until one of the following events occurs:

  • The offending team gains possession of the ball
  • The ball goes out of bounds
  • The whistle is blown for another reason

During a Flag Down, your team should take advantage of the situation by maintaining possession and possibly scoring a goal before the penalty is enforced. This is because the offending player will serve penalty time once the play is stopped, giving you an extra-man opportunity.

Slow Whistle

The Slow Whistle is another crucial lacrosse concept. It occurs when the defensive team commits a technical foul that only results in a change of possession, not a time-serving penalty. In this case, the referee will raise their hand but will not blow the whistle immediately. The play continues until one of these events takes place:

  • The offending team gains possession of the ball
  • The ball goes out of bounds
  • A personal foul occurs
Slow Whistle in Lacrosse

During a Slow Whistle, your team should focus on maintaining possession and creating scoring opportunities. Once the play is stopped, your team will receive the ball due to the technical foul. The offending player will not serve any penalty time.

Remember always to prioritize fair play and sportsmanship while playing lacrosse. Stay familiar with these special situations, as it will help you make the most of your opportunities on the field.

Penalty Administration

In this section, we will discuss how penalties in lacrosse are administered. The subsections focus on how referees communicate the penalties through signals and what scorekeeping procedures are followed during the game.

Referee Signals

As a player, it’s essential to understand the lacrosse referee signals to know the type of penalty called during a match. Here is a list of common signals and their meanings:

Lacrosse Referee Signals
  1. Slashing: The referee swings their arm in a chopping motion.
  2. Cross-Checking: The referee makes a pushing motion with both hands extended.
  3. Holding: The referee grasps one wrist with the other hand.
  4. Tripping: The referee uses their foot to mimic a tripping motion.
  5. Illegal Body Checking: The referee demonstrates a body check with their arms.

It is crucial to familiarize yourself with these signals to understand the game better and avoid unnecessary confusion on the field.

Scorekeeping Procedures

During a lacrosse game, penalties are recorded by the scorekeeper, ensuring that the game progresses according to the rules.

Here are the basic scorekeeping procedures when it comes to penalties:

  • Recording Penalties: The scorekeeper notes the player’s number, the type of foul committed (personal or technical), and the penalty duration.
  • Timing Penalties: The penalty duration starts when the player enters the penalty area. Technical fouls last 30 seconds, while personal fouls usually result in a 1-3 minute suspension, depending on the severity.
  • Releasable vs. Non-Releasable Penalties: Some penalties, like unsportsmanlike conduct and illegal stick (crosse), are non-releasable. In these cases, the player must serve the full penalty duration, even if the opposing team scores during the penalty. Releasable penalties allow players to return to the game if the opposing team scores.

As a lacrosse player or fan, understanding the penalty administration process will deepen your appreciation and comprehension of the game.

Common Misconceptions

Misconception #1: Many people believe that all contact in lacrosse is considered a penalty. While lacrosse is a contact sport, not all forms of contact are considered penalties. Legal contact includes body checks, stick checks, and other forms of contact deemed within the game’s rules. However, illegal contacts, such as slashing, tripping, and cross-checking, can result in penalties.

Misconception #2: Another common misconception is that the severity of a penalty is the same for every infraction. Penalties in lacrosse are divided into two categories: technical fouls and personal fouls. Technical fouls usually result in a 30-second suspension or loss of possession, while personal fouls can lead to a 1-3 minute penalty depending on the severity of the infraction.

  • Technical Fouls:
    • Holding
    • Crease Violation
    • Illegal Screens
    • Interference
    • Tripping
  • Personal Fouls:
    • Slashing
    • Cross-Checking
    • Unsportsmanlike Conduct
    • Unnecessary Roughness

Misconception #3: Some believe that unsportsmanlike conduct penalties only occur when a player uses foul language or exhibits disrespectful behavior. While these actions can definitely result in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, this type of penalty can also be assessed for a wide range of violations, including unnecessary roughness, illegal screens, or delay of game.

Strategies to Avoid Penalties

Lacrosse is a fast-paced and thrilling sport, but penalties can be costly to both individual players and the team as a whole.

Here are some friendly tips and strategies to help you avoid committing penalties on the field.

1. Proper Equipment: Ensuring the right equipment is the first step to avoiding penalties. Make sure your helmet, gloves, elbow and shoulder pads, and cleats all fit correctly and are in good condition. Additionally, check that your stick meets the necessary specifications for your level of play.

2. Know the Rules: Familiarize yourself with the essential lacrosse rules, such as personal fouls like cross-checking and slashing, and technical fouls like tripping and holding. Knowledge of the game goes a long way in preventing penalties.

  • Personal fouls: These are serious violations, like using the lacrosse stick between the hands to make contact with an opponent. They typically result in 1-3 minute penalties based on severity.
  • Technical fouls: These are less severe violations that usually result in a 30-second penalty. Examples include tripping, holding, and pushing an opponent.

3. Maintain Good Positioning: Being aware of your positioning on the field can help you avoid penalties like offsides. Ensure that you always have the appropriate number of players on the offensive and defensive sides of the field, and remember to stay behind the midfield line when necessary.

4. Practice Stick Control: Mastering your stick control can prevent slashing and other stick-related penalties. Focus on controlling the stick with your hands and arms, rather than swinging it wildly at your opponent. Work on improving your accuracy and precision while passing and shooting.

To summarize, by ensuring proper equipment, understanding the rules, maintaining good positioning, and practicing stick control, you can successfully reduce the likelihood of incurring penalties in your lacrosse games.

Enjoy the sport, and stay safe on the field!

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