The Lacrosse Goalie Rules
For new players or parents who are unfamiliar with the sport of lacrosse, the rules can seem tricky. There are so many little rules here and there that its hard even for experienced players to fully comprehend them all.
When it comes to goalies there are also some specific rules that govern how we go about our business.
The purpose of this post is to give you an introduction to the rules that pertain to lacrosse goalies.
Different Organizations with Different Rules
The first thing to note is that the rules depend on which league you’re playing in and whether its men’s or women’s lacrosse.
For example, here are the different organizations that each have their own set of rules:
- Major League Lacrosse – Rules
- NCAA – Women’s Rules / Men’s Rules
- NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations) – Only printed versions available
- Youth Lacrosse (U-14) – Girl’s Rules / Boy’s Rules
- FIL (Federation of International Lacrosse) – Men’s Rules / Women’s Rule
The good part is most rules pertaining to the goalie are pretty standard across all organizing bodies. But there are a few differences that I’ll try to touch on throughout this post.
I’m not claiming to be an expert in every league’s rules both male and female. So if you see some discrepancy, please leave me a comment down below so I can get it corrected.
Goal Crease Privileges
The goalie is given certain privileges when it comes to the crease.
No opposing player may make contact with the goalkeeper or his crosse while the goalkeeper is within the goal-crease area, regardless of whether the goalkeeper has the ball in his possession. An attacking player may reach within the crease area to play a loose ball as long as he does not make contact with the goalkeeper or the goalkeeper’s crosse.
This means a goalie cannot be contacted while fully inside of the crease.
If you think of the crease an imaginary cylinder that extends upwards to the sky, as long as you are inside the cylinder you cannot be contacted.
An attackman can attempt to scoop up a loose ball in the crease but cannot make contact with the goalie’s stick nor body.
So remember if you are inside of the imaginary cylinder you cannot be contacted.
If contact does occur, the refs will yell “Play On”, meaning play continues and if the goalie’s team escapes with the ball no call is made. Otherwise, possession is awarded to the goalie’s team.
Keep in mind these rules only protect the designated goalie. If a defender or middie has the ball in the crease they can be checked, business as usual.
When the goalkeeper is in his own crease area, any portion of the goalkeeper’s crosse extended outside the cylinder of the crease area, but not the goalkeeper’s body, is subject to being checked under the same circumstances as the crosse of any other player, except when the ball is in his crosse.
Let’s dig into this rule.
First, if you have possession of the ball and are in the crease, neither the goalie’s stick nor body can be checked.
Here “in the crease” means just one foot in the crease. To be “out of the crease” a goalie’s stick and body must be 100% outside the crease. Note that if you have one foot out of the crease and lift the other foot in the air, you’re considered to be out of the crease.
If you have at least one foot in the crease, attackman may check your stick if it’s outside the crease cylinder while going for a loose ball but cannot check your body.
If the goalie’s stick goes outside the cylinder with no possession of the ball, it can be checked. So if both feet are in the crease but you’re trying to scoop a ground ball outside the crease, the stick can be checked.
A veteran goalie trick after a making a 1×1 save with the ball in your stick is to dangle it in front of the attackman you just stuffed for an extra second. The majority of the time they check your stick and give your team an instant free clear.
This protection also applies to a goalie’s follow through on a outlet pass. Even if the riding attackman stands completely motionless, if the natural follow-through causes contact, that’s a violation.
I emphasize natural because if a goalie is trying to draw the contact and the attackman doesn’t move, it won’t be called.
Same as the first section, a violation results in a “Play On”, play continues and if the goalie’s team does not retain possession, play is stopped and possession awarded to the goalie’s team.
The goalie may stop or block the ball in any manner with his crosse or body, and he may block the ball or bat it away with his hand. When the ball is on the ground and within the crease, whether moving or at rest, he may bat or direct the ball with his hand. He may not close his hand on the ball; thus he may not catch the ball with his hand, nor may he pick the ball up with his hand. He or any member of the defending team may receive a pass while in the crease area
Goalies can use any part of their body to make a save, including the free hand. As the rule states, you cannot catch the ball or pick it up and put it in your crosse.
That means a save like this is legal (and totally awesome) –
In the women’s game, there is a rule that states the goalkeeper cannot bat, throw, catch or carry the ball with their hand when outside the goal circle.
So technically the save above is illegal in the women’s game as he’s outside the crease. Thanks to reader Dave for pointing this out. Women’s goalie rules are a buzzkill sometimes.
However in the women’s game as I understand it you CAN pick up the ball with your bare hand and place it into your crosse if you are in the crease.
4 Seconds / 10 Seconds In the Crease
Once gaining possession, the goalie has 4 seconds (men) or 10 seconds (female) to either leave the crease or throw a pass.
The goalkeeper or any other player of the defending team may receive a pass while in the crease area. In that case the 4 second or 10 second count starts again.
If the ball is inadvertently dropped and picked up, a new count begins. If the ball is purposefully dropped, a new count does not begin.
Once the goalie or a defender leaves the crease with possession, he/she may not re-enter with possession of the ball or else the ball is awarded to the other team.
Goalie Equipment Rules
Here are the rules related to stick length –
The head must measure between 10 – 12 inches at its widest point with sidewalls no bigger than 2 inches. Measured top to bottom the goalie’s head cannot exceed 16.5 inches. You can be sure all standard lacrosse goalie heads are going to conform to these rules or else they’d be out of business pretty quick.
FIL rules state the goalie stick head must measure head 6 – 15 inches at the widest point. Any FIL goalies taking advantage of the larger goalie head allowance?
A goalie must use a chest protector, a protective cup, a mouth piece, and a throat guard.
By rule, throat protectors must be specifically designed for lacrosse. That said, I’ve seen some goalies use ice hockey throat protectors and it wasn’t an issue. But use it at your risk.
Shoulder pads, Arm pads, shin guards, goalie pants, or football pants are optional but must not increase the size of the limb (i.e. no field or ice hockey shin guards).
Specialized lacrosse goalie gloves can be of any color. Doesn’t need to match the colors of team’s gloves.
Other Goalie Related Rules
Here are some additional rules which might be helpful to understand.
Only Goalies Can Save Shots
In the attempt to limit injuries, non-goalies are NOT allowed to act as the goalie in the event the goalie is out of the crease. The only player who can attempt to block a shot is a legally equipped goalkeeper.
So if A1 shoots while B1 goalie is away from the crease and B2 steps into the crease to block the shot. That’s a violation.
It’s a play-on until the shot comes to its normal conclusion. If it’s B2’s first violation no time served. Any subsequent violation on B2 will result in 1:00 releasable foul.
Play Stopped for Broken Goalie Equipment
If a goalie’s stick or equipment becomes damaged or broken during play he/she can notify an official and play should be stopped. If a goalie shows the ref AFTER a goal that equipment is broken the goal still stands.
Intentionally breaking equipment (would any goalie seriously do this?) or falsely claiming broken equipment in the attempt to stop the play is a 2-minute unreleasable penalty.
Stuck Ball in the Crease
If at any point the ball becomes stuck in a players crosse the official shall stop play immediately and award the ball to the opposing team.
This does NOT apply to the goalie. If she/he is within his goal-crease area at the time the ball becomes stuck. In this case, a defensive player shall be awarded the ball laterally outside the goal area.
One Goalie at all Times
Each team must have 1 goalie (with full goalie gear) on the field at all times.
This is why at the end of the game you cannot substitute out the goalie in favor of a better defending middie in a full ride situation.
No Grace Period
Back when I played the goalie was a given a grace period to return to the goal. So after you chased out a shot, they waited a few extra seconds while you got back into the crease.
Such is no longer the case. There shall be no grace period for the goalkeeper to return to the crease regardless of where the ball is restarted.
Goalies can be called to slashing or illegal body checks just like normal players. In fact that’s how I ended getting my 1st ever save when our starting goalie was called for a slashing penalty and I came in.
During timeouts or between periods, a coach may enter the field for the sole purpose of warming up a goalkeeper.
Girl Goalies Cannot Score
In the men’s game a goalie can sprint the length of the field and score. In fact it’s one of the most excited play you see in lacrosse:
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Girl goalies cannot score. Once they leave the crease they’re considered a field player and the goalie stick, with its deep pocket, is illegal for a “field player”.
They can do assists but no goals for female goalies. We need to get this rule changed asap!
Goalie Rule Scenarios
Let’s go through some scenarios to understand what the ruling would be.
A loose ball is on the ground in the crease or is in the air above the crease. Team B’s goalkeeper, who also is in the crease, uses his hand to bat the ball into his crosse or out of the crease.
RULING: Legal play. Goalies can bat the ball with their hands. Female goalies can bat the ball with their hand while in the crease so still a legal play.
A loose ball is in the crease. The Team B goalkeeper picks up the ball with his hand and puts the ball in his crosse.
RULING: Technical foul. Goalies cannot pickup the ball. The ball is awarded to Team A outside the attack area.
Goalkeeper B1, after making a save, passes the ball to B2. B2 passes back to B1 in the crease.
RULING: Legal play.
Goalkeeper B1, with possession of the ball, extends his crosse outside the crease and still has one or both feet in the crease when A1 checks his crosse.
RULING: Interference, play-on.
A loose ball is in the crease. Goalkeeper B1 has his crosse over the ball and is about to rake the ball. A1 checks through B1’s crosse from the front, claiming he was playing a loose ball.
RULING: Interference by A1, play-on. A goalie in the crease cannot be contacted.
A loose ball is in the crease. Goalkeeper B1 has his crosse over the ball and is about to rake the ball. From the side of the crease, A1 pokes his crosse at the ball; and, as B1 draws the goalkeeper’s crosse back, contact is made with A1’s crosse.
RULING: Interference by A1, play-on.
Loose ball in front of the crease. Goalkeeper B1 reaches out and gains possession of the ball. A1 checks B1’s crosse while it is still outside the crease.
RULING: Interference, play-on.
The goalkeeper is in the crease, making a pass to begin his clear. The goalkeeper’s crosse collides with the crosse of A1, who is standing on the edge of the crease with his crosse in a covering position, thus causing the ball to drop to the ground.
RULING: Interference by A1, play-on. The goalkeeper, while clearing from the crease, has protection on passes for clear, regardless of whether the attack player moves his crosse. Play continues or award the ball to Team B at the center of the field.
A loose ball is in the crease. A1 covers the ball to rake it back. Goalkeeper B1 checks A1’s crosse.
RULING: No interference. Legal play.
A loose ball is in the crease. A1 bats the ball with his crosse, the ball enters the goal and then contact is made with goalkeeper B1’s crosse.
RULING: Legal goal—no interference. Contact occurs after play has ended.
A loose ball is in the crease. A1 bats the ball with his crosse, but the ball is still loose in the crease. Contact is then made with goalkeeper B1’s crosse.
RULING: Interference, play-on.
A1 is in possession of the ball on the edge of the crease. A1 breaks the plane of the goal with his shot, and then contact is made with goalkeeper B1’s crosse or body, the goal or the net.
RULING: Legal goal. Contact occurs after play has ended.
While team A is in possession, goalkeeper B1 drops his crosse.
RULING: Play does not stop for a dropped goalkeeper crosse, only a broken one, so B1 must retrieve his crosse. If B1 plays on without a crosse, he is guilty of illegal procedure.
The ball is loose outside the Blue crease. The Blue goalkeeper, his feet within the crease, begins to rake the ball back. Before the ball touches the goal crease, a Red attacker checks the goalkeeper’s stick
Ruling: Legal play. A goalie’s stick can be checked if outside the crease and without possession.
The ball is loose outside the Blue crease. The Blue goalkeeper, his feet within the crease, begins to rake the ball back. As the ball touches the crease, a Red attacker checks the goalkeeper’s crosse.
Ruling: Illegal play. Technical foul, as the goalkeeper is considered to be in possession when the ball is being raked back within the crease. The Red attacker serves 30 seconds.
The Blue goalkeeper, with his feet in the crease, is clearing the ball. A Red attacker is holding his crosse motionless outside the cylinder in a covering position. Before the Blue goalkeeper releases the ball, the crosses collide.
RULING: Technical foul, as the goalkeeper has the protection of the crease when clearing, whether the attacker moves his crosse or not.
Goalkeeper B1 makes a save, takes one step out of the crease, raises his rear foot off the ground in the crease and then places his rear foot down to the ground in the crease.
RULING: The ball is awarded to Team A outside the attack area. The goalkeeper is considered to have left and re-entered the crease while the ball was in his possession.
Goalkeeper B1 makes a save. When out of the crease, A1 legally checks B1 back into the crease, while he is still in possession of the ball.
RULING: The ball is awarded to Team A outside the attack area. Goalie cannot re-enter the crease with possesion.
Goalkeeper B1, after making a save, passes the ball to B2. B2 passes back to B1 in the crease.
RULING: Legal play. As a goalie you cannot re-enter the crease with possession once you leave it. You can however receive a pass from a teammate back into the crease. This rule doesn’t quite make sense to me. You can re-enter the crease via air but not via foot? Oh well.
Understanding all of the rules that pertain to lacrosse goalies is important so you know what rights you have in the crease.
I’ve never officiated the game so I’m definitely not an expert on the rules. If you see any errors, please let me know via the comments down below.
Until next time! Coach Damon
Any rules missing? Or see any mistakes in the rules I listed? Leave a comment down below.