US Lacrosse Rule Changes for 2023

Modifications to the stick check process and an adjustment to the restraining line rule during the administration of the draw were among the changes supported by both the high school girls’ and youth girls’ lacrosse rules committees for the 2023 season. Additionally, sportsmanship, knowledge of the rules, and dangerous use of stick were identified as three points of emphasis at both levels of play for 2023.

The high school rule changes have been approved by the board of directors for the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and for the youth level by USA Lacrosse.

“The rules committees made small but important tweaks this year to simplify penalty administration in some instances, which helps lead to more consistent officiating,” said Caitlin Kelley, senior director for sports administration at USA Lacrosse and liaison to the NFHS and USAL Girls’ Lacrosse Rules Committees. “The changes this year continue the focus on providing more consistency across the national landscape by eliminating some potential subjective standards in the game as well as allowing officials to focus on the game’s critical components without unnecessary distractions. Additionally, there were some minor girls’ youth rule adjustments in order to provide more consistency with the high school game and to enhance the player experience without sacrificing safety.”

Regarding Rule 2-4-4a, the committee eliminated the requirement to apply pressure to the ball in the pocket during crosse inspection. This adjustment will ensure that the method of checking pocket depth is done in a consistent manner.

Rule 5-2-5d now states that players may not step on or over the restraining lines after the official’s hand is in contact with the sticks at the draw until the restraining line is released regardless of number of players between the restraining lines. This change will help officials focus on the play around the draw and maintain game safety without needing to monitor the restraining lines away from the play.

To improve the pace of play, Rule 5-4-1 now allows a player that is fouled outside the critical scoring area to take the free position and self-start within 4-meters of the spot of the foul rather than within playing distance. Also, Rule 5-4-5c now allows the defensive player awarded a free position to self-start when there is a foul by an attack player within the critical scoring area, unless the game clock is stopped.
Rule 5-5-1f now eliminates alternate possession for offsetting fouls when one of the fouls requires the issuance of a card. This is intended to create a more appropriate penalty assessment by awarding possession to the team that was not issued a card. 

Rule 7-1-2c was modified to allow the goalkeeper to carry the ball into the goal circle after it has been cleared and played. The rationale for the change was to provide another option for the goalkeeper to return to the goal circle with the ball.

Rule 10-1y PENALTIES was changed to move administration of a free position for a three-second violation from the spot of the ball to the 12-meter fan when the ball is outside the critical scoring area and above the goal line extended. This is intended create a more appropriate penalty assessment for the infraction.

Specific to the girls’ youth rules, Rule 5.7 (Goal Circle Violations) was adjusted by deleting “a player may not follow through into the goal circle on a shot” and its associated penalty.” Observations have shown this is not a safety risk and the rule is often misunderstood and difficult to observe by youth game officials. The change aligns with high school rules and provides consistency at both levels of play. 

Also, on Rule 6.3, the minimum pass rule requirement for 8U was eliminated, with allowance for leagues to establish minimum passing rules if so desired.

“The NFHS and USAL rules committees did an outstanding job this year balancing some important but small changes with the desire to maintain consistency in the playing rules and supporting the accessibility and growth of the game for players, coaches, and officials,” Kelley said. 

USA Lacrosse training materials for the 2023 season will be updated shortly and can be accessed online at www.usalacrosse.com/girls-and-womens-rules

A complete listing of the girls’ high school lacrosse rules changes are available on the NFHS website

US Lacrosse Rule Changes for 2020

Allowing players to freely move around the playing field after a whistle is one of 12 changes to high school girls lacrosse rules approved for the 2020 season.

All rules changes recommended by the joint National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and US Lacrosse (USL) Girls Lacrosse Rules Committee at its June 17-19 meeting in Indianapolis were subsequently approved by the NFHS and USL Boards of Directors.

“The committee addressed topics ranging from equipment requirements to the philosophical change to free movement with intention and extraordinary attention to detail,” said Lindsey Atkinson, NFHS director of sports/communications associate and liaison to the Girls Lacrosse Rules Committee. “The commitment of the joint NFHS/USL committee to do what is best for high school girls lacrosse was evident in both the content of their discussion and the outcomes of their hard work.”

The change to free movement impacts several areas of the NFHS/USL Rules Book. Rules 5-1-2 and 5-1-3 have been adjusted to eliminate the requirement for players to stand in place after an official’s whistle.

Free movement allows players to freely move around the playing field, instead of being required to hold their positions on stoppages including possession time-outs (Rule 4-3-3), injury time-outs (Rule 4-2-3), major and minor fouls (Rule 5-3-1), when the ball goes out of bounds (Rule 6-3-1) and free position or alternating-possession restarts (Rule 10-1).

 “This will be an exciting rule change for the high school game, one which we believe will enhance the athlete experience on the field and ease the workload on officials to monitor players off the ball,” said Caitlin Kelley, US Lacrosse women’s lacrosse director and the USL liaison to the Girls Lacrosse Rules Committee. “The rules committee prioritizes safety, integrity of the game, pace of play and growth. We want our student-athletes to love the game and attract new players to the sport too.”

Additionally, in Rule 4-3-3, players may now be substituted for during a possession time-out, except for the player being awarded the ball and the offender.

Rule 5-4-4 has been amended to allow self-starts on boundary restarts. On boundary restarts, opponents must give the player in possession of the ball at least two meters — an additional meter from the previous requirement (Rule 6-3-1b).

When a stoppage in play causes the ball to become dead that was in the critical scoring area, Rules 4-3-3, 5-1-3, 5-3-1 and 7-3 PENALTY now indicate play will resume on the closet dot.

“The impact of free movement on the rules is complex,” Atkinson said. “The committee was diligent in addressing each impacted rule to ensure a comprehensive implementation of the concept into the high school game.”

Self-starting when self-start is not an option is now considered a major foul in Rule 10-1 under false starts. Additionally, under major fouls, a check to the neck is now included under check to the head with a mandatory card assessed.

Rule 5-2-2 was amended to allow any number, up to 12 players from each team, on the field prior to the start of each draw. Prior to the change, each team was required to have 12 players on the field unless a team could not do so legally.

Changes to Rules 2-2-5 and 2-4-3 amend crosse and stick requirements. A crosse now meets specifications if the ball moves freely in the front of the pocket, removing the requirement for the back of the pocket. Additionally, during stick checks, game officials will ensure that the ball rolls out of the back of the pocket when placed in the upper third of the head at its widest point and the stick and head are tilted 90 degrees.

“The committee felt that it was important to separate the performance requirements of the front and back face of the head during stick checks,” Atkinson said. “This change simply distinguishes the differences in performance and clarifies the stick check process.”

In a change to Rule 2-7-4, equipment cannot be modified from its original manufactured state and it must be worn in the manner the manufacturer intended.

Rule 2-7-2 now requires that all eyewear worn on the playing field bear the SEI (Safety Equipment Institute) mark for certification by January 1, 2025. Eyewear must still be SEI certified for the 2020 season; the requirement for a physical mark on the eyewear does not take effect until 2025. All approved eyewear is listed on the SEI website at www.seinet.org.

“SEI certification and the ASTM standard remain the same and an important part of maintaining safety for our student-athletes,” Kelley said. “The rules committee extended the requirement of the physical markings on the eyewear in order to minimize unnecessary cost to the consumers.”

A change to Rule 6-3-2 clarifies that a player’s body or crosse that is inbounds and nearest to the ball determines possession of the ball when play resumes.

In a tweak to Rule 9-1, the description of the minor foul, covering, is now described as covering a ground ball, instead of guarding. Additionally, preventing an opponent from playing the ball by covering the ball with the body now constitutes a minor foul. Previously, using a foot or crosse to guard a ground ball was a minor field foul.

Rule 2-8-4 now prohibits the use of video replay to review an official’s decision, consistent with other NFHS rules.

The final rules change adjusts Rule 10-1 regarding the free position after a major foul. The free position will now be taken on the 12-meter fan closest to the spot of the foul.US Lacrosse Rule Changes for 2019Girls Lacrosse Rules Changes – 2019
By NFHS on July 30, 2018 lacrosse-girls2-7-3: Requires all headgear to be worn properly and securely affixed with the chinstrap in place as intended for use.
Rationale: Ensures appropriate wearing of headgear, minimizing the risk of injury.   
2-9-2: Adds the option of white bottoms by the goalkeeper.
Rationale: Aligns the goalkeeper’s uniform with the undergarment color options.
3-7-2d: Requires the horn to sound twice to indicate a time-out.
Rationale: Differentiates between the horn for time out and other horns.
4-8-1, 4-8-2 NEW, 4-8-3c: Establishes the release of the ball from the crosse before time expires as a legal shot.
Rationale: Eases the determination of a legal shot when time is expiring.
5-1-1; 5-1-3; 5-2 PENALTIES; 5-4-1 thru 4 NEW; 6-3-1a, c; 6-3-2a; 9-1-1c(3); 13 NEW: Establishes the specific allowances for restarting play with a self-start.
Rationale: Decreases the amount of official involvement in restarting play and allows for greater flow of the game.
5-4-3b: Establishes alternate possession in the critical scoring area is awarded at the closest dot.
Rationale: Simplifies the administration of alternate possession in the critical scoring area.
7 PENALTIES 1: Moves the administration of goal circle fouls to the dot.
Rationale: Eases administration of goal circle fouls and minimizes the risk of injury.
10-1-1 PENALTIES 3c, e; 13 NEW: Establishes a penalty zone that must be cleared when a major foul by a defensive player occurs in the 8-meter arc.
Rationale: Increasing safety around 8-meter free position.           
10-1-1 PENALTIES 3 NOTE: Establishes specific allowance to the placement of defensive players ball-side on the adjacent hash for an 8-meter free position.
Rationale: Increases the flow of the game by eliminating delays while players compete for the inside position.
12-8-1 EJECTION PENALTIES 3: Establishes that an ejected player receiving a red card may be prohibited from attending the next game per state association administration if in attendance at the next game
Rationale: Clarifies state administrative options for ejections.

2019 Girls Lacrosse Editorial Changes
2-4-3c; 2-6-1; 3-5-1; 4-6-1; 5-2-3b; 5-2-5; 5-2-5e; 5-2-5 PENALTY; 11; 12-8-1; 13 DEFINITION OF TERMS – EJECTED PLAYER, RUNNING CLOCK; Appendix B-8; Appendix B 19-20; Appendix B-20; Appendix B-21

2019 Girls Lacrosse Points of Emphasis
1. Obstruction of Free Space to Goal – Opportunity to Shoot
2. Rough and Dangerous Play
3. Empty Stick Check – Intentional vs. Incidental Contact
The Emotional Side of OfficiatingAuthor: Brian Baxter

September 14, 2015 – “Serenity is not freedom from the storm; it is calm within the storm.” – Anonymous

The adrenaline, the anxiety, the pressure, the excitement are all a big part of sports. From the pre-game jitters, to the intense emotions experienced during competition, to the time it takes to unwind from a game, referees frequently experience the same emotional roller coaster that athletes and coaches do.

In the last article, I wrote about recovering from mistakes by focusing on the controllables – attitude, effort, preparation and present moment. You are more likely to perform consistently at your best when you focus on the things you can control, and block out the things you can’t. And while the mental game is normally viewed of in terms of thinking the feeling or emotional side of it is equally as important.

Here are some before, during and after the game situations that you may face and some calming techniques to help you ride out the storm. Keep an eye out for “the controllables.”

Pre-game. Well, there is really no such thing as a professional, full time referee. Even the NFL officials are lawyers and businessmen first. So let’s say you have a game to ref at 4pm, but a meeting at work has run late, and to make matters worse traffic is heavier than normal. So now it’s obvious that you are going to be late. Frustrations run high and you start to panic and tense up.

Mental game tips:

1 – Prepare. Always have contact info handy. Let the coaches/other refs know ASAP. For the most part, with a little advanced notice, people are very understanding and forgiving when things like this happen. Show up late, flustered and making excuses and people are typically less understanding.

2 – Circle breathing. This is a technique where you simply take deep, slow, controlled breaths. Slowing down your breathing allows you to relax, be in the present moment, and re-focus to what’s really in your control.

3 – Positive self-talk. Accept the situation you are in and do the best you can. Getting increasingly madder and having negative thoughts will not make traffic move any faster. Look at the positives and re-frame your situation from a more positive perspective.

During the Game. Probably the most frustrating part of officiating is dealing with irate coaches and fans. They can be disruptive and distracting. They are also rarely logical, and communicate based on extreme emotional levels. This can get you off track not only mentally, but emotionally too.

Mental Game tips:

1 – Circle Breathing. As mentioned in the pre-game portion, taking deep breaths is a good way to release and not let negative emotions build up. Circle breathing is one of the simplest, yet most effective sports psychology techniques. Many athletes I work with it tell me they use it a lot.

2 – Don’t take it personally. These coaches and fans are yelling at the striped shirt, not the human being inside it. If you can hear them through that lens, it can help take the emotional sting out of it.

3 – Follow the rules objectively and logically, not emotionally. Using tips 1 and 2 above frequently will help this in the long run. Communicate calmly and logically whenever possible.

Post-game. Sometimes after an intense game it can be hard to unwind, especially those games that are later in the evening. The adrenaline is flowing and you go over the game in your head – the good calls, the mistakes, the “what-could-I-have-done-better” questions. This can make it hard to relax and sometimes even difficult to go to sleep.

Mental Game Tips

1 – Journaling. We need time to process information. Taking a few minutes to write about your experiences is a good way to get it out of your head. A typical format that I use for athletes can be perfect for referees as well. Simply start with: 1 positive thing I did well, 1 negative thing I didn’t do well, and 1 thing I can do to improve.

2 – Breathing/Relaxation/Meditation – It might be the first instinct to get home and turn on some SportsCenter. Try taking 5-10 minutes to sit quietly and just take a few circle breaths. Consciously let go of the game, relaxing both body and mind. I suggest using a stopwatch so that you know when to get up.

3 – Don’t add more stress. Sometimes thinking that you won’t get enough sleep for the next day can cause stress which compounds on the problem. Be okay that you are resting your body and mind, and ironically you will get to sleep faster.