Lacrosse 101

Introduction to the Wonderful World of Lacrosse!


History of Lacrosse

Lacrosse is the oldest team sport in North America.  Documentation of the sport by European settlers goes back to the early 17th century, but the sport has been played by indigenous people for many hundreds or thousands of years. Different nations and communities played various versions of the game.  Traditional lacrosse games were sometimes semi-major events that could last several days. As many as 100 to 1,000 men from opposing villages or tribes would participate. 


We acknowledge that in Newton we reside and play the Creator's Game in the ancestral homeland of the Massa-adchu-es-et/ Massachusett and Pawtucket Nations.


Modern day lacrosse descends from and resembles the stickball games played by these various Native American communities. The modern field game most closely resembles that played among the Haudenosaunee, formerly known as the Iroquois, who also refer to lacrosse as the Creator's Game.  The people of the Haudenosaunee Nation maintain a deep relationship with the game, and field a powerhouse team, the Haudenosaunee Nationals, which usually finishes in the top three teams at the World Lacrosse Championships, held every four years.


See more at World Lacrosse:   Origin & History - World Lacrosse




Lacrosse Basics


The Essentials:  Lacrosse is a team game in which a ball is passed and controlled using a stick (also called a "crosse") with a mesh head (or pocket) at one end. If you have never seen lacrosse played, it is probably easiest to compare it to hockey or soccer, but it also has a lot in common with basketball with respect to strategy and game play. Lacrosse is fast paced with a lot more scoring than other “net goal” sports. The object is much the same, shoot the ball into the opponent’s goal to score. The ball is made of rubber and is about the size of a tennis ball. 


Today, lacrosse is the fastest-growing youth, high school, and college team sport in the United States for both boys and girls.  Also known as “the fastest game on two feet,” lacrosse seems to attract any kind of athlete, once they are exposed to it.  The greatest thing about getting your child involved in lacrosse is that they do not have to be physically dominating to excel.  Many of the best players in the nation rely on speed, agility and determination, rather than brute strength or size. 


Read more from Lax.com:  Beginners Guide To Boys and Girls Lacrosse Lacrosse Video (lax.com)


Video from PowLax: So your kid wants to play lacrosse


Basic Rules and Game Play

Beginners Guide to Boys LaCrosse.doc (sportngin.com)

Lacrosse 101 (everettlacrosseclub.org)


Learn More:


Powlax:  Treasury of free training resources for parents and players, beginner to advanced. Prefer print?  The Player and Parents’ Guide to Lacrosse | POWLAX – POWLAX Master Coach


Box Lacrosse


Box Lacrosse (often shortened to just "Box") is a version of lacrosse originating in Canada.  It is played indoors, usually in the winter, usually in hockey rinks with the ice removed or covered by a hard surface or turf.  Due to the smaller playing area, the teams are smaller, the rules are slightly modified, goalies wear different, bulkier protective gear (similar to a hockey goalie) and all players play with short sticks.



Many field lacrosse players play box to improve their speed, foot and stick work, have fun, and keep honing their skills over the winter, but box lacrosse is a sport in its own right, with its own professional league, the National Lacrosse League (NLL), that plays in the US and Canada. 


Mass Box Lacrosse in Wellesley has several winter programs for middle and high school players to try out, learn, and play box lacrosse.  Some clubs also have their own box programs in the winter.




Sixes is a smaller-scale version of field lacrosse that is played on a smaller field in a 6 v 6 format. The rules are similar to those for field lacrosse, with a few exceptions.    Sixes - World Lacrosse


Sixes can be played on smaller outdoor or indoor fields, making it more flexible for playing in bad weather or in smaller parks and venues.  Sixes is the lacrosse format that has been approved for inclusion as a new sport in the 2024 Olympic Games!   The Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) holds an indoor Sixes tournament, the Championship Series, every February in Washington, DC.


Video here from World Lacrosse:  Sixes Lacrosse: The Olympic Lacrosse Discipline - YouTube


Boys' vs. Girls' Lacrosse


Lots of parents ask us about girls' vs boys' lacrosse!  Lacrosse is unique in that the boys' and girls' field games are very different.  At NYL, we play BOYS' lacrosse.  Newton Girls Youth Lacrosse  plays the girls' game in Newton.  Below are some of the main differences between the games.


Style of Play: The primary difference in the style of play is that boys' lacrosse features more physical contact, similar to what you might see in ice hockey (but much less than in football, and on a softer surface than hockey). Stick checking and some forms of upper body contact/ checking are permitted, with strictly-enforced limits that can vary by age.  The girls' game has far less physical contact, with no intentional body contact allowed. Girls also start their game with a "draw" rather than a face-off, with the ball in the air between two players' sticks.


Equipment:   Boys wear more gear, including chest, arm, and shoulder pads, gloves, and helmets. Girls generally wear very little gear: just special wire goggles to protect the eyes and a mouth guard.  Some girls' players elect to wear helmets, but they are not required.  Goalies are the exception, with both girls' and boys' goalies wearing the same helmet with throat protection, heavy gloves, and pads and both using the same type of stick.  


Boys' lacrosse, but not girls', allows the use of long poles for defense (in our league, starting in 5th grade).  Girls’ lacrosse heads also have a much shallower pocket compared to what the boys use, which makes the ball easier to dislodge and makes passing, catching, cradling and dodging skills paramount.  MYL has some great resources for those wanting to learn more about the girls' game:  Girls Lacrosse 101 | Mass Youth Lax


Girls are also increasingly participating in Box Lacrosse.  When playing box, girls play by essentially the same rules with some light modifications, wear the same gear and use the same equipment as boys (similar to girls' ice hockey).


Professional Lacrosse


The US and Canada have two professional mens' lacrosse leagues:  The Premier Lacrosse League  (PLL) for field lacrosse, and the National Lacrosse League for box lacrosse. The PLL season runs from June through September, and the NLL runs from December through April. Games stream on ESPN+ with occasional games on ESPN2 and broadcast TV.  (You can also stream lots of NCAA DI lacrosse on ESPN+ and ESPNU in the spring).


Our local PLL Team is the BOSTON CANNONS. PLL teams play on a travel schedule, with a doubleheader in their home city.  The Cannons will be playing two games in Cambridge at Harvard Stadium in July.


The closest NLL box lacrosse team is the Albany Firewolves, who play home games at the MVP Center in Albany from December 1 through the end of April.