I’ve been a member of a co-ed sports club for a long time, and it’s a lot of fun. Usually, I play the team sport Ultimate Frisbee, but also joined a lacrosse team just to see how I liked it. We’re all amateurs, so no one really knew the answer: can lacrosse goalies score?
As a general rule for men’s lacrosse, a Goalie can Score, but there are a lot of complicated rules and a lot more context than I thought. Let me explain briefly below. I’m just glad my team plays for fun and not with a laser focus on the rules!
Who Makes the Lacrosse Rules in the United States?
Definitely, goalies in men’s leagues can score, lacrosse goalies, scoring all the way across from their crease, or running up to the opposing team’s goalie! But let’s start with the rules—who make the lacrosse rules in the United States?
The short answer is USA Lacrosse, the sport’s governing body in the United States. However, it’s a joint effort at different age levels with other sports associations.
For high schools, they draft the rules (and the rules are slightly different depending on age and gender) with the National Federation of State High School Association.
For colleges, they do the same (but differing only by gender) with the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
However, in my limited research, the two questions I had were; can lacrosse goalies score? and can lacrosse goalies cross midfield? have the same answers across all ages but apply differently to both genders.
Can Lacrosse Goalies Score?
The rules don’t prohibit it, except for women lacrosse goalies, but there’s also some important context. Plus, rules often change from year to year, so maybe someday they’ll let women goalies score goals.
The goalie is the only player on each team who is allowed to touch the ball with their hands, although it can’t be too obvious, like picking up the ball or throwing it by hand.
Once the goalie has the ball within their crease, they have four seconds (the referee will keep time) to either throw the ball or to run outside the crease with the ball in the stick. Otherwise, the referee will award the ball to the opposing team.
For women goalies, they have ten seconds inside the crease to handle the ball and must make a decisive move before the ten seconds expire. In women’s lacrosse, goalies are not allowed to score goals.
What is the crease you may ask? It’s a circle that surrounds the goal, eighteen feet in diameter. The goalie’s team defence players can enter the crease (but not possessing the ball).
However, the same team’s attack and midfielder players are not allowed to enter the crease, even if they don’t have the ball.
If the goalie leaves the crease with the ball, they have to pass it on to a teammate or try to score, since they cannot re-enter the crease with the ball still in the stick. That’s when a goalie could try to score!
However, once the goalie leaves the crease, they become a player like everyone else as long as they remain outside the crease. They cannot touch the ball or enter the opposing team’s crease. Only when they go back to their crease would they regain their privileges as a goalie.
Under lacrosse rules, a defensive player cannot act as a goalie and step into the crease to defend the net. This would result in an automatic foul for that team.
Can a Lacrosse Goalie Cross Midfield?
Yes, but there’s one important rule. The rule is that there must be four teammates on the defensive half of the lacrosse field. The same applies to women’s lacrosse. Although a woman goalie can’t score, she can help by passing the ball as an assist.
If a goalie crosses over the midfield line, another player (like one of the midfielders) must already be in the defensive zone or move into the defensive zone ahead of the goalie’s attempt to cross over.
If the team violates this rule, the referee will give the ball to the other team.
Also, the danger is that the goalie is effectively abandoning the net, leaving it open. What if the opposing team intercepts the goalie’s pass to a fellow teammate and then tries to shoot at the empty net?
Or if the opposing team blocks the goalie from running and gains control of the ball back? The goalie would be too far from the net to protect it.
As a result, goalies usually leave nets only in the last dying moments of a game, when the score is tied or they’re one behind. Or, a goalie might take a swing at the opposing net if they see it’s empty, but that’s a very far throw from their own crease.
Some risky strategy would involve two defensive players double-team (meaning sending two players to defend against one foe) an opposing player, usually an attacker feared for their reputed dominance in scoring.
However, that could free up another attacker who is now open and not checked. The goalie could run over and block this exposed attacker, but this strategy has to be tightly controlled since the net would be open.
Besides, a midfielder may be best to check this attacker, rather than the goalie, unless the takeover of the ball between teams has been rapid and the midfielders are still too far away on the other half of the field.
Hope this helps. This question had been burning in my mind for quite some time, and I’ve told my goalie to go for it and try to score a goal. He just laughed it off and said it wasn’t his place to play the hero, and besides, he couldn’t just leave the net empty. He has a good point!
Another thought… my lacrosse team is co-ed, so can goalies still score if the rules are different for men’s and women’s lacrosse? That’s for another article!