Lacrosse is a great game to watch, but with all sports there are rules and terms that, once understood, bring you to a whole new level of understanding. These terms open the door to an understanding of the rules, fundamentals, and tactics of the game. There is certainly an extensive lacrosse vocabulary that players and serious fans need to learn. This list is not intended to be comprehensive, but a start to help you understand the specific language of lacrosse. If there are terms you have heard that are missing from this list, please email the Parent Communications Coordinator (see Board Members List) and it will be added to this list.
Alley - The narrow lane on each side of the field from the End Line to the Restraining Line. Players will often be given the ball "In the Alley" after an out of bounds or a penalty resulting in loss of possession.
Assist - The last offensive pass that sets up a goal. An assist is awarded if the receiver of the pass does not have to dodge a defender on his way to the goal. One assist per goal may be awarded.
Attackman - One of three players designated to remain on the offensive side of the field at all times. Attackmen generally possess the best stick-handling skills on the field and play close to the goal or behind the goal.
Back door - As the ball is on the perimeter, an offensive player on the back side of the play cuts behind their defender to the far post to receive a pass near the goal for a quick shot.
Baggataway - Ojibwe word for lacrosse (derived from an Algonquian verb meaning “to hit with something”), and more particularly, the Midwestern/Great Lakes variant of the game.
Bagged - Refers to when the pocket of a player’s stick has been severely deepened, and resembles a bag.
Ball or Ball down - All players usually shout ball any time the ball is on the ground. Often this is the first indicator to the player who had it that he has dropped it. Ball can also signal the intent of a player to go after the ball instead of the man.
Behind-the-back - The most commonly used trick shot or pass, it involves a player throwing the ball behind his head rather than forward; also commonly referred to as a BTB.
Body Check - Defensively using the body to hit an opposing ball carrier or while contesting an opponent for a player a loose ball. The body check must always be done above the waist and from the front or side.
The Box - The rectangular shaped area around the crease/goal. Defenders seldom press players outside of the box. The distance involved makes it all but impossible to score from outside of the box. The rules state that the offense can only possess the ball for so long without entering the box. At the end of a game the team that is ahead must keep the ball inside of the box.
Butt - The end of a crosse opposite the head. All shaft ends need to be covered with a buttcap.
Change planes – When a shooter has a close in shot, the goalie must respect where the ball carrier effective for the shooter to start high and shoot low, or vice versa. This is ‘changing planes’. starts his shot. If the shooter holds his stick high, the keeper does the same. Therefore it is most
Checking - Striking another player with the stick in an attempt to dislodge the ball.
Check-up - Call made by a goalie or coach indicating that their defensive players should announce who they are guarding at that moment
Clamping - On the face-off, a player pushes the back of his stick down on the ball in the attempt to gain control of it.
Clearing - An important defensive maneuver where defending players run or pass the ball out of their goal area. Clearing is best done along the sidelines, away from the front of the goal.
Coast to Coast - only occurs when a player nearest their end line takes the ball all the way down the field to the opposing team’s end of the field. Most of the time, this refers to clearing midfielders, or defensemen who carry the ball across midfield and into the offensive half and towards the cage. Coast to coast- from one goal to the other.
Cradling - In order to maintain control of the ball when moving along the field, players turn their wrists and arms to cradle the ball in the stick pocket.
Crank - A slang term used to describe a hard shot taken by a stationary player who has time and room to wind up and fire it.
Crease - The eighteen-foot diameter circle surrounding each team’s goal.
Cross check - When one player hits another with his stick, striking the player with the part of the shaft between his hands. In field lacrosse, this draws a one-minute penalty.
Crosse - Traditional term referring to the stick used by lacrosse players.
Cutting - An attacking player without the ball darts around a defender toward the goal in order to receive a “feed pass.” A cutting player is a cutter.
V Cut - A maneuver used by an attackman to get open for a shot. The player starts on the GLE, about 5 yards away from the goal. He then makes a rounded cut, on the side away from the ball. (completing a “D” shape) This is often the third attackman’s’ move during a fast break.
Defenseman - One of three players designated to remain on the defensive side of the field at all times. Generally, defensemen use sticks that are six-feet long to aid with checking attackmen. They are allowed to cross midline only if another player remains back in their place.
Dime - Slang term used to describe a nice or difficult pass. Ex: “He threw me a dime right in front of the net and I scored an easy goal.”
Dish - Another slang term referring to the passing of the ball from one player to another, generally a short pass in a tight space.
Dodge - Any evasive move by an offensive player who is trying to get past a defensive player.
Double-team - Defensive strategy in which two defensive players guard one offensive player in an attempt to strip the ball or force the offensive player to lose possession.
D-Pole - Slang term for defenseman
Extra Man (aka Man Up or EMO) - Describes the team at a player advantage in a penalty situation. Opposite of man down. Refers to the unit of six offensive players who play while their team has a man advantage due to a penalty by the opposing team.
Face-off - Takes place at the start of each quarter, after every goal, and after certain dead balls. Two opposing players crouch down at midfield, hold their sticks flat on the ground and press the backs of their stick pockets together. The ball is then placed between the pockets and, when signaled to start, the players “rake” or clamp on the ball to vie for control.
Face Dodging - A player with the ball cradles the stick across his face in an attempt to dodge a stick poking defender. Generally an open field dodge that does not involve changing hands.
Fast Break - When an offensive team quickly mounts a scoring attack enabling them to gain a man advantage over the opposing defense. Almost always a four on three.
Feed Pass - An offensive play in which one player passes the ball to a cutting teammate for a “quick stick” shot on goal.
Five and five - The area five yards wide of and five yards up field from the goal where an attackman attempts to reach in order to shoot or feed.
Flag Down - Tells the offense that a penalty will be called. This means that you should do all that we can to get off a shot without dropping the ball to the ground, which will halt play.
FOGO - A term for a player who takes face-offs but then runs off the field as soon as possible afterwards. It stands for Face-Off, Get Off.
Garbage goal - A goal scored in an unsettled situation like off a rebound or fast break, or one scored immediately following a defensive gaffe.
GLE (Goal Line Extended) - An imaginary line that extends straight out from the sides of the goal line.
Gilman Clear - Defender, typically the goalie, clears the ball by throwing it as far as he can down the field. Sometimes this is a desperation move, but it is often better to create a ground ball situation in the opponents end than around our own goal area.
Goalie/Goaltender - The last line of defense, the goalie has a larger stick head (roughly 16.5 inches across) to help stop shots from the opposing team as he stands in front of his team's goal.
Ground Balls - Players compete for the control of lose ground balls by stick checking opponents away from the ball while simultaneously trying to scoop it up. Simply put, it is a ball that is on the ground, rather than in the possession of a player on the field.
Goose - When a player uses his stick to knock a ground ball to an open teammate, rather than picking it up.
Head - The plastic of the stick connected to the handle that holds the ball.
Holding - Occurs when a player impedes the movement of an opponent or an opponent's stick.
Hole - The area right in front of the goal. Because an open offensive player in front of the goal is more dangerous than an open offensive player somewhere else, defensive players are told to “get in the hole,” meaning they should run to the goal then find the player they need to cover.
Illegal body check - A body check that is delivered in any of the following fashions: Above the neck, below the waist, from behind, or to a player who is not in possession of the ball.
Illegal gloves - Gloves that do not have palms are considered illegal.
Illegal Screen - A screen is considered illegal when a player sets one without having his feet set (Also see “Screen”).
Illegal stick - An illegal stick results in a penalty for the offending player. Sticks are illegal if they are too short, too long, too wide, too narrow, or have too deep of a pocket, or no end cap. Broken sticks are also considered illegal for the field of play.
Interference - Occurs when a player interferes in any manner with the free movement of an opponent, except when that opponent has possession of the ball, the ball is in flight and within five yards of the player, or both players are within five yards of a loose ball.
In the Dirt - The often trampled area approx. 15 foot radius area in front of the goal. Shots from outside the dirt area should be bounce shots, which are more difficult for keepers to stop. Also known as the ‘hole’. A much smaller area than ‘the box.’
Invert - An offensive formation or play in which a midfielder will carry the ball to a position normally occupied by an attackman (for example, X), or vice-versa, and then initiate the offense.
Laser - Slang term for a very hard shot.
LSM - Long Stick Midfielder: A midfielder who plays with a long stick and is defense oriented. Usually guards the opposing team’s best midfielder.
Man-Down - Describes the team which has lost a player to the penalty box and must play with fewer men on the field.
Man-to-man - A defensive setup in which each defending player guards a specific offensive opponent.
Mark-up - Call used by the goalie or other defensive players when asking teammates to call out who they are guarding in the man-to-man defense.
Mesh - Piece of woven nylon used as a pocket in lacrosse sticks. The majority of male players use mesh in today's game.
Midfield line - Line that runs directly across the middle of the field from sideline to sideline. It is used to determine if a play is offsides.
Midfielder - One of three players who plays at both ends of the field, both offensively and defensively.
MLL - Major League Lacrosse. This professional outdoor league based in the United States was founded in 2001.
Motion - Offensive style or system in which players move and cut simultaneously to create space and feeding/shooting opportunities for other players on the field.
NCAA - National Collegiate Athletics Association. The governing body for all colleges and universities competing at the varsity level.
NLL - National Lacrosse League. A professional indoor league with teams in the United States and Canada; founded in 1987.
Offsides - Rule stating that each team must have four players on the defensive half of the field, as well as three players on the offensive half of the field, at all times. An offsides penalty results in a 30-second technical foul on the offending player and his team.
On-the-fly - A manner of substituting in which a team replaces a player on the field while the ball is in-bounds and the clock is running.
On-the-hop - Call made by a coach indicating to his players to quicken their pace during practice and drills.
Out-of-bounds - When a shot goes out of play, the player closest to the line where the ball went out gets the ball.
Passing - An integral part to quickly moving the ball. Players throw overhand or underhand to each other. In most cases a high pass is easier to deal with than a low bouncing dribbler. Slowly thrown lobbed passes give the defense time to react and often result in the catching player being hit before the pass arrives.
Pick - An offensive player without the ball positions himself against the body of a defender to allow a teammate to get open and receive a pass or take a shot. Picks must be stationary and ‘passive’.
Play-on - A penalty or infraction that is noticed by the referee, but, if called immediately, would stop the advancement of the team that was fouled. A flag is thrown and the referee shouts “Play on” and continuation is allowed. At the next loose ball, turnover or score, the whistle is blown and the penalty is assessed. If a goal were scored, it would count and the face-off would ensue with the penalty in force.
Pocket - The head of the stick in which the ball is held and carried. The pocket is strung with leather and/or mesh netting. In order to be legal, the top of a ball cannot be seen when looking at the pocket from the side.
Poke Check - A defender jabs his stick at the exposed stick end or hands of an opposing ball carrier in an effort to jar the ball loose. These checks are very effective in that the checking player stays in balance and keeps a cushion of space between himself and the ball carrier.
Popcorn - Slang term for a very easy shot to save
Quick Stick - When the ball reaches an offensive player’s stick on a feed pass, he catches it and then shoots it toward the goal in one swift motion.
Rack - Slang term for the goal.
Rake - A way to pick up the ball by placing the head of the stick over the ball, and then “raking” the stick backwards onto the ground while applying downward force so that the ball rolls into the pocket. Raking is a very bad habit that is difficult to unlearn. EXCEPTION: Goalkeepers can rake or ‘clamp’ a ground ball legally from the crease.
Release - Call made by an official at the conclusion of a penalty to indicate that an offending player is to be released from the box; also a call made by a player who has just picked up a ground ball indicating to teammates that their team has gained possession.
Riding - When an attacking team loses possession of the ball, it must quickly revert to playing defense in order to prevent the ball from being cleared back out. In most ride situations, the goal-keeper will be left un-marked.
Rip - Term used to describe a very hard shot. Ex: “He ripped it so hard that it almost went through the net!”
Rock - Slang term for the ball.
Roll Dodge - An offensive move in which a bal carrier, using his body as a shield between a defensive player and the cradled ball, spins around the defender. To provide maximum ball protection, the ball carrier switches hands as he rolls.
Scooping - The manner in which a player picks up loose ground balls. He bends toward the ground, slides the pocket of his stick underneath the ball, and lifts it into the netting of the stick.
Screen - When a player impedes the vision or running path of an opposing player by standing directly in front of that player; sometimes used to prevent a goalie from getting a good look at an oncoming shot.
Shaft - A hollow aluminum or composite pole connected to the head of the crosse.
Shoot - When a player throws the ball towards the opponent’s goal, attempting to score a point for his team.
Sidewall - Can refer to either the two vertical sides of the stick head, or the string that attaches the pocket to the sides of the stick.
Skip - To pass to a non-adjacent teammate. Also known as a star pass. (Like drawing a star)
Slap Check - A stick check (inferior to the poke check). The defender uses his stick to slap the stick of the offensive player who has the ball. Poke checks are preferred since it is easier to keep your feet moving and stay balanced during the check.
Slashing - Penalty committed by striking an opponent anywhere on the body besides the stick or hand holding the stick
Slide - This occurs when an offensive player gets past his defender, forcing another defensive player to "slide" over and pick up the threatening offensive player.
Slow break - A transition opportunity for the offense in which the defense has at least an equal number of defenders to offensive players in position and ready to defend.
Square Up - To position one’s body in preparation to pass. This means to aim the leading shoulder towards the target.
Stalling - A tactic where the team with possession (and usually in the lead) runs around and passes from teammate to teammate in order to kill time, rather than try to score.
Stick - The most basic piece of equipment needed to play lacrosse, it is comprised of a shaft (metal or wood) and head (plastic).
Stick doctor - Title given to a player on a team renowned for his ability to string a stick.
Support - When a player without the ball moves into a position where the player with the ball can make a clear pass. Save - When a goalie stops a shot that otherwise would have gone into the goal.
Time and Room Shot - When a player has time to set his feet and room around him to take a very hard shot.
Top shelf - Slang term that refers to the upper area of the goal underneath the top crossbar.
Traditional - Uncommon stringing technique for men’s sticks, using four leather strands connected by laces to form a pocket.
Transition - When the ball moves quickly from one end of the field to the other, often resulting in a fast break.
Tripping - Penalty committed by using any part of a player’s body or stick to make an opponent lose his balance and fall to the ground.
Unsettled Situation - Any situation in which the defense is not positioned correctly, usually due to a loose ball or broken clear, or fast break. Teams that hustle score many goals during unsettled situations.
Unnecessary roughness - Occurs when a player strikes an opponent with his stick or body with excessive or violent force.
Unsportsmanlike conduct - Occurs when any player or coach commits an act which is considered unsportsmanlike by an official. These acts include taunting, arguing, or obscene language or gestures.
U.S. Lacrosse - The governing body of the United States men’s and women’s games. Also the publisher of Lacrosse Magazine.
V Cut - A maneuver used by an offensive player to get open for a pass. The offensive player feints in causing his defender to react and move, he then cuts sharply away (completing the “V” shape) See also “D cut”
Warding off - Infraction committed by an offensive player who cradles one handed while using the other hand or arm to move, block or interfere with a defenders stick.
Wheels - A call made by a coach or teammate to a player indicating that the player should run as fast as possible. Also used to refer to a player with great speed (Ex: “That guy has wheels.”)
Whip - Term used to describe the feeling of the ball catching on the shooting strings as it releases from the pocket of the player's stick. Also referred to as "hook."
Wing area - Area adjacent to and on either side of the goal.
X - Area of the field directly behind the goal. Also refers to a position played normally by a team’s best passing attackman.
Yard sale - Term referring to a player’s stick that has been checked out of his hands and lies on the ground, resembling an item at a yard sale.
Zone defense - Style of defense in which each player is responsible for one area or “zone” of the field, rather than an individual offensive player.