This is awesome. I've always had mild interest in lacrosse but never full blown, partially because there was some basic confusion. When I have watched games I've definitely felt like there was an element of hockey on grass, so it's good to know I'm not crazy. This post just got me excited for M lacrosse
Lacrosse Rules and Basics
Michigan kicks off it’s 2012 season on Sunday. So, I figured it was worth a short post to explain the basic rules and set up of a lacrosse field. If you grew up playing the game or around the game, this post will seem boring and really rudimentary, but hopefully you’ll find some of the later posts more interesting and helpful. If you’re new to the game and want to have a sense of what’s going on this spring, then my hope is that you find this really helpful.
Note: everything below is for the men’s game. If people have questions about the basics of the women’s game I’d be more than happy to address those as well, but since the men’s team goes varsity in 2012 I figured I would start with men’s basics.
Here is a link to what a field looks like and its dimensions. The field is roughly the same size as a football field and just slightly smaller than a college soccer field (110 yards by 60 yards). In terms of rules and what to think about when you’re looking at the field, the easiest correlation is to a hockey rink. View the midline in lacrosse as the red line in hockey, and the two restraining lines as the two blue lines. You have an offensive and defensive half of the field on either side of the midline, but in actuality your offensive and defensive zone go from the restraining line (hockey blue line) to the endline.
Like ice hockey, you can also take the ball and play offense/defense behind the goal. There is a lot more room behind cage in lacrosse, so you’ll see a lot of offenses set up their plays and formations from behind the cage.
Each goal is surrounded by a crease. The goal is 6 ft x 6 ft, and the crease has a diameter of 18 feet. The defense is allowed to pass through their goalie’s crease, but offensive players are not allowed to step into the crease during play. If an offensive player does step in the crease, it’s an automatic change in possession. Their sticks and arms, however, can break the airspace of the crease. Sometimes you will see an offensive player steps into the crease and no call is made. This means the referees determined 1 of 2 things occurred on the play: either a) the offensive player was pushed into the crease by a defensive player, therefore it was not his fault he stepped in or 2) there was a goal on the play and the player stepped in the crease after the ball crossed the goal line. Since the play was over once the ball crossed the line, the offensive player could enter the crease.
Basics: Each team has 10 players on the field at any given time: 1 goalie, 3 defensemen, 3 midfielders, and 3 attack. You can normally tell which player is which based on what stick they have.
- Goalies (in addition to normally being around, you know, the goal) have a stick with the biggest pocket (net). It’s around the size of the net that you’d see a pool cleaner use or that you would use fishing
- Defense are also called “long poles” (easy on the jokes, people, lacrosse provides plenty of “that’s what she said” moments) because they have the biggest sticks on the field (settle down). Their stick is just under 6 feet long (ok, have at it)
- Midfielders and Attack have the short sticks. If you’ve noticed the neighborhood youths in front of your coffee shop have traded in their hacky sacks for lacrosse sticks, they are normally middie/attack sticks.
Now that you know who’s on the field, let’s talk about who goes where. On defense, you must have at least 4 players on your defensive half of the field (behind the midline) at all times. Normally, these are your 3 defensemen and your goalie. On offense, you must always have 3 players on your offensive half of the field (again, behind the midline). You normally have your 3 attack stay on the offensive side of the field at all times. That leaves the 3 midfielders who, like in soccer, run the entire length of the field and play both offense and defense. If you are ever caught with the wrong number of players on either half the field, it’s a penalty—if you have the ball you lose possession, if the other team has the ball you will be called for a 30 second penalty (more on those later).
This means that while the game is technically 10v10, the majority of time is often actually played 6 v 6: the offensive team’s 3 attack and 3 middies (since their team’s 3 defense and goalie are behind the midline) vs. the defensive team’s 3 defensemen and 3 middies (since their team’s 3 attack are behind the midline).
One other thing you’ll notice is that teams talk about their “LSM,” which is an abbreviation for “Long Stick Middie.” Each team is allowed a maximum of four long poles on the field at any given time. So, when a team is on defense they will try to sub out one of their midfielders for an extra defender. This brings us to:
Substitutions in lacrosse are also very similar to ice hockey. You’ll see a lot of teams will do most of their substitutions “on the fly” or during the flow of the game. So, while your offense is passing the ball around, you may bring in a new group of midfielders onto the field. The second one player is off the field, you can bring another one on to ensure no one ever has more than 10 players on the field at a time. Many teams will try to get a group of 3 defensive middies on the field (an LSM and 2 midfielders who specialize in defense), and then will sub them out for 3 offensive middies (players who specialize in offense. Wait, sorry, that was probably pretty obvious).
The other situation for substitutions is called a “horn.” If the ball goes out of bounds along the sideline only, either coach is allowed to ask for a horn, which stops play and allows both teams to make as many substitutions as they need. On a horn, you could theoretically sub out all 10 players without risk because the ref will not re-start play until both teams are done substituting.
Finally, after a goal, time out or a penalty that results in a man-up or man-down situation, both teams are also allowed to make as many substitutions as they need and referees will stop play until both teams complete their subs.
At the start of each quarter and after every goal, there is a faceoff. During a faceoff, only the three midfielders from each team are allowed to run in between the restraining lines.
This is also why having a good faceoff guy is so important. If you consistently win the faceoff, lacrosse almost becomes “make it-take it.” You never have to let the other team touch the ball. Or, if you give up a goal, a good faceoff guy gets you possession so your offense can get you back into the game and your defense take a breather.
When the Ball Goes Out of Bounds
This is where lacrosse confuses most people. If the ball goes out of bounds on a pass, it’s just like any sport—whoever touched the ball last loses possession of the ball.
On a shot, however, whichever team is closest to the ball when it goes out of bounds gains possession of the ball. As a result, most teams will keep one offensive player behind the net at all times. While it gives them one less shooter for the defense to account for, it means that they always have a player right on the goal line to keep possession after every shot.
Finally, penalties are very similar between ice hockey and lacrosse. Even the penalties you’ll hear called are very similar: offsides, slashing, push(check) from behind, tripping, illegal body check, etc. Rather than go through every single penalty individually, here’s the basic rule of thumb: you can do whatever you want to an opponent as long as it isn’t to their head, from behind, or below the waist. Other than that, most things are fair game.
In the event of a penalty, one of two things will happen. If neither team has possession of the ball when the penalty occurs, it’s considered a “loose ball” and the ref will stop play almost immediately. Some refs will allow for a “play on” if the victimized team has an advantage in play like in soccer, but that is not very common. If you commit a loose ball penalty, the other team is given possession of the ball (there is not stoppage in play for substitutions in the event of a loose ball penalty).
If a penalty does occur when a team has possession, the refs will throw the same flag that you see in a football game, but like in ice hockey they will let play continue until the next whistle. Like ice hockey, after the whistle blows the player who committed the penalty sits in the penalty box and the team plays one player short for either 30 seconds (for technical fouls like push from behind or offsides) or 60 seconds (for personal fouls like slashing or illegal body check). These situations are also called “EMO” or “extra man opportunities.” The offense gets to then play against a defense 6v5 rather than 6v6 until the penalty ends. With almost all penalties, if the team playing man-down gives up a goal then the penalty automatically ends and the player is again allowed back onto the field.
If you have any other questions about basic rules, please ask them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer (or any of the other readers who have as much experience, if not more so, than me with the game). My next post is going to be about the basics of offensive and defensive strategies and what Michigan will most likely run based on their the coaching staff’s past. As always, also let me know if there’s anything specifically you’d like me to cover.
This is a great post offering basics on Lax rules. I look forward to your offensive and defensive strategies!
Very good write-up of the basics. Only thing I'd stress for clarification to the first-timers is that lacrosse is very strict about substitutions. It's not like hockey where one guy comes on before another guy gets off.
Also, whenever there is a loose ball, a loose ball foul for pushing is often called, mainly due to the man-ball strategy. It is a foul thats just gives the ball to the victim's team, and no extra man opportunity is awarded.
I look forward to reading more about the game and Michigan's strategies. Thanks Brooks!
Good deal here. I would add three things for clarification:
-- Shot vs. pass going out of bounds: it is entirely the referee's discretion; there are no technical yes-or-no criteria, only guidelines for the ref to follow. 98.5% of the time, it's obvious; the rest is when things get sticky.
-- Penalties: Brooks touched a little bit on the idea, but penalties can be either releasable or non-releasable, meaning either the penalty is over after a goal, or not, respectively. Most non-releasable penalties are for things like hits to the head.
-- Faceoffs: There are precisely five hundred bazillion ways a faceoff violation can occur (which hands the ball to the other team) and you'll never, ever hear them explained because usually the announcers didn't even see what happened. Just in case someone is watching on TV and sees one called and starts to wonder what the heck for. They're for things like holding the other player's stick or not being sufficiently still at the whistle or for leaning, things like that, but they're never satisfactorily explained when they happen, which is often.
I would add that another reason for a non-releasable pentalty is "unsportsmen-like conduct." While i played i saw this called anyting from cursing/complaining excessively at the ref to wearing a necklace during a game (yeah i got called for that one, not sure how it was unsportsmen-like).
Jewlery is not permitted in HS. They penalize with USC. In college there is no such rule.
Understandable, but what pissed me off was the fact that i wore it all season and the refs waited until the playoffs to call me on it. The penalty didn't matter, we got our ass beat anyways.
will see it before you start playing and send you to the bench to take it off. No penalty needed.
kinda what i expected about ref's discretion. I'm sure its an issue about passing to someone behind the goal to set up the offense and going out of bounds vs a missed shot.
The discussion here to educate is great. A good way to look at penalties is there are two kinds of penalties, personal fouls and technical fouls. Unlike basketball, technical fouls are the minor ones, and personal fouls are more serious, ususally due to safety concerns. The unreleasable foul is like a major in hockey, the full time is served even if the man-up team scores.
Technical fouls are called thus because some technicality of the game has been violated. A team was "offside" or had a crease violation. (Unlike hockey the attacking team may never go in the defending teams goal crease.)
Technical fouls award the disadvanted team the ball if the ball is loose or the other team has it, (called "possession.') Or if team A commits a technical foul and team B has the ball, team B gets a 30 second man-up.
Very good overview for people trying to familiarize themselves with the game for the first time (and not a half bad read for those of us who have played either). Looking forward to future posts.
It's about damn time Michigan got into the big time in lax. Go Blue!
for the great post. I will try to catch a game or two this year.
I would add that on face offs, it is common for teams to run their "LSM", long-stick middie on the side of the side of the field closest to the sidelines. The thought process being that having a LSM out for the face off prepares the team for defense in the case they lose the face off. The reason running the LSM on the side closest to the sideline is to get the LSM off the field asap in the case the team wins the face off.
Also, from my playing days, it was common for the LSM to match-up against the best offensive (short-stick) middie on the other time. This is not a uniform thought across the sport, i am sure Brooks will get more into strategy in future posts.
Brooks, great post for those new to the game.
Brooks, great summary of the basics of lacrosse. Appropriate comparison to ice hockey, especially at the collegiate level where the relatively few schools that play at the highest level have small, but passionate fan bases. As examples of the passions and drama in college lacrosse (and hockey), consider the 2009 NCAA men's lacrosse championship game.And the 2009 NCAA men's hockey championship game.
Will any of Michigan's games be televised? BTN or ESPN3 perhaps?
The Jacksonville and Mercer games on 3/2 and 3/4 will be webcast via LaxxTV. Details are here: http://laxx.tv/signup/?games but basically it is $4 a game or $25 for the season. So far only games I see avaialble on any venue.
A handful of the away ones will be televised on the host team's websites - usually for a fee (including today's game).
The April 14th game against OHio State is a holy lock to be on BTN.
Need to update this to "So was Tim."
Great post. I've been watching lacrosse for a while, but I've never really understood all of it. Now I think I'll be able to catch on.
i just wanted to touch on slashing and body checking. For slashes - most refs will call a slash on any hard slap check that lands on the upper arms, shoulder or torso (basically anywhere not on the hands or lower forearms). But nowadays you're seeing checks move further and further up the arm without getting called for a slash. Also Div. 1 seems to let defensemen wind up and take big hacks now, with no apparent intent to land a check on the sticks or gloves.
When it comes to body checks - the rules of lacrosse and the way they are enforced can be maddeningly inconsistent (as a former defenseman I know how frustrating this is). You'll see what look like hard, clean body checks that get flagged for a "push with possession" or "illegal bodycheck". And you'll see others that seem like they're late or from behind, too high or actually look like a push and they won't get called. It's all up to the ref's discretion.
Also - Division 1 is a much more physical game than the MCLA and refs let them play much rougher. The refs will let them get away with a lot more so Michigan can play much more aggressively now, which will be a welcome change from the MCLA.
Go get em, Blue!
Thanks, and great point. Lacrosse refs have increasingly let defenseman take bigger and bigger swings on attackman and middies in recent years. As stick technology has improved in the last 10-15 years with the advent of plastic heads and deeper sidewalls, the "hold" a pocket has has made dislodging the ball nearly impossible. Consequently, refs have started to allow bigger swings. It looks much more violent than lower level games, but it is also the only way defensemen really have a fair shot. For a slash to be called the defensemen has to either hit the offensive play in the head, or if there are repeated (normally 3-4 consecutively) baseball swings to the arm without getting any stick.
The game will be much rougher because the athletes are bigger and faster at this level, but there is an increasing emphasis on cracking down on illegal hits as well in the past year.
Thanks for the comments!
Yes- the development of stick technology definitely favors the offense, unfortunately. I feel the art of the take-away check is beginning to fade away. I'm shocked at how many times I see defensemen hacking the free arm and don't get called (for those who don't know an offensive player can carry the stick in one hand and put his other arm out for protection but can't move it - sort of like a stiff arm - but defensemen can't hit the free arm on purpose).
You're right about the body checks too. There is a renewed emphasis on protecting players and officials have started doing that by discouraging high hits. There were a handful I saw last year that were great hits but got flagged. At the risk of sounding like James Harrison, I think they are being a bit overprotective. (Like I said - I was a defensemen and never agreed with a ref's call my whole life - haha!). Thanks again Brooks.
I forgot to mention what an excellent post this was by the way. Great work - looking forward to the offensive and certainly the defensive strategies!
I will confess that I had no clue as to the rules of the game. This was a great primer. Having watched the clip from the 'Cuse game in 2009, it appears that overtime is possible. It looks like sudden death. Is that right? Is that for all games or just payoffs and title games.
Also, how many goals are typically scored. It seems likre more than hockey.
Finally, do goalies actually get to make saves? It seems that many goals are point blank shots that no goalie in the world could stop.
Again, thanks for the post and thanks to all those who added informative comments. I really appreciate it.
NCAA Sudden-Victory Overtime Rule
"In the event of a tie at the end of the regulation game, play shall be continued, after a two-minute intermission, with sudden-victory overtime. In sudden-victory overtime, teams shall play periods of four minutes each until a goal is scored, thus deciding a winner. The game ends upon the scoring of the first goal. There will be a two-minute intermission between sudden-victory periods."
Scores in NCAA Division 1 Lacrosse generally are higher than scores in NCAA Division 1 Hockey, but in recent years there seems to be have been an increased emphasis on slowdowns in NCAA lacrosse (consider it like players "ragging the puck" in hockey). leading some to suggest that a shot clock might be needed. In the last two minutes of the game, the team with the lead has to keep the ball in the attack area, but otherwise you might see some teams trying to hold the ball for extended periods of time without making much effort to attack the goal.
You might be surprised at the number of point-blank saves made by lacrosse goalies, but it’s much harder for lacrosse goalies to make those saves without the benefit of the hockey goalie’s leg pads.
http://www.ncaapublications.com/productdownloads/LC12.pdf - NCAA Lacrosse Rules
http://www.laxpower.com/ - Good Website for College and High School Lacrosse Information
Two More Things
Lacrosse at the NCAA Division 1 level currently is dominated by (and has been for a long time) the ACC teams (Virginia, Duke, UNC and Maryland all are in the top seven in the Lax Power pre-season rankings and future ACC member Syracuse is ranked eighth) and the Ivy League (five of the top 20 teams in the preseason rankings, and six if you consider long-time power Johns Hopkins to be an honorary Ivy).
Don't get too down on this Michigan team if they suffer some lopsided losses this year. It takes time and patience to build a top Division 1 lacrosse program and it could be hard to convince top recruits to help build the UM program from the ground level; but "This is Michigan, fergodsakes!" and . . . "If you build it, they will come."
A good save percentage for a goalie would be about .540-.550. Scoring is usually in the 8-14 goals per game range. It's true, the goalie is often a sitting duck. The only extra equipment he has is a different stick. No padding like in hockey.
All games have the same OT rules, as listed above. Four minutes, first to score wins. OT is typically a huge pain in the ass, actually, because each team gets 1 timeout per OT period, so what happens is the team who wins the faceoff calls timeout as soon as they get the ball into the offensive zone, and then if they turn it over, the other team calls timeout as soon as they get the ball into the offensive zone. You ask me, the rule should be that teams only get one timeout in overtime, period. The D-I record is seven overtimes, but the old record was like, only four or so.
Thanks to both Wahoo and Chatster. Too be honest, I really wasn't planning on following M LAX too closely. However, now that I have a basic feel for the rules, that will change.
The goalie really doesn't get any extra pads??? Holy crap, those guys are nuts!
Well.....that might not be 100% true. Sometimes they wear sweatpants.
The general consensus is that goalies are crazy. We love them that way. But as the play gets better, they get hit less and less. The sweatpants aren't to provide padding but to hopefully help snag balls with the loose fabric.
They have a little different equipment.
Their chest protector is different. The top is made of hard plastic and the bottom extends lower. Wouldn't be safe without it.
They also wear a plastic piece that hangs from the helmet to protect their neck.
The gloves are a little different, but you wouldn't be able to notice. The thumb has a hard plastic shell inside.
When goalies wear sweatpants, it's not really much extra protection. Baggy sweatpants could save a goal if it takes a weird bounce and gets caught in them.
But my statement still stands. They're crazy, but in a good way.
Still stands absolutely. Besides being crazy they are often the best athletes on the field and they are the quarterbacks of the defense. Go ot a game and if you hear a vocal keeper you will hear them tell the D wher the ball is, when to slide, where to be and which f^%ker to crush whenever the opportunity arises.
I played defense in HS and college, and without my goalie yelling out the ball position, i would have been lost so many more times.
I now coach (girls), and i stress communication amongst the D as well as from the goalie. It has taken over a year of stressing everyday, but i think they are finally realize how importtant the communication is on the field.
Yeah, the sweatpants thing was a joke, more or less. I doubt they go out there thinking they'll make a sweatpants save. But I did not know about the chest protector or the glove so that's good to hear about.
The thumb plate in the goalie gloves are very important, obviously extra protection for the shots that range up to 90-100 mph on the college and pro level. Goalies break thumbs all the time with the plates in there, but without them they would break them almost every time they play.
Great info, thanks for the diary. I've caught a few games on TV and was always confused in a couple places. This helped!
What are typical shift lenghts? Or do you typically sub out just on offense/defense switches?
There really is no set time for a shift, if the middies were able to switch in and out on every offensive and defensive shift that would be ideal, but this is hard to accomplish due to the speed of the game. Typically, you try sub your offensive middies out while you hold the ball while the team is on attack (offense).
On defense it is more difficult to sub players in due to the chance of giving up a "fast-break" or an odd man opportunity (5v4, 4v3, etc...), this is just like in basketball or hockey. There are two ways to sub a teams defensive middies in without problems, one way is as the opposing teams defensive middie comes off the field (as they transfer to offense), your teams offensive middie follows him to the sub box. Typically, the LSM (long-stick middie) is the first defensive middie you want to get out on the field, advantage of the long-stick. Obviosuly then the team would follow this pattern untill all defensive middies are on the field. The problem with this is that the team with the ball controls the subs then. The other way is waiting for a sub horn (talked about above), when a team can sub as many players as they want.
How many points for drinking a smirnoff ice in an old penny from last year's summer camp?
This is a really nice summary. A couple additions:
The whole arm is considered fair game for stick checks--most players have arm pads and gloves that cover the whole arm up to the shoulder pads.
After out-of-bounds plays, the player takes possession inside the lines, and the opponents have to give you six feet of space until the start of play. This is kind of like a foul/restart in soccer, but not like a throw-in in soccer or basketball.
Goalies do wear chest protectors and neck guards (usually hanging from the facemask, like hockey). But trying to make saves with your legs is futile (and painful).
The restraining box (offensive zone) also serves a couple other purposes: (1) college teams must get the ball into this box within a certain time once they gain possession (like the backcourt ten-second rule in basketball) or it's a turnover, (2) if shorthanded, a team can release a releasable penalty upon possession in the box, and (3) at the end of games, refs can put on a "stall warning" where the leading team must keep possession within the box--going outside of it is a turnover.
You'll see elements of basketball in this sport: offenses use picks (same rules--you have to be immobile) and cuts to the goal. Elements of hockey and soccer are present as well. You'll occasionally see some big hits, usually when someone drives to the front of the crease, but really, at the D-1 level, there isn't that much loose ball time, so there aren't many "scrums" with wild hacking and hitting. Players are too good and possession is too valuable.
The other thing I love about lacrosse is that you don't have to be physically huge to excel. In fact, speed and intelligence seem to be more valuable, along with (obviously) great stick skills.
Let's hope for a great first season! Go Blue!
You used to be able to release upon gaining the attack box. No longer is the case. Penalties are served until goal is scored if releasable and not simultaneous.
And technically the whole arm is not fair game. The arm is the grey zone where the officials decide if you are trying to "get stick" or just trying to punish. Not enough pages for discussion of that. Stick is fair game. Hand on the stick is part of the stick.
With the slashing penalty, it's more of a judgement call. Are you trying to whack the ball out of someone's stick? or are you winding up and taking a baseball swing and trying to hurt them?
It's kind of like hitting a QB, you can do it hard and legally, but there's a grey zone and it can be a penalty depending on timing and how/where you make contact
The thing i would add about Big Hits is that i would say they occur more in HS and College Club level than college NCAA.
I was a defenseman and i would always wait for what we called "Buddy Passes" typically from the goalie on a clear or from a opposing defenseman up to the middie. Basically, a "Buddy Pass" is a pass that has a large arch on it. Meaning the defenseman was able to time the pass arrival and his hit so the player catches/touches the ball and gets drilled at the same time.
Was this a dirty way of playing? Maybe, but i looked at it in the light that if the pass was not lobbed and the player didn't have to stare over their shoulder it wouldn't happen. Compare it to hockey hits, the players need to keep their heads up tto avoid getting hit by the likes of Kronwall.
The fastest way I've ever explained lacrosse to people is to describe it as a combination of other sports, like you have. Hockey, Soccer, Football and Basketball really all have aspects present in lacrosse. A few more examples to add to your excellent diary:
Substitutions - as you mentioned, most of it is on the fly, like hockey. For "Horn" situations - think basketball substitutions.
Lines on the field - Similar to hockey, as mentioned, but also there are time limits to cross lines, like in basketball getting the ball past midcourt. Meeeshigan talked about a couple of these, and failing to do so are procedural (technical) fouls. Possession fouls, that restart on the fly, just like in soccer.
"Fast breaks" - these happen just like in basketball/odd man rushes in hockey. Lacrosse often breaks down into 3 phases: 6 vs. 6 offensive sets, Penalty situations (just like a hockey powerplay, called "man up" in Lacrosse), and "Unsettled situations" or fast and slow breaks. That's the transition game in lacrosse. Often they're 4 on 3 breaks, with a player getting the ball and running into the offensive zone ahead of a defender.
Offensive sets - Similar to basketball, most teams play 5 around with 1 guy behind the cage and 1 offensive player on the crease. There are variations, but that's the most common set.
Defense - It's VERY similar to basketball defense. the footwork is almost the same, and the biggest part of team defense is rotations.
That's all I can add off the top of my head, I'll see what else comes up in future diaries. Great work OP.
I do think that the most concise way to describe lacrosse to a newcomer is that it's a combination of basketball and hockey, played on a soccer field.
How many players allowed on a team? If there are 10 on the field but unlimited on-the-fly substitutions, how deep does a bench go?
Also, if defensive subs are difficult as you mention above, how often do they get a break? I can't imagine it's possible for players to be ironmen out there by playing the whole game.
Could you briefly break down the timing rules? How long are quarters, and when does the clock stop or run?
Finally, (and this might fit in a future diary), how does weather affect the game? If the season starts in February and some teams play outside, there have to be times where they are playing in snowstorms or otherwise bad weather. How often does it happen and how do teams adapt?
A D1 team will have 45 or more players. DIII will vary between low 20s and 45 or more for the better teams.
As teams go from offense to defense they will try to match up subs so that as the attacking team gets their offensive players on, the offensive players from the defending team will go at the same time. At any sidelines Out of Bounds you will get a substitution horn and coaches will fix any issues on the field or replace a line or players.
The game is played in 15 minute stop time quarters. 2 minute break between quarters except for halftime which is 10 minutes. Teams get 2 timeouts, (max 2 minutes,) per half which can only be called during a dead ball or during live ball by that teams coach or field player when the team has possession of the ball behind a line called the restraining line.
Except for snow conditions covering lines, (and sometimes the game is still played,) the only time the game is called due to weather is lightning. So pretty much like football. You pretty much won't start a game with snow covering the field but if it starts snowing during the game, you are going to finish it.
Of course the one rule in lacrosse is that there is an exception to every rule.
Defensemen (and attackmen too) actually play the whole game, or else are substituted out occasionally and infrequently, for maybe one shift at a time. It's really only the midfielders that substitute freely. This is because of the rule that only six of the nine field players (that is, minus the goalie) can be on the side of the field with the ball. If the defense does its job, gets the ball from the offense, and then succeeds in clearing it, the defensemen can just chill out on their side of the field and often you'll see them simply taking a knee at the midfield line, waiting for the play to come their way again. The opponents' attackmen will be right there doing the same thing. So there's actually little need to sub them out.
Sometimes what'll happen is a player gets caught on the "wrong" side of the field after the clear, say an attackman suddenly finding himself playing defense. Eventually his man will go tearing off for the other side of the field and the attackman will haul ass after him, so that the correct players can get on. This is why you'll sometimes see the rather comical sight of two players sprinting as hard as they can away from the play.
To add to what laxref said about the clock, it stops for all the reasons you'd expect: goal, penalty, out-of-bounds, timeout, etc. Like basketball or hockey, it only runs when play is actually going on.
Very helpful. Thanks!
Don't know if anybody's paying attention to this anymore, but if they are, how does offsides work?
Is it crossing the restraining line before the ball like hockey, or getting behind defenders before the ball like soccer?
It's actually neither one of those: it just has to do with the numbers of players on each side of the midfield line. A team must always have four on its defensive half (goalie + 3 defenders, usually) and three on its offensive half (3 attackmen usually). Middies can go anywhere. If you're ever caught with fewer than these numbers, it's offsides.
As such, sometimes you'll see a defenseman carry the ball up to and over the midfield line while clearing--in this case, a middie must stay behind (on the defensive side) in his place. Oftentimes, you'll see this guy raise his stick, to call the refs' attention to the fact that there's no offsides.