Quarters, Adjusted Free Position Protocols Lead 202 High School Girls Lacrosse Rules Changes

National Federations of State High School Associations

July 11, 2023

High school girls lacrosse games will now be played in 12-minute quarters instead of two halves, and a player awarded a free position after being fouled outside the critical scoring area no longer has to stop completely before continuing the course of play.

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Girls Lacrosse Rules Committee included these two major changes in the 11 total rules proposals accepted at its annual rules meeting held June 19-21 in Indianapolis. All 11 recommended changes were approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.

“High school girls lacrosse continues to grow, and it is reflective in the skill and athleticism of the athletes competing,” said Lindsey Atkinson, NFHS director of sports and liaison to the NFHS Girls Lacrosse Committee. “The NFHS Girls Lacrosse Rules Committee continues to focus on allowing the rules to support the pace of play while minimizing risk to the student-athletes.”

Shifting from halves to quarters – a change reflected in Rule 4-1-1 – provides coaches more opportunities to give direct instruction during the game and aligns the duration of play with boys lacrosse. Teams will receive a two-minute break after the first and third quarters and a 10-minute halftime. Teams will also change ends on the field after each quarter.

In addition to improving the pace of the game, allowing a player to continue without stopping after being awarded a free position outside the critical scoring area reduces the defense’s opportunity to adjust while play is halted. Previously, this rule (Rule 5-4-1) stated that the player who was fouled had to achieve a “settled stance with both feet stationary and the ball positioned in the head of the crosse” before restarting.

Reducing the number of false start penalties was also a focus of the 2024 rules changes, as the definition of the infraction was altered within Rule 10-1j. As a result, false start penalties will only be assessed during a free position (after a foul committed within the critical scoring area) at an 8-meter hash mark, 12-meter fan or dot in the player’s offensive end of the field, allowing officials to reset play more quickly in many cases. This rule change also brought about the deletion of Rule 5-4-5 – the previous mandate that a false start penalty be called any time an offensive player self-starts when self-starts are not permitted.

Another change within Rule 10-1 requires a free position to be awarded at the closest dot for a three-second violation when the spot of the ball is outside the critical scoring area and below the goal line extended. It also clarifies the location of other three-second violations.  

Three equipment-related rules changes were approved for the 2024 season. A new clause in Rule 2-6-1 requires goalkeepers to wear shorts or pants manufactured with integrated thigh padding. Color restrictions on tooth and mouth protectors were removed from Rule 2-7-1, which was also edited to align with the NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee’s recommended guidelines. And lastly, compression shirts that meet National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) requirements at the time of manufacture are now permissible as part of Rule 2-7-4 NOTE (Personal Equipment) and Rule 2-9-5 (Uniforms). Allowing field players to wear compression shirts, which do not need to adhere to the color requirements for undergarments, accommodates the preference to wear protective padding intended to prevent commotio cordis.

New Rule 2-9-4e in the Uniforms section states that “the school’s name, nickname, logo, mascot, and/or team member’s name are permitted above the number on the front and/or back of the jersey,” clarifying the allowable identifying references that can be placed on the jerseys aligning with other NFHS rules codes. A supplemental NOTE declares that jerseys with non-compliant identifying marks and names will be considered illegal beginning July 1, 2027.

New language was also added to Article 5 of Rule 2-4, the section of the NFHS Girls Lacrosse Rules Book that deals with crosse inspections. Although a “stick check” can still be requested at any time while the game clock is stopped, the request must now be completed before the official’s hand is in contact with both centers’ sticks to set up the ensuing draw.

Finally, slight changes were made to Rule 4-2-2 EXCEPTION and Rule 4-2-3 regarding official time-outs. Rule 4-2-2 EXCEPTION covers the protocols for official time-outs while the “10-goal rule” is in effect and now includes “offside foul,” “inadvertent whistle” and “alternate possession” as additional instances where the game clock will not stop. In Rule 4-2-3, the portion of the rule prohibiting coaching during an official time-out has been removed.

A complete listing of the girls lacrosse rules changes will be available on the NFHS website at www.nfhs.org. Click on “Activities & Sports” at the top of the home page and select “Lacrosse-Girls.”

According to the 2021-22 NFHS High School Athletics Participation Survey, 96,762 girls participate in lacrosse in 3,028 high schools across the country, making it the nation’s 10th-most popular girls’ sport.

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