InCrease your Knowledge – crease rules for all players…goalies too

Over the past several years of officiating, there continues to be an emphasis on the crease area, and this often brings up questions based on the rules of the crease in lacrosse.

In the past few years, there have been several times where a player, coach, and of course the crowd, have been confused as to the boys/mens rules about the crease.

11 Point List of the Lacrosse Goalie Crease Rules

The crease is a special place, there is no argument about that, “says the goalie”. But seriously, there are a few rules about the crease that can make things confusing, even for the keeper.

Below is an 11 point list of the crease and its rules.

Let’s start from the perspective of the goalie’s position, and then I will cover the other players guidelines to the crease. The crease, an 18 foot diameter circle, is home to the goalie and, of course, houses the goal for each team.

The first thing to recognize is the crease cylinder, which is an important concept to understand. To clarify, if you look at the crease circle and then extend this circle straight up to the sky, you will create a cylinder – from the two dimensional circle to the three dimensional cylinder.

This crease cylinder needs to be recognized as the space where the goalie cannot be touched.

Rules When the Goalie Does Not Have Possession of the Ball

So, now you have an understanding of this crease cylinder, let’s talk about the first rule of the crease. The goalie cannot ever be touched while they are in the crease, including the area INSIDE of this crease cylinder. No part of him or her may be touched in any way, shape or form, possession or no possession – period. This includes any and all levels of play from youth rules to the NFHS and NCAA.

This is regardless of whether the goalie has possession of the ball. Read that again…the goalie does not need to have possession of the ball. You cannot touch any part of the goalie when they are in this crease cylinder, including the goalie’s stick, even when the goalie does not have possession.

Secondly, the only thing that can be touched when the goalie is standing INSIDE of the crease, is when their stick is outside of this cylinder. A key part of this rule is that this is ONLY when the goalie does not have possession of the ball. If the goalie does have possession of the ball, then you cannot touch any part of the goalie or the goalie’s stick, even if the stick is outside of the crease cylinder.

I find this to be the most confusing for both players and coaches (as well as fans). When there is a loose ball inside the crease, as soon as the offense stick touches the goalie or the goalie touches the offensive stick, this signals a “play on”. I discuss the “play on” call below.

Third, to clarify, the goalie is considered “in the crease”, when any part of the goalie’s body is touching inside the crease area, including the crease line. So even if the goalie has one little toe on the crease line edge, they are considered “in the crease”.

To add to this rule, when the ball is outside of the crease and the goalie’s stick is outside of this crease cylinder, only the crosse or stick can be touched when the goalie does not have possession. When the goalie is “in the crease”, any other part of the goalie can not be touched, even if their arm or leg is outside of the crease cylinder – ever.

What that means is that the goalie’s stick can be checked, but not their gloves or arms and they cannot be checked in the body. So basically, when the goalie is considered in the crease, you can’t touch any other part of the goalie except their stick, even if a part of their body is outside of the crease.

Rules When the Goalie Has Possession of the Ball

If the goalie has possession of the ball, no part of the goalie can ever be touched, even if their stick, body, leg, toe, etc. is outside of this cylinder.

Fourth, once the goalie has possession of the ball, he/she has 4 seconds to get the ball or themselves, out of the crease. Otherwise the other team gets the ball at Goal Line Extended (GLE).

A misnomer of this rule is if the goalie passes the ball to another player, they are allowed to then receive the ball back while they are in the crease and they have another 4 second count to get it out of the crease. They can actually do this over and over again as many times as they want, however, when the goalie or any other defensive player gains possession of the ball, this starts a 20 second timer in high school to get the ball over the midfield line. In college, there is a 30 second timer where the ball has to enter into the restraining box on their offensive side of the field.

So the 20 second timer or the 30 second timer prevents the goalie from receiving the ball in the crease over and over in perpetuity.

What the goalie cannot do is take the ball outside of the crease area, and then purposely throw or drop the ball back into the crease to receive another 4 second count. I state purposely, because if the goalie is being challenged during a clear, and the ball is checked out or rolls back into the crease because of offensive pressure, then the goalie does get another 4 second count and cannot be touched by the offense.

Fifth, if the goalie passes the ball when standing in the crease, and touches any part of an offensive player standing just outside of the crease, then it’s a free clear. This process involves what is called a “play on” call, where the official will signal with one arm straight up in the air and call “play on”. If the goalie makes a successful pass, then there is no more “play on” and the play continues. If there isn’t a successful pass, then there is a free clear.

The free clear ONLY pertains when the goalie has possession. When there is no possession, there is only a restart where the ball was on the field, or laterally outside of the “box”, or the restraining area of the defensive part of the field.

Lacrosse Crease Privileges

Sixth, no other player on the field has any privileges in the crease, even a defenseman.

Seventh, any player that has possession of the ball outside of the crease cannot go into the crease, whether it be a goalie, defenseman, middie (midfielder), etc. Any defensive player cannot gain possession outside of the crease and then run through the crease, even the goalie. This would be a whistle to stop play and the ball would be rewarded to the other team.

Eighth, any offensive player cannot enter into the crease, except for their crosse, and they are not, ever, allowed to touch any part of the goalie (see above). If an offensive player reaches into the crease area to get a loose ball, they are allowed to do this. However, if at any time they touch the goalie or the stick of the goalie, even if the offensive player picks up the ball in the crease cylinder, then immediate whistle and the ball is given to the defense/goalie. If the offensive player touches a defenseman’s stick, then this is legal play.

Ninth, during a shot, if the offensive player touches any part of the goalie in the crease cylinder before the ball enters the net – no goal. The only caveat to this is “if” the player was pushed, which would be a flag down and if the player scores, the flag would be waved off as a push is a technical foul and these are not time serving if a goal is scored.

Tenth, excessive force of a goalie’s pass to purposefully hit an offensive player is a slash, and should be called a slash just as any other slash should be called. If the goalie throws the ball from the crease and the goalie’s stick is checked, then there is a play on call, as mentioned in the fifth rule above. However, if the goalie does so with excessive force, it is a slash on the goalie and will have to serve the penalty.

Eleventh, the goalie is the only player that is allowed to touch the ball with their hands, but only when they are in the crease. They are not allowed to grab or pick up the ball, but they can touch the ball with their hands.

Btw, when the goalie is outside of the crease and leaves the crease to play, they no longer have any of the crease privileges and are a regular player on the field.

One more thing…

Some people are confused about the rule of the goalie’s stick inside of the goal when the goalie has possession of the ball. An example of this is when a goalie has the ball in the crease and winds up to throw the ball, and the goalie’s stick goes inside of the goal during this windup. Even though the definition of a goal is when the ball crosses the entire goal plane of the goal, this is only when there is no possession of the ball. If the goalie has possession of the ball and the stick crosses into the goal plane, it is not a goal. This only pertains to the goalie, as any other player or defenseman that does this would not have these privileges.


I hope some of these explanations of the goalie rules is helpful to understand what these rules are and some of the different scenarios that can be found in the complex scenarios of the goal crease and the crease cylinder.