Free Space to Goal – is a path to goal within the critical scoring area as defined by two lines extending from the ball to the outside of the goal circle. No defensive player will be penalized if positioned below the extension of the goal line.
Free Space to Goal, typically referred to as “shooting space” is a common foul in the women’s lacrosse game. It is a difficult rule to understand and interpret, especially at live game speed. Similar to the misunderstood offsides rule in soccer, shooting space in lacrosse involves not only a defined (yet moving) boundary, but also multiple conditions that affect whether the rule “is” or “is not” applicable.
In the diagram, the black dots represent possible shooters and illustrate how the relationship of the shooter’s “free space” changes from different spots.
In short, the free space is the “right of way” of the shooter to take a safe shot and any defensive player that enters the space to disrupt the shot will be called for “Obstruction of the Free Space to Goal”. This results in an immediate whistle since the offending player has created an unsafe condition (for herself). Note: The immediate whistle is designed to stop unsafe play before a shot, however, often times that doesn’t happen and should a goal be scored it does not count.
Where things get complicated, especially at live game speed is the condition of the criteria to make the rule applicable.
The shooter has to have a realistic opportunity for a safe shot. If the shooter is closely guarded, within a stick length, and trying to shoot over or through players that are in the shooting space, the dangerous shot and dangerous propelling rules apply and a foul may be called on the shooter.
The shooter has to have the intent to shoot, which is somewhat of a subjective interpretation. As an example, an attacker moving though the 8 meter and looking to dump the ball to a teammate is not intending to shoot and although there may be a shooting space condition, it is not applicable.
2017 Rule Change – 10-1-1: Looking to shoot (NOTE) has been eliminated from the Obstruction of Free Space criteria.
A defender entering the shooting space by being drawn into the space by another attacker (chasing her girl) is not in violation of the shooting space.
US Lacrosse has a great video explanation of this rule.