What is Three Seconds in Lacrosse?

Understanding the Three Seconds Rule

The Three Seconds rule in lacrosse can be confusing to a new parent and player. The game is flowing along and then there is a whistle with no apparent justification or sign of a violation around the ball. What is happening?

From the rule book; no player “while defending within the 8-meter arc, may remain in that area more than 3 seconds unless one is marking an opponent within a stick’s length”.

Sounds simple enough…until you try to explain it to an eight year old.

The Three Seconds rule is a safety rule and a Major Foul (see Girls Lacrosse Rules for Beginners). Players idling about within the 8-meter arc, where most shots occur, creates an unsafe condition and a possible shooting space violation for the defensive player and also a disadvantage for the offensive players bound by other rules like dangerous propelling.

At the beginner level this is a very common foul for two reasons. First, girls tend to lose their player that they are to be guarding and end up hanging around in front of the goal thinking (with some logic) that it is a good place to be to prevent the other team from scoring (like soccer or basketball). The second reason is that often, at the direction of their crazy coach yelling “get on a girl”, a player will often move to defend the closest opponent she can find, but sometimes the opponent is already marked. By rule only one player “counts” as defending within a sticks length. The defense is not exempt from the three seconds rule by double or triple teaming an off-ball attacker.

The Three Seconds rule is in effect as soon as the ball crosses the Restraining Line in the attacking third of the field. In addition to the rule being applicable only in a specific area – the 8 meter – it also has a few other conditions.  A defensive player standing with one foot in and one foot out of the 8-meter area will be considered subject to judging three seconds rule. A defender marking an unmarked offensive player standing behind the goal circle, further than a sticks length away, but clearly “mirroring” the attacker, is exempt from the three seconds rule. Also defensive players double teaming or “crashing” the attacker with the ball looking to score are also not subject to the three seconds.

For penalty administration, play will be restarted with a free position awarded at the spot of the ball, not the foul, and no longer is a free position shot unless the ball was already in the 8 meter area.