What is Three Seconds Good Defense in Lacrosse?

The Three Seconds (Good Defense) Rule is an offensive foul only applicable to the non-check youth girls game. The rule can be confusing because it occurs during active play without evidence of any physical violation. It is tucked in the carve out for youth rules in the US Lacrosse Womens Rule Book in the Fouls section.

Here’s an example of the foul.  An offensive player possessing the ball is racing up the sideline with the ball perched in her pocket and holding the stick in a slightly horizontal fashion – like a 3rd grader does. A defender is pursing alongside. Mom thinks her girl has a chance for a goal and has jumped from her chair to cheer and then there is a whistle. The referee stops play and awards the ball to the defender. And then the sideline murmurs “what?”.

My first exposure to this rule came when I was coaching a game and it was my daughter that was racing to the goal.  I did the “palms up and out” routine and mumbled something.  An “off duty” referee was standing behind me. I guess I looked like trouble. He kindly educated me on the rule.

Here is the rule as written in the rule book:

9. Player with the ball may not hold the ball for more than 3 seconds when

a. closely guarded/marked (see definitions)
b. the defender has both hands on her stick
c. the defender is in position to legally check if checking was allowed. (U-13 and below; U-15 if criteria is not met). (Minor Foul)

So if a defender (or more than one) is closely guarding a ball carrier, has two hands on her stick and has the opportunity to check the ball away – if it were allowed – and maintains that position over a three second count she will be awarded the ball.

As far as the intention; the rule has two parts.  It gives the defense an advantage or opportunity to gain possession when they are restricted by rule of being physically able to dislodge the ball (stick check).  And it requires the offensive player to practice good cradling technique, which will develop better stick protection skills needed for the checking game.

The offensive player needs to change direction, change her cradle, switch hands, or otherwise make some adjustment with the ball in her pocket so that a legal check – if it were allowed – could no longer be made. Once the ball carrier makes an adjustment the count is over, but could be resumed again if the conditions described above return.  The new count will begin again from 1 and not where the initial count ended.