US Lacrosse Adopts Age-Appropriate Youth Rules – It’s About Time!

youth lacrosse big kid small kid
Big kid, little kid. It happens.

Yesterday it was announced that US Lacrosse, the National Governing Body of Lacrosse, has adopted age-appropriate rules for youth lacrosse. Now I know not everyone reading this is interested in the youth game, so let me briefly tell you why this news is drastically important to you, your babies, your baby’s babies and the overall future of our sport.

Assuming the gospel of USL is widely accepted, these national playing rules will establish a strong foundation for today’s young lacrosse players all across America. While you may not be a youth player, parent or coach, you undoubtedly care about our sport if you’re reading this blog. I think you’d agree with me when I state that the most crucial aspect of our sport’s growth lies at the Youth level. It all starts with the kids!

USL has gone above and beyond by putting together these clear and concise playing rules for youth boys’ lacrosse and youth girls’ lacrosse. As a high school lacrosse coach, I only wish they had done it sooner! To give you a look at the details and shed some light on this topic, I’ve included snippets from the boys’ rules and a few of my own insights below. Over the weekend, I will try to collect some thoughts from a women’s lacrosse coach about the girls’ rules and share them with you next week.

Please feel free to drop your own take on these rules in the comments section!


The minimum stick length at the U11 and U9 levels will decrease from 40 to 37 inches (maximum of 42 inches). Long poles will be prohibited at the U9 level, and they will not be recommended for U11. Strings or leathers will be limited to a hanging length of 2 inches. All goalies will be required to wear arm pads and a protective cup.

All goooooood. Honestly, I’m interested to hear what Connor Wilson has to say about the stick length, but I think it’s a great move. There are boys of all sizes at that age, so the more options for stick length, the better. Young goalies should always wear arm pads and cups as well – why risk injury?

At the U9 level, given mutual agreement of the teams, one coach per team may step onto the field during play to provide instruction.

There was no need to put “given mutual agreement” into this ruling. Just require it. Kids need to get coached at that age level – especially individually. If a coach can be on the field during play, he will be able to communicate with individual players easily and more quickly. I say kids need to get coached more, but then again, kids need better coaches too. Sometimes more instruction from your coach isn’t always a good thing, but I digress…

Also in the U11 and U9 divisions, should the score differential become four or more goals, the trailing team will be given the ball at midfield following a goal (unless the trailing team opts for a standard faceoff).

I know there are people out there who will hate this rule, but let’s be honest with ourselves here for a moment. For U11 and U9 players, what’s important now? Keeping the game close and getting each team as many touches as possible, that’s what.

The defensive 20-second count and the offensive 10-second count will not be used in U11 and U9 play.

Smart call on USL’s part. Neither count is needed at these levels, especially if you consider coaches may be on the field instructing their players to move the ball up-field. Officials will be able to put their focus on more important calls, and let’s remember, officials aren’t always the most experienced at these levels.

The distance from a player to a loose ball within which legal stick checks, holds, body checks and pushes may occur will be reduced from 5 yards to 3 yards at all age levels.

I would have gotten quite a few penalties if 3 yards was the rule when I was a kid. Just saying.

Violent, purposeful collisions, particularly those targeted at unsuspecting players and that feature one player intentionally putting another player on the ground or inflicting injury, will be prohibited at all age levels. This would include an illegal body check on a player in a defenseless position — one whose blind side is exposed to the hit, who has his head turned for a pass or who has his head down playing a loose ball.

This is good.

Body checking will be prohibited at the U11 and U9 age levels.

I need someone to define “body checking” for me. While I think this rule could be a good thing, it could also be detrimental to a sport that draws football and hockey players to try it based on its physical nature.

At the U13, U11 and U9 levels, any one-handed check will be considered a slash, regardless if the attempt makes contact with the opposing player.

Love it. Kids need to learn the fundamentals. As a coach in an emerging area, I see wayyyyyy too many high school players who have picked up horrible habits because they were never penalized for this type of thing when they played youth lacrosse. I hope official stress this rule right away. Finally, attackboys will learn how to ride correctly! I know a couple of attackboys who would have better chance of playing high-level college ball if they just moved their feet on the ride.

Honoring the game remains an important part of the youth lacrosse experience, and US Lacrosse added examples of unsportsmanlike conduct — including verbal language and body language — that may be penalized by game officials.

Again, this is pure gold. Way too many kids out there are already trash talking and throwing up gang sangs. Okay, maybe not gang signs, but you get the picture. Unsportsmanlike conduct should be focused on just as much as illegal body checks at this level.

A U15 or a U13 player that accumulates four personal fouls or five minutes in personal foul penalty time will be disqualified. At the U11 and U9 level, three personal fouls would warrant disqualification.

Solid, but what was the rule commonly used before this? 5? 6? Either way, I’m satisfied if penalties are enforced the same way as fouls in basketball.

There will be no extra-man situations at the U9 level.

Good. There’s no point. Let another kid off the bench and into the game if a teammate gets a penalty.



Having the National Governing Body reign down on youth lacrosse with a smorgasbord of national rulings is one thing. Having every youth lacrosse organization in the United States implement said rules is an entirely different matter. These rules are intended for the 2012 season and beyond; The challenge will be getting every youth league to implement them.

What is it going to take to convince every youth league to use these rules? Will youth leagues in hotbeds adopt the national rulings first, or will it be the startup leagues in emerging areas? If you’re a leader in your lacrosse community and you have a say in what goes on at the youth level, now is the time for you to step up. Do everything you can to make sure these sanctioned rules are accepted and implemented immediately by your organization. If the old guard has a problem with it, tell ’em to stand down. It’s for the kids!

Youth lax wands in action.
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Jeff Brunelle
Founder of Lacrosse All Stars. A West Coast native and product of the MCLA, I moved back East after college where I truly fell in love with the game. I've dedicated my career to LaxAllStars since 2010, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I now live in my hometown of Boise, Idaho, with my wife Zoë, two dogs, and a baby girl expected to arrive around Championship Weekend this May. I'm a technologist at heart, I'm not into snow or the month of January, and one time I kind of stole a football from Gary Gait. Life is crazy busy, but it's worth it when you get to immerse yourself in the medicine of lacrosse every day. We are on a mission to Grow The Game® on a global scale by empowering storytelling by players, for players, and bridging the gap between lacrosse and the mainstream.


  1. As a youth coach these look pretty good to me. The only ones that seems odd are those involving goalies.  We require all boys, no matter the position to wear a cup. Arm pads are a different story. I can understand it at the U9 and U11, but goalies reach a point where these pads slow them down, plus the area needing protection is the forearms and traditional arm pads are marginal at protecting that area. For the young ladies that still need or want protection on their arms, I’ve use football forearm pads. Chris-Oregon

  2. The body checking is the one I hate seeing. I can understand the U9 level, but at U11, they should be starting to learn to hit. We are seeing similar problems for USA Hockey as well. It is getting to the point where kids won’t start learning until they are in High School on how to properly hit, and by then the age and experience disparity can be huge. This leaves 14 years olds extremely exposed.

  3. Glad to say our U9 teams had already been using all of these particular examples.

    Personally I’m a big fan of the “no EMO at U9 level.”  It’s a great teaching opportunity to bring the kids off the field to examine what went wrong & why, how to do it next time, while keeping others involved evenly.

    Only thing I could go either way on, is the minimum stick length.