News & gear by players, for players ★ Powered by Fivestar App ★ Grow The Game®
Ask a Ref lacrosse officiating

Ask a Ref: Officiating Goal-Crease Play Pt. 2

The privileges and responsibilities of the goalie are very specific and unique for lacrosse. These athletes are dedicating their life to the craft of goaltending, we must stay up on the rule and game changes to be confident that we are calling the best game that we can. Goalies count on us to get the little things right, if a player of the opposite team steps in the crease, no matter what, a flag or whistle must be blown.

Just like Gordon said last time, officiating the crease is incredibly difficult for several reasons.


  1. The crease is the only area of the field marked as a circle.
  2. The goalkeeper has certain privileges while inside of the crease.
  3. There are several prohibitions that keep the offense out of the crease or from interfering with the goalkeeper.

Today, we are going to cover over the privileges of the goalkeeper and the correct rulings to make sure that we are keeping the kids competing within the rules as they are written.

Get Early Access

"*" indicates required fields

A mobile app that empowers athletes and fans to create and enjoy their best sports highlights, + enter to win a Playstation 5. Learn more...
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

The privileges and responsibilities of the goalie are very specific and unique for lacrosse. These athletes are dedicating their life to the craft of goaltending, we must stay up on the rule and game changes to be confident that we are calling the best game that we can. Goalies count on us to get the little things right, if a player of the opposite team steps in the crease, no matter what, a flag or whistle must be blown.

It is either a crease violation or illegal push/interference. Never should an attackman or midfielder of the other team step inside the cylinder and a whistle doesn’t get blown. This is how injuries happen from all the preventable unnecessary roughness. Players are taught to defend their goalie, and that means cleaning up his crease.

In this series Gordon and I are covering different aspects of officiating the crease. He took officiating the crease in common situations, I’m going to shed light on the responsibilities of player in relation to the crease.

If you have questions about how officials watch the crease go ahead and put them in the comments section below.

The Goalie

Even starting at a very young age, kids are dedicating their lives to goaltending. The ones we call a “special breed” have a natural desire to keep opponents from scoring in any way possible. Lacrosse is special because the goalie has a special set of privileges and is the only player on the field with his own safety bubble.

Ohio State goalie photo credit: Tommy Gilligan

Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan

Always work with the goalie and work hard for them. Make sure he knows where the ball is before it’s blown in to play and the amount of time on a penalty. When a goalie is busting his butt to an end line in attempt to win a shot back, you better sprint with him and do your best to get it right. That kid is giving 110% to get the ball back and is often taking a risk, be in the right place to award the hard work of the goalkeeper.

The goalie can touch (not grab) the ball with his hand anywhere within the crease but never outside of it. In field lacrosse, the ball can always be passed back to the goalie (or any player) in the crease, but it may never be carried in. The goalie may rake the ball back to himself from in or out of the crease, but he must be considered inside the crease when picking up the ball to gain the privileges.

Although the goalie is protected in a sense, he can not take advantage of the rules in place for his protection.

Let’s start to dive in to those…

The Crease

The crease is the one line on the lacrosse field I care about the most, it is a goalie’s sanctuary and should not be abused. If I miss a few offsides calls, I can most definitely sleep at night, but screwing up a crease play that could have resulted in a goal or injury is one that I don’t quickly forget about.

Gordon talked last week about diving and how to handle it, but often a crease call isn’t as obvious as a diving, or shoved player. The crease is for the protection of the goalie, but is extremely influential when it comes to running and offense and defense.

When offensive players even step on the line of the crease, even 30 yards from the ball, I make the crease violation call. The purpose is to teach players to respect the crease at all times, it’s in the best interest of keeping the game fair and safe.

Bishop Kelly Lacrosse Idaho Goalie

So what’s the crease?

The crease is a plainly marked circle around the goal. The inside of the crease shall not be painted. The circle should be painted with the midpoint of the goal line as the point of reference for drawing a circle with the radius of 9 feet.

The crease is not just on the ground, it’s an invisible cylinder that extends infinitely upward. It’s our duty as the officials to be in position to make any judgements regarding whether or not the goalie’s body/stick is within the extender cylinder or not.

When the goalie is in possession of the ball with any part of his body still in the crease, regardless of what’s hanging in or out, he is not to be contacted.

If contact is made in the act of throwing the ball, scooping the ball, or making an attempt to play the ball, we have a play on.

Note: Any player may reach in to the crease with the stick as long as they don’t make contact with the goalie. The gloved hand, foot, or any other body part on the line on in the crease shall be called.

Rule 4-18 Art. 3 – The crosse of the goalkeeper, not his body, when extended outside the cylinder above the crease area, is subject to being checked under the same circumstances as the crosse of any other player, except when the ball is in the crosse.

Play On

Once a goalie has possession and is in the act of getting rid of the ball while still in the crease and a riding player makes contact with any part of the goalie once the ball is released should be treated as a Play On.

If the goalie extends his stick and/or gloved hand, it is legal to check granted the player is making an attempt to make a play on the ball. No call should be made.

Note: A clamp on the ball outside of the crease is not possession.

Remember that if a player touches the line, even on a loose ball we need to make the Crease Violation call.

Award Outside the Box

If the ball is loose on the ground, in or out of the crease, and the goalie is checked, it again is a Play On. If the team who was violated regains possession the Play On situation is off. If the whistle is to be blown to make the Goalie Interference call, in this case the ball shall restart with the defense at GLE outside of the box.

4.18.2 Sit. B: There is a loose ball in the crease. The B1 goalkeeper has his crosse over the ball and is about to draw back for a tennis pickup (rake). A1 checks through B1’s crosse from the front claiming he was playing a loose ball. Ruling: Interference by A1, play-on. Play continues or the ball is awarded laterally outside of the box.

Free Clear at Center X

If the ball’s flight projection is not altered and the pass is completed, the Play On situation is off. If the ball’s original projection is deterred, the pass is not completed or if a result of the contact is a dangerous play, the whistle shall be blown and the ball is to be awarded at the faceoff x for a Free Clear.

If a personal foul is committed against the goalie or a riding player enters the crease, a flag is to be thrown and if the whistle is blown with the ball in the defensive half the ball restarts at the center.

Personal Fouls

Contacting the Goalie

At all time when the goalie has possession and still has a foot in the crease he is to be protected. Although light contact with the goalie should be addressed as interference, if the goalie is aggressively checked (even something you may let go on a field player) while he’s in the crease feel comfortable moving the flag up to a slash in this case. Attempting to break the goalies equipment, targeting the elbows, or a player attempting to send a message should highly considered as grounds for a slashing call.

Goalie Slashing

Rule 4.18.1 Sit. D: Can the goalkeeper be called for a personal foul if his crosse slashed an opposing player after an outlet pass? YES. The privileges and protections of the goalkeeper do not permit him to gain an unfair advantage.

I see this one happen every now and then, the goalie is just either trying to apply what he barely knows about the interference rule, or he’s a jerk trying to catch the refs slipping and get a call his way.

Either way, when the stick is contacted in the act of passing, it’s interference against the defense. But when the goalie uses excessive force or an over exaggerated force to throw the pass or follow through and strike the opposing player anywhere but the stick, that is an appropriate time to through a flag for slashing on the goalie, or if extreme you can call an unsportsmanlike conduct foul.

It’s our duty to use our best judgement on the intentions of the goalie, was he playing hard or beyond his frustrations?

Just get out there and soak it in. Watch youth, high school and college lacrosse to understand how the goalies are approaching their position and the inherited privileges. All of the best action in lacrosse often happen right on top of, or in, the crease!

Prepare yourself to make these big calls and keep the goalies and all of the other players safe.

[mks_separator style=”solid” height=”4″]

Have a question for the Ask a Ref crew?

Shoot us a note and we will try to help you out!

Previous Article

Looking Forward: MLL Week 3 Preview

Next Article

Today Is Lacrosse On TV Day: Full Schedule & Links