The Differences Between Field Lacrosse and Box Lacrosse

Boys smile during a break at their GameBreakers LAX Summer Camp.

Lacrosse continues to enjoy a growing popularity in the United States. It is becoming a sport played in schools and colleges all across the country. Interestingly, it’s very likely that the lacrosse games you’ve seen played over the years have been field lacrosse. While field lacrosse is very popular in the US, it’s also not the only type of lacrosse. Box lacrosse is a variant of lacrosse that is most commonly known as indoor lacrosse, and it became common in areas where the weather prevented field lacrosse due to poor conditions. It enjoys a healthy popularity in Canada, where it is played indoors on covered or converted ice hockey rinks.

You can find a summer camp for both types of lacrosse, as there are enough significant differences between the two games that make them two distinct sports. Before you head to camp, though, let’s discuss what box lax is and the key differences and similarities between box lacrosse and field lacrosse.

What is Box Lacrosse?

Box lacrosse is an indoor version of lacrosse, traditionally played on covered or converted ice hockey rinks in Canada. It emerged as a popular alternative in regions where outdoor field lacrosse was impractical due to adverse weather conditions. Unlike its field counterpart, box lax is characterized by a smaller play area, heightened physical contact, and specific rule differences catering to its unique indoor setting.

Key Differences: Box Lacrosse vs. Field Lacrosse


Several significant distinctions set box and field lacrosse apart, making them uniquely appealing in their own rights. One of the most notable differences lies in the physicality of the game; box lacrosse allows for more contact, closely resembling ice hockey in its intensity and pace. The confined space of an indoor arena amplifies the action, with a smaller playing area and goals, and a reduced team size of six players in box lacrosse compared to the ten in field lacrosse. This not only changes the game’s pace but its strategic depth as well. As you can see, limited space, smaller goals, and fewer people considerably change the pace and gameplay of box lax.


Goal-tending presents another stark contrast between the two sports. The goal-tending area is much larger in field lacrosse, but in box lacrosse, the goals are quite small. Box lax goalies gear up with extensive protective equipment—gloves, helmets, shoulder pads, chest protectors, and leg and thigh pads. This is considerably more gear than is needed for a goalie in field lacrosse (gloves, a chest protector, helmet and a throat guard) and more akin to hockey goalies, due to the close quarters and rapid-fire shots they face.


Box lacrosse also uses a different stick. There are two types of lacrosse sticks used in field lacrosse because of the differences needed for each position. Defensive players and offensive players need different sticks. The attacker’s stick needs to be about 40” long, while the defender’s stick needs to be closer to 52” but can be as long as 72”. In box lax, the sticks are considerably shorter due to the more compact playing area.

Box lacrosse uses more pinching than field lacrosse, so the stick netting is different, too. The stringing style is designed to hold on tight to the ball, while the shafts of the sticks are more robust to make them durable and able to withstand hard checks. These differences ultimately lead to varying stick skills between box lacrosse and field lacrosse

Besides the different lacrosse stick types, there are a few other noteworthy differences in equipment. Box lacrosse uses a hockey mask, which is also a bit lighter than the standard field lacrosse helmet. They do not need cleats in box lax because it’s an indoor sport, and their uniform clothing is similar to that of a hockey team.

Rules & Gameplay

There are other areas of the game, like rules and regulations, that differ between the two sports, like the use of a shot clock. In box lacrosse, a shot clock (usually 30 seconds) requires the offensive team to take a shot on goal within a set time, encouraging faster play. Field lacrosse does not typically have a shot clock, but the college and professional levels may use a shot clock (typically 60 or 80 seconds) to speed up the game.

There is no offsides rule in box lax, allowing players to move freely across the entire playing surface. In field lacrosse, however, teams must keep a certain number of players on each side of the midfield line, creating an offsides rule that influences transitions and positioning.

There is a greater emphasis on physical contact in box lacrosse, with body checking allowed within the confines of the rules, similar to ice hockey. Field lacrosse is similar in that physical contact is a part of men’s field lacrosse, the open field and rules limit the extent and nature of contact compared to box lacrosse. Women’s field lacrosse, however, does not have physical contact.

Box lacrosse games are generally divided into three periods, each ranging from 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the league. Field lacrosse matches, however, are played in four quarters, each 15 minutes long, with halftime and short breaks between quarters.

Year-Round Accessibility

While the average US Lacrosse team is a field type team that plays outdoor games, it is possible to find box lacrosse camps and clubs across the country. Because box lacrosse is played indoors, it has a flexible season schedule. Finding a summer camp that teaches the skills needed to play box lacrosse can be found by searching the same camps that offer field lacrosse. They may offer both sports in an alternating fashion, and many camps offer both women’s and men’s camps on a similar alternating rotation.


If you enjoy field lacrosse, there’s a good chance you will likely enjoy box lacrosse, too. The sports will seem similar in many ways, so start by watching a box lacrosse game. As discussed, they are different sports, and they appear as such when watched. Because they both have an undercurrent of the same game, picking up on the rules and strategies of box lacrosse will be easy for any seasoned field lacrosse player. The most general difference between the two games is the rougher and more physical play of box lacrosse. The game is more contact based and allows stick play not allowed in field lacrosse. This aspect may present an initial challenge for field lacrosse players making a switch, but it can be easily overcome.