The Best Explanation of Lacrosse Holding Penalty: A Complete 2023 Guide

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Are you confused about what holds in lacrosse are and why they're penalized?

Don't worry; it can be confusing since the rules of the lacrosse holding penalty have changed rapidly over the past several years.

Regardless, understanding the rules of holding is essential for any player looking to excel at the game of lacrosse.

That's why we've put together this comprehensive guide to explain everything you need to know about lacrosse holding penalties.


Take Away Key Points:

  • A penalty occurs when an opposing player hinders or restricts the movement of the opponent's crosse or body by using his stick
  • There are two types of outcomes, depending on whether the defense or offense violates the rules
  • Holding is a minor penalty, so it isn't a strict rule as the illegal body check, defenseless player penalty, etc.

A holding penalty in lacrosse: All you need to know

If you're wondering what a holding penalty is and what might be the consequences of misbehavior in field lacrosse, read the guide below to learn all the crucial information.

1. What is a lacrosse holding penalty?

A holding penalty mainly refers to the defensive players holding the opposing team, and it's considered a technical foul. A hold is an action when a player tries to hinder or restrict the movement of the opponent's crosse or body. The result will either be a loss of possession or serving time in a penalty box.

2. How do these technical fouls differ from personal fouls?

which is an example of legal holding in lacrosse

Holding penalties in men's lacrosse is one of the most common penalties or fouls called. A holding penalty is classified as a technical foul, not a personal foul. Therefore, it's not as severe as the other one. 

The referee will throw a penalty flag once he notices a player performing a hold on the opposition and punish the offending player. The violation of the lacrosse rules will cause a strict outcome, but the result will depend on whether the player in question is an offensive player or a defensive player. 

For instance, a lacrosse player can be in the offensive half and hold back the opponent's stick with his stick. Thus he creates an opportunity for his offending team to avoid the opposing player and score. As a result, the lacrosse official will stop playing, and the team will lose possession of the ball.

Another example is when a player commits a penalty on the defensive half of the field. As an opposing player, he intercepts the progress of offensive players who are at least five yards away from the ground ball they want to recover and push forward.

The referee throws a flag and waits for the next stop of the play or change of possession of the ball. Then, he assigns a thirty-second penalty time to the offender.

3. What happens with the offensive player during a loose ball?

During the loose ball in lacrosse, if a player violates the rules, the officials blow their whistles, and the possession of the ball will be given to the opponent. The offender will not serve the penalty, but the action will result in the loss of possession.

4. When will the player go to the penalty box?

In field lacrosse, an offender goes to the penalty box to serve a one-minute penalty or three-minute penalty if he commits personal fouls. However, he will not be sent to the box for holding the game.

However, in box lacrosse, the offender will be sent to the box for the game delay, and the opponent will have a chance to shoot and score a goal while the other opponent plays without a trespasser.

5. What will a referee do after the holding action?

As holding belongs to technical fouls rather than personal fouls, these distractions are not as major as the personal fouls are. The outcome is minor and equal to all levels of play and all leagues.

The change of the possession of the ball and the thirty-second penalty only depends on specific situations on whether the targeted player was on the offensive or defensive end of the field at the moment of holding.

When the holding is called at the defensive half of the field, the team must play a man-down situation or disadvantage for the duration of the penalty time. If the holding takes place during a loose ball, the non-offending team will be given possession. The punishment is similar to youth lacrosse, high school, collegiate-level lacrosse, and all leagues.

How will the referee signal the penalty?

If the defensive players commit the penalty, the officials will throw a flag and punish the player at the next stop or change of possession of the lacrosse ball. If the offense committed a penalty, the referee would stop the game and award the lacrosse to the opponent team.

In addition, the referee will make a hand signal for hold by holding their right wrist with their left hand and moving it up and down.

6. What are the examples of the holding penalty?

Below you can find some of the commonly referred minor infractions causing the penalty:

- A player uses the stick to hinder or hold back the opponent from moving or performing various actions, including passing the ball or shooting 

- One player uses his free hand to grab the opponent's body, stick, or jersey to prevent the opponent from retrieving a ground ball while he is located more than five feet away from the ball in the play

- A player removes or steals the opponent's stick to prevent their actions and reach the lost ball

- A player uses the stick to pin the stick of their opponent in a way that restrains or restricts the other team

Similar penalties to holding penalties

holding penalty in lacrosse

Some of the penalties similar to holding actions include: illegal screen, illegal procedure, tripping, unsportsmanlike conduct, interference.

Illegal screen

An illegal screen is an action whenever an offense moves in illegally or blocks the defense from guarding other offensive players, especially those with ball possession.

Illegal procedure

The illegal procedure is used to describe various procedures in the field, including:

- Leaving the box before the time is over

- Illegal body checking

- Illegal cross-checking

- Too many players on the field 

- Delaying the game

- Touching the ball with hands 

- Failure to advance. 


Tripping is a personal foul, and it's a form of physical contact that is prohibited in the game.

Tripping refers to actions when players use their stick or body to deliberately obstruct other players below the waist, causing them to trip and fall. 


Unsportsmanlike conduct includes using foul language, baiting or taunting other players, using the stick to attack and hurt other players, nonplaying personnel, arguing with officials over a call, etc.


Interference includes more common penalties - technical fouls when the players deliberately impede the free movement of other players who do not possess the ball. They might also be more than five yards away from the flying or loose ball.

Any player can commit interference, including a goalie.


How long can a lacrosse player hold the ball?

A player can hold the ball for a maximum of four seconds.

Is touching the ball with your hand a violation in lacrosse?

Yes, touching the ball with your hands or fingers is illegal and violates the rules.


The lacrosse holding penalty may seem like a minor infraction, but it can significantly impact the outcome of the game.

Depending on which team violates the rule, the other team may be allowed to score, or they may be able to keep possession of the ball.

Next time you watch a game of lacrosse, pay attention to how often this penalty is called and see if you can spot any patterns in when it is most likely to occur.

Freddy Woods

Freddy is the heart and soul of Lacrosse Runner. As a former athlete, Freddy is very passionate about Lacrosse. He keeps up with the sport's changes and innovations and often tests the new equipment released by the leading manufacturers. Read more here