Faceoff Refresher!

Faceoff are one of the most important parts of the game today. With a few exceptions, every period begins with a face off. Teams that win more faceoffs typically have the ball on offense longer and therefore generate more scoring opportunities which usually leads to wins.  You must be proficient in your face off mechanics, have good positioning, and communicate well in order to execute a fair faceoff. And while face offs are a difficult part of a game, they are one of the few times in a game where we know exactly what the players are going to do.

There are three major concepts to understand regarding face offs.

    1. Be quick, but don’t rush – Before every faceoff, the field must be set correctly and both officials must be in the right spots. Players should be properly aligned before the whistle is blown. Get it right! Back out slowly and smoothly. No need to rush.
    2. Communication is key. Let the players know what you expect and what you are looking for. No secrets, no surprises. Ask them if what you are doing is ok?
    3. Inform, but do not coach – There is a difference between saying: “Blue get off the line,” and saying: ”Gentlemen, respect the line.” The latter conveys the same message to both players, while the the former tells the opposing team that you are favoring the Blue team.

Here is a guide for conducting a good faceoff and be sure to watch the video at the end of the post.

Faceoff Official

While you are waiting on your partner to signal that the field is set, it is perfectly acceptable and encouraged to talk with both face off players about your expectations for a clean face. This lets you build a rapport with two players that you will likely see on future face offs.

Administering the FO:

  • Jog to center X, raise the ball over your head momentarily to show your partner on the wing that you are ready to begin the face off.
  • Ensure that both face off players have their backs to their own goals.
  • While waiting for the ready signal from your partner, you may write on your scorecard. 
  • Get into a stationary position once you get the “Ready” signal from your partner:
  • When ready to begin (i.e. you get the ready signal from the wing), place whistle in mouth.
  • Point with your toe to the spot where you would like the player to assume a face off position and say: “Down” and take a step back (just to get out of the way).
  • Check to see:
      • Fingers are fully around shaft
      • Both hands touch the ground
      • Hands are not touching the plastic of the lacrosse head
      • Sticks are parallel to the center line
      • Head of sticks are vertical
      • Sticks are up to, but not touching the centerline
      • Every part of their body is to the left of the head of their stick so the neutral zone is clear (both up into the sky and behind both players)
  • Adjust the players by saying “tops to stop” or “slide left or right.” DO NOT physically move the players;you will put someone in a postion they don’t want to be in. 
  • Once you are satisfied with the positioning, step up to the players and place the ball 5 inches from the top and the stop and with your hands on both crosses say “Set.”
  • After the “Set” command is given, NO player may move or adjust their positioning.
  • Back out slowly and blow your whistle!


Once wing players have passed you, keep floating back towards your sideline and goal. If a player gains clear possession of the ball then wind arm backwards and loudly state: “Possession!” Make sure that the player has possession: defined as carrying, cradling, passing or shooting. If you jump the gun on this you release the other players early you then have 12 players fighting for the ball instead of a more manageable 6.


If the ball crosses the defensive restraining line (DRL) before possession is gained then wind wind arm backwards and loudly shout: “Play!” which releases the players and ends the faceoff. It doesn;t need to cross into the box, only the DRL!

Three Man FO: The Helper (aka Lead Left)

In a three man game, the faceoff official has a helper and it works best if these two work together. As we have noted there is a lot to look at.  One official can only see some of these things; but with two officials we can divide and conquer!  In your pre-game conference you can clarify what the Face Off official (FO) and Lead Left (LL aka the Helper ) will be responsible for. Things to note:

  • Only one official should be near the players at one time. You do not want to head butt each other!
  • Be quick about it. It should not take a long time.
  • Both the FO and LL official can and should make calls!
  • LL checks the that the crosses are parallel to the midline and that crosses and gloves are not touching the line.
  • LL should NOT physically adjust crosses; use verbal commands instead e.g. “off the line red.”

When helper is good with the set up, back out a few feet and sets himself. Get yourself into a stationary position quickly about 5-7 yards away from the FOGOs. You must be close enough to the players to see any pre- or post-whistle violations, yet far away enough to not interfere with them once you blow the whistle.  Go to a spot you where you are comfortable getting to your goal in the event of a fast break. Remain motionless until the whistle blows. If there is a girls faceoff circle on the field you CANNOT be outside of the circle!

As the LL backs out the FO steps in with the ball and places the ball and administers the faceoff. The helper is watching for the initial contact by the players and for holding.  Be sure to watch head contact!  The FO is watching the heads of the crosses as he backs out.  

Face Off Rotation by Quarter:

The Referee takes the first face off, the Umpire is the helper and the Field Judge the wing.  The crew then rotates responsibilities each period that begins with a faceoff with the FO official moving to the wing, helper to the FO and wing to helper.


Wing Official

In two and three man, the role of the wing official remains the same,  Quickly get to and stand at the end of the wing line five yards into the field. In two man we run left, in three man the wing official runs right.  

When the FO is ready to administer the faceoff, quietly announce “Timer’s on!” and pump fist when the Face Off Official raises ball into the air and flip on 20-second timer. If it seems a team needs a little encouragement you can be a little louder; this will get the players to move into position faster.

Note, the official only needs to be in near the center x and have the ball.  The quicker you get things going the faster the game will go! Hold your hand up UNTIL the field is set.  

 Not Ready

  • Is there a legally equipped goalie, 3 attackmen and 3 defensemen below each restraining line? 
  • There is no need for players to be :in the attack box” they may be in the alley!
  • Two opposing players behind each wing line, unless a man down face? They CAN be moving, just not interfering with each other.
  • Are there any issues with the field?


Once the field is set give the “Ready” signal (point towards the goal the you will cover as lead). Always points towards the goal you plan to cover as the lead official. When pointing towards your goal, do not point across your body. Use the arm that is closest to the goal. It is also much clearer to the Face Off Official than pointing across your body or pointing directly at the Face Off Official.

Turn OFF the 20-second timer as face off players assume position. You don’t want the face off players jumping early because they heard the timer expire!

Wing Keys

  • Stepping on the line, releasing early.
  • Interfering with each other more than 5 yards away from the ball.
  • Illegally body checking a player engaged in the face off.


If a team is still substituting and is clearly not ready when your 20-second timer buzzes then signal Delay of Game and award possession to the offended team, but don’t be too good.

If you feel the timer is about to expire and one player is running hard to their position, but will probably not make it in time you may turn your timer off. However, if you have already warned a team, you may opt to enforce the delay.

Reward hustle if the call will be borderline for the restart, as there is very little advantage or disadvantage towards either team.

Get to your Spot

Once the face off begins, float to your respective keys:  if you are the helper or the wing official, get to the restraining line to see if anyone releases early! Get to your goal if possession is gained and the players move into the box.  If you are the Single or Trail official, get into your position and begin to work a settled situation.