“Obstructing the Free Space to Goal” rule typically referred to as “Shooting Space” is a common foul in the women’s lacrosse game and one that leaves most parents scratching their heads!
It is a difficult rule to understand and interpret, especially at game speed. “Shooting Space” involves a defined (yet moving) boundary that belongs to the shooter - imagine when the shooter enters the 15 metre fan area she is the point of a cone and the 45 degree points on either side of the goalie’s crease area are the top of the cone – this cone area is the shooter's “Shooting Space” and this cone shape area moves with the shooter as she moves around the 15 metre fan area.
In short, “Shooting Space” is the right of way of the shooter to take a safe shot through their cone area within the 15 meter fan area. There are however multiple conditions that affect whether the rule “is” or “is not” applicable at any given time.
Any defensive player that is more than a stick length away from the shooter and that attempts to disrupt the shot by entering her body into the shooter’s “Shooting Space” will be called for “Obstructing the Free Space to Goal”. The shooter must have had a realistic opportunity for a safe shot before the defender’s body entered the “Shooting Space” for the call to be made. This results in an immediate whistle since the defensive player has created an unsafe condition for herself of potentially being hit with a shot. The shooter will be given a free shot to goal.
As noted above “Obstructing the Free Space to Goal” will be called when the defender is more than a stick length away from the shooter when the shooter enters the 15 metre fan area and has a realistic opportunity for a safe shot. Conversely when a defender is within a stick length of the shooter when the shooter enters the 15 meter fan area. the defender is seen to have good safe defensive positioning on the shooter and can defend the shooter with her body in the shooter's “Shooting Space”.
Similarly a defender may lead with her stick into a shooter’s “Shooting Space” to attempt to get within a stick length of the shooter and therefore out of danger of being called for “Obstructing the Free Space to Goal”.
This rule is at its core designed for safety and to avoid out of position defenders from jumping in front of the path of a shot.
A final note to add, a defender being drawn into a shooter’s “Shooting Space” by another attacker (defender chasing her off ball check within a sticks length through a shooter's “Shooting Space”) is not in violation of the “Shooting Space” if the defender stays with her check and does not keep her body in “Shooting Space” to adjust to the shooter.