November 2, 2016
Photo: John Strohsacker
Photo: John Strohsacker

Roundtable: Why all the Rules Changes?

from USLacrosseMagazine Staff Reports | Twitter

Lacrosse legislators had a busy summer.

The United Women's Lacrosse League unveiled a radically different hands-off brand of women's lacrosse that included 6-on-6, two-point shots, a shot clock (coming to NCAA in 2017) and shootouts. NCAA men's lacrosse rules committee tweaked faceoffs (again) and threw in an experimental two-point rule. US Lacrosse may have eradicated scrums on draw controls with a high school girls' lacrosse rule that keeps supporting players behind the restraining line until possession is won. The NFHS adopted several measures to make high school boys' lacrosse safer. And then US Lacrosse, inspired by the Lacrosse Athlete Development Model (see page 32), announced bold changes to youth boys' and girls' lacrosse rules Sept. 19.

We rounded up four leaders on the front line of the debates for their take.

The Roundtable

Jen Adams
Loyola women's and Baltimore Ride (UWLX) coach, NCAA rules committee member

Melissa Coyne
US Lacrosse games administration director, NCAA women's officials coordinator

Rick Lake
US Lacrosse men's game senior manager

John Svec
Siena men's coach, NCAA rules committee member

Should rules interventions focus on safety, fair play or mass appeal—or all of the above?

RL: Strictly from the youth perspective, safety has greater concern than it does at other levels. We want kids to get introduced to the sport and not have to walk away because of injuries.

JS: When do you feel it's appropriate to start body contact?

RL: There's a bit of chatter on social media of people asking this question. At 6U, the youngest level, there's no body contact at all. There's also no stick contact. Then at 8U, that's when we introduce stick checking and some type of body contact. Not checking, but legal holds, legal pushes, teaching kids how to box out with a loose ball on the ground to gain possession of it and how to ride kids out of bounds. That's what we're teaching at 8, 10 and 12U, and then 14U is pretty much high school lacrosse. Contact and physicality is important, but it has to be taught properly. It needs to be the last piece of the puzzle. You should learn how to throw stick checks and to properly position yourself for defense before adding in that last element, which is body checking.

JS: I think that makes a lot of sense. One of the things you see at the college level and beyond is the lack of technique when it comes to checking.

MC: When you talk about youth and contact, we had to look outside of the game experts to the medical experts. When should contact be introduced? There's a lot of science behind that. There's an age when a kid's peripheral vision is fully developed, and it's much later than you might think. We looked to our Sports Science and Safety Committee.

JS: They're playing so much at the middle school and high school level, that the logic of development has been lost. If US Lacrosse is making a big push on it, that could have a huge, positive impact on the development of players not only physically, but skill-wise.

Baltimore Ride and Loyola women's head coach Jen Adams (Matt Risley)


The last few years have seen several significant changes to the rules of lacrosse as it's played on just about every level. To those who might say, "Leave the game alone," what is your response?

JA: Every topic we discuss and consider comes from our membership. It's not just things we pluck out of the air. We've seen huge changes in the last couple of rules cycles. That is a byproduct of our student-athletes and the way they play, along with things like the sticks and the equipment they're using. The game itself and the people that are playing it have progressed. We have to keep up.

MC: As a fan of the game, I like the progression and the changes they've made. As the coordinator of officials, however, it's hard to get officials on a consistent plane where they feel comfortable and confident with the game. What they're officiating one year may change the next.

JS: It seems like lacrosse is one of those sports that really changes from high school to college to the pros to international. It can be a hindrance from people learning the game or new fans to the game. I think all the variations are interesting and have their own validity, but personally, I'd like to see everybody playing the same game by the same rules as much as possible.

JA: The United Women's Lacrosse League came out with a distinctly different brand of rules. It really separated off of college lacrosse. I think it offered a unique perspective for about what the game could look like in a completely different way — to visually see these rules played out. We're quick as coaches and fans to disagree with it without ever seeing it. People can be closed-minded.

In lacrosse utopia, what rules would you implement to redefine the sport?

JA: My eyes were opened to this in joining the committee, but our women's lacrosse rulebook is probably the most confusing and thickest rulebook that exists. Still maintaining integrity of the game, there is a way to get our rulebook cut in half. We can do a better job of making things more black-and-white, less lingering in the gray area.

JS: You'll find as you do that, you'll have more officials.

JA: It's not just a committee. It's not just the officials. It takes the entire lacrosse community. Players, coaches, officials, fans — everyone has a place in these rules and making sure the spirit of the game is upheld.

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