Keep Moving

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Keep Moving

I learned an important lesson about movement off the lacrosse field. I was sixteen and taking Muay Thai kickboxing lessons at a local martial arts academy. My instructor set up the class in a mob drill. The mob drill teaches students how to get away from more than one attacker.

When I first got into the mob drill I got pummeled. I thought defensively and stayed in one place. This allowed all of the attackers to mass around me, and while they were not punching with full power I realized that if they were I would be in a world of hurt. A few months later it was mob drill time, but before the drill my instructor pulled me aside and told me with very little explanation to go crazy. He wanted me to attack the attackers, find open space and then reengage.

So I was set in the middle of six of my fellow students and when my instructor said go I went a little overboard.

I yelled at the top of my lungs and rushed the person closest to me. I threw a few punches and ran to a corner of the gym. All of my attackers were a little stunned at my brash attack. They tentatively approached me so I yelled out again and ran to the perimeter of the group, punched my way around them and ran to the other side of the gym. This went on for about three minutes and while I took a few punches it was much fewer than when I just stood still.

I learned that when facing multiple attackers it pays to be on the move. Standing still is a death sentence.

I see way too many youth and high school players who stop moving when they shouldn’t. Players who pick up a ground ball and then stop. Players who run into a double team and try to split dodge back where they came only to run into the other defender. Players who can’t catch the ball cleanly because they will not move their feet away from their defender.

The lacrosse field is 110 yards long and 60 yards wide. There is open space available, but many players would rather run through the gauntlet of defenders than pass the ball around them.

I blame isolation dodges for this problem. Coaches, especially at the youth level, love giving their biggest or fastest kid the ball and having him run at the cage for a high-percentage shot. The problem is that many of these coaches do not coach isolation dodges correctly. They start them off of a dead-ball restart or have the iso player run way up to the midfield line. Both of those methods allow defenses to settle in.

The correct way to run an isolation dodge is to do it off of ball movement. When a ball is passed the defenders have to move to follow the ball. Isolation dodges are much more effective off a couple of passes especially when the iso player catches the ball on the run. Add in having the rest of the players clear out of the way, which drastically reduces the gauntlet of defenders that the iso player might run into.

Too many coaches at the youth level are content to let their best player handle the ball. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Get the ball to Timmy! To Timmy! Get it to Timmy!” It appears to be the coach’s only game plan. There are five other players on offense that need to be included if any team is going to be successful. If everyone is running around and cutting, even the least-skilled player is having a positive impact on your offense.

Featured Image Credit – www.onebigphoto.com

Cheers,
Gordon

Keep Calm

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Keep Calm

Chris Dymski at MindTheCrease.com wrote a good article entitled “3 Tips to Help Deal With Bad Refs.” I read the article from a referee’s perspective and I agree with almost all of his conclusions. His overall thesis is to stay calm throughout the game and deal with whatever gets thrown at you without losing your cool. Also he posted one of the most hilarious graphics I’ve ever come across about officiating in general:

refs-bad-calls

Now, I said I agreed with almost all of his conclusions. I disagree with his reasoning for his third tip: Bees With Honey. Chris writes that goalies should be nice to the game officials because at some point there will be a close play at the crease with a score. Chris believes that the official may think, “‘that goalie is a punk, I’m not helping him out. Goal stands.’” Conversely, if the official likes the goalie he will make the crease call and wave off the goal. When I played the game I thought that refs played favorites. When I became an official I realized that it is darn near impossible to do so.

Are there some refs out there that make decisions based on whether or not they like a particular player or team? I am sure there are, but the vast majority of officials in all sports just want the call to be right. For example I had an early-round playoff assignment this past season. I knew the coaches on both teams very well, which tends to happen in a sport that is a tight-knit as lacrosse. The game went into overtime and I threw a flag on a player who I had coached and reffed since he started playing in middle school. Fact is, I didn’t have a choice in the matter. He pushed his opponent into the penalty box from behind. The player was launched onto the ground, out of bounds, and lost the ball. I had three really good reasons to throw the flag so I threw it. It never occurred to me to not throw the flag because I liked this player. He fouled, end of story.

All that being said, there is a grain of truth in Chris’ third tip. I am always looking for allies on the field. Usually I am looking at the goalies or the captains to be those allies. The ones who are polite, respectful, and sportsmanlike will always get my ear if they need to tell me or ask me something. These are the players I use to communicate things to their amped up coach or a hotheaded teammate. I find it more than a little amusing that some eighteen year old can have more composure during a game than a forty-five year old.

So what have we learned? All of Chris’ tips have value, and while I may disagree with a part of his reasoning it never hurts to be nice to an official, but just because you may be a pain to deal with we are not going to intentionally make a call against your team.

Cheers,
Gordon

I Cannot Prevent Fouls

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I-Cannot-Prevent-Fouls

Whenever I have a game with a lot of flags this comment usually gets yelled out by someone: “You’re not controlling the game ref!” I beg to differ.

The coaches and fans making that comment do not understand that I only have two additional tools at my disposal after throwing flag after flag on both teams. I can either:

  1. Ramp up the penalty minutes and start disqualifying the repeat offenders
  2. Cancel the game once I believe that the players and coaches are not getting the message from all of my flags

What non-officials do not understand is that I cannot prevent fouls. All I can really do is strongly discourage players from committing another foul. Whether or not they get the message from spending time in the penalty box is up to them. I had a coach tell me that I was not keeping his players safe from the opposing team. Despite the fact that I had thrown multiple flags and my hat on fouls the other team had committed.

I was a little confused by this coach. Did he expect me to jump in front of one of his attackman who was about to be slashed and absorb the blow? Perhaps he wanted me to tackle one of the opposing players before they had a chance to hit one of his players. He was still pissed off at me at the end of the game even though the other team spent almost the entire game with someone in the penalty box.

What frustrates me the most is after I call a penalty, usually an Illegal Body Check for a late hit after a shot, sometimes one coach will tell his player kneeling in the box that it was a great hit. It wasn’t a great hit! That’s why I flagged it! Coaches that congratulate players on a body check that levels another player when the ball is twenty yards away undermine the called penalty.

One coach yelled at me, “How can you possibly call that? This is a contact sport!” While I did not respond to him at the time here is what I wanted to say:

  1. I can call that because I judged the hit to be illegal
  2. This is a finesse sport with contact
  3. Your player released from the penalty box, sprinted forty yards to the ball carrier, hit him from behind with the exposed metal of his crosse and managed to ride up to finish in the neck of the ball carrier

These kinds of coaches do not serve the game. I much prefer the coach who asks what I saw so he can inform his player not to repeat the infraction. That coach is working with me to keep the game safe.

Officials cannot prevent fouls. Everything we do is after the fact. I can warn a player to not do something, but I have no control over whether or not that player will listen to me. The only people who can prevent fouls are the players on the field.

Featured Image Credit – www.dailytarheel.com

Cheers,
Gordon