Category Archives: Players

He Didn’t Mean It!

Published by:

he didn't mean it!

Intent is a very difficult thing to see as a referee, which is why it is not factored into our decision making nearly as much as most people think it is. I cannot look into the mind of a fourteen-year-old midfielder while he is slashing his opponent who is going for a ground ball. All I can see is a slash, and based off how severe the action is I will assess a 1, 2, or 3 minute foul (or perhaps a non-releasable foul if it was especially violent and makes contact with the head or neck). I’m not trying to be mean to the young kid, but he did something bad that impacted another player’s safety so I will punish him with a penalty that I judge is adequate to the crime. Intent has very little impact in what I call.

When I was little I thought saying, “I didn’t mean to do it,” was my get out of jail free card. Even though it never worked with my parents or teachers, I kept repeating it until I realized that I should probably just own up to doing something wrong instead of making an excuse or blaming someone else. So it surprises me when I officiate a youth game and flag a slash, offside, late hit, or holding that I sometimes hear, “Ah ref, he didn’t mean it!” from either the adult coach or parent on the sideline who definitely knows that particular excuse does not work.

I do not care what the player meant to do. I care about what he did. I’ve had players at almost every age level walk by me on their way to the penalty box and quietly tell me, “sorry ref, I didn’t mean to, but I caught him high and I’ll keep my stick lower from now own.” While I marvel at the player taking responsibility I hear from coaches and fans:

  • “That wasn’t a foul!” (yet the player agrees with me, curious)
  • “You’re picking on him cause we’re winning (or losing)!”
  • “He’s the biggest kid on the field what is he supposed to do bend his legs when he hits someone smaller?” (yes)
  • “He wouldn’t have done that if you could throw a flag on the other team once in a while!” (suddenly it is my fault for someone else’s transgressions)

I deal with silly comments because the player and I know the situation. The next time he steps onto the field he will try to play a little more under control, and I likely won’t have to throw my flag on him.

I threw a flag a while back on a player who cursed at me. I reported a 30-second conduct foul to the bench and once the coach heard the number he yelled, “That can’t be right. He is the nicest kid on my team and I’ve never heard him curse!” This comment threw me for a loop. I never reported to the table that the player wasn’t nice or was a bad person. I reported, “Red, 27, Conduct, 30-seconds.” Even the nicest players in the world can make an on-field mistake, and even the most regularly penalized players on a team are capable of being good sports at a critical moment.

The big penalties for 2014 at the high school and youth level are for targeting the head/neck and blindside hits. They will carry a 2-minute non-releasable penalty, and I reffed a few games this fall under those new rules. My partner and I double-flagged a cross-check to another player’s neck. This player got hit right in the adam’s apple and was sent flying. We assessed a 2-minute non-releasable Illegal Body Check, and that player’s coach was adamant that there was no “malicious intent” so it should just be a 1-minute releasable penalty. I didn’t see revenge in the player’s eyes when he hit the kid, or sense that his aura was red and angry before the hit. All I saw was a high hit, which goes straight to 2-minutes non-releasable.

We tell our young players to accept responsibility on and off the field, but they get mixed messages when they commit a penalty and the first words from their adult coach or the spectators are, “come on ref, he didn’t mean to do that!” Let’s work on keeping the message of personal responsibility the same to our players at home, at school, and on the field. Because if that excuse doesn’t work on me it likely won’t work on a police officer or a judge.

Cheers,
Gordon

 

I Thought This Was A Contact Sport!

Published by:

Ugh. I’ve heard too many variations of this post’s title when I ref U9, U11, U13, and U15 boys lacrosse games. I’ve noticed that the new parents shout out what they perceive as incorrect calls and no-calls. Typically, the moms cry “foul!” when their child gets body-checked, and the dads shout “no way!” when their child is called for an illegal body-check. These shout outs indicate a lack of understand of the various youth boys lacrosse rules on proper body contact at each level.

Here is a link to the third edition of the “Youth Rules & Best Practices Guidebook for Boys” from US Lacrosse. Every new parent to boys lacrosse should read this guidebook with their player or players. It is an excellent resource to refer to during the season.

The important thing to remember about body checking in youth boys lacrosse is that each age level is very specific as to what kind of body checking is permitted. Here are the rulebook definitions for youth body checking along with a layman’s explanation:

  • U9 & U11 – “No body checking of any kind is permitted.”
    • “Legal pushes (Rule 6 Section 9, Pushing) and holds (Rule 6 Section 3, Holding Article 3 a & d) are allowed.”
    • “In all loose ball situations players should ‘play the ball,’ but incidental contact, ‘boxing out’, or screening techniques during such play shall not be considered a violation of this rule.”
      • NFHS Boys Lacrosse 2013 Rulebook page 100
    • Layman’s explanation: Boys lacrosse for the U9 and U11 age levels is essentially basketball with sticks. I explain body checking in this way to give parents a good visual. Players at these two age levels are permitted to push and maneuver players around to gain a strategic advantage, but they cannot try and knock another player to the ground. Just imagine a basketball game and you will have a better idea of how U9 and U11 players can contact other players.
  • U13 & U15 – “Body Checking is permitted. To be legal a body check should be delivered in a generally upright position with both hands on the stick and the player initiating the check may not use his lowered head or shoulder to make the initial contact.”
    • NFHS Boys Lacrosse 2013 Rulebook page 100
    • Layman’s explanation: Body checking is permitted but only in a very defined area. Any body check outside of the defined specifications should be penalized.

With all body checking at the youth level parents, coaches, and players need to keep in mind the following from Rule 5: “US Lacrosse expects stricter enforcement of the Cross Check, Illegal Body Check, Checks Involving The Head/Neck, Slashing, Unnecessary Roughness, and Unsportsmanlike Conduct rules than is common at the high school level.” In other words, this is youth lacrosse and the threshold for personal fouls is considerably lower the younger you go.

This takes me to foul prioritization, which was recently explained by Lucia Perfetti Clark, the officials education and training manager at US Lacrosse, in her post “Not All Fouls Are Created Equal: How Officials Set Priorities“. She writes that, “if there is a potential for safety fouls to occur amongst other, lesser violations, then officials must move that foul to the top. Prioritizing fouls makes the game safer.” Think about what is most important for the officials to call in a U11 game. Should the official call the offsides 40 yards away from the play around the ball or the late body check on the shooter? If both occur near the same time I would much prefer that the official prioritize and catch the safety foul. Lucia explains further that parents have a place in getting the right message to the players:

For safety prioritization to work, coaches, parents and spectators need to support officials. All too often an official makes a big and appropriate safety call, and the next thing you hear from the sideline or the stands is, “That was a great check! Great defense! Keep it up!”

This kind of comment just reinforces bad player behavior and will only serve to escalate the severity and frequency of calls. What works better? Substitute that player so he or she can be coached regarding the call in question or simply has time to cool off before rejoining the game.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve flagged a perfectly illegal body check in a U11 game only to have a parent or even a coach yell to the player, “Great hit!” It was not a great hit, that is why I flagged it. Now the player has two very different messages to put together. I just penalized him for a hit that is not permitted at his age level, but the adults responsible for the player are praising him for the hit. When coaches or parents say things like that my safety radar goes off, and I get even more vigilant for safety violations moving forward. I focus more after hearing those comments because after doing this for so many years I expect the players involved to listen to their coaches and parents more than they will listen to me (the random adult official who they don’t know). Often I am sending the same player off the field for an even more vicious hit.

Officials at every level prioritize calls with safety being the highest priority. The younger the players are the lower the threshold for fouls, and it does not do the player any good to criticize a properly called safety violation for everyone to hear.

Want to learn more about the rules of the game? Check out the US Lacrosse Online Courses!

Featured Image Credit – www.laxallstars.com

Cheers,
Gordon

If You Can’t Fix It With Duct Tape You’re Not Using Enough Duct Tape

Published by:

When I played lacrosse in high school I had to make sure I had shorts to change into before practice. There were a few times I forgot to pack shorts in my bag, and I wasn’t about to ask my teammates if they had extra shorts because I created this problem by not packing my shorts. Plus who wants to wear someone else’s shorts?

When I first made this mistake I tried to think of a quick solution other than running in my khakis. Then I remembered that I always kept a roll of duct tape in my car’s emergency care kit. I rolled the legs of my pants up to just above my knees and then wrapped duct tape around the rolled up pant leg so they wouldn’t roll down after a minute of running.

I geared up and practiced wearing rolled up beige khakis. Of course I was embarrassed and uncomfortable, but not as uncomfortable as I would be practicing without the pant legs rolled up. Everybody and my coach knew I made a mistake, but no one said a word about my peculiar attire because I was out there with a solution and not an excuse. Since then I’ve come to the conclusion that if there is a mistake or a problem that I am the cause of, it is better if I get out ahead of the problem. The only thing worse than making a mistake is not having a possible way to fix it. It doesn’t matter if it is a good fix, but you better have something.

In my senior year I again forgot my shorts, but I still had duct tape and I repeated the same procedure (this time with jeans!). A sophomore also forgot his shorts and tried to tell our coach that he couldn’t practice because he didn’t have shorts. I’m warming up for practice and coach yelled out, “The only player who can show up without shorts is Corsetti!” I had a good chuckle at that, but that illustrates the same mistake with two different reactions: I had a solution and could practice, while the sophomore had an excuse and could not practice.

I interact with kids of all ages throughout the season and I get a lot of the same questions:

  • “Do you have any string?”
  • “Do you have a screwdriver?”
  • “I forgot something do you have extra equipment?”

What do I look like a Brine sales rep? A 100-foot length of string can be bought at Home Depot for a couple bucks. Add in one roll of duct tape and scissors and players can handle 98% of all equipment issues they may have without having to look to an adult to help.

I want kids to solve their own problems and then ask for help if they’ve exhausted the critical thinking skills they are developing. The only way they get a chance to solve problems is if we adults get out of the way. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given a roll of duct tape to a middle school kid to tape up his butt end when no other tape is available, and the kid asks me where the scissors are.

What do you need scissors for? The scissors are for cutting string. Use your hands to tear the duct tape! Your hands are amazing instruments that are capable of manipulating objects. Need to rip duct tape? There’s an app for that called “Hands!”

macguyver-imaginationOk, vent over, but the point is valid. In order to fix something you need to be able to inventory the materials immediately available to you. One of my Mom’s favorite shows growing up was MacGyver. In each episode he solved difficult problems using his imagination, ingenuity, critical thinking, and elbow grease. In fact, MacGyvering something is being “creative in solving problems using household items.”

So young players out there if you make a mistake off the field or on the field don’t immediately look for an excuse to absolve yourself of your mistake. Instead, try to think hard about how to fix your mistake and then own up to it. Tell whoever is in charge that you screwed up, but then explain how you think you can best fix the problem. If you learn how to do this at a young age you’ll be well prepared for when you make a mistake working in your real-world job. Explaining to your boss that you screwed up is never a fun thing, but you can lessen the anguish by having a potential solution in your back-pocket.

Now watch MacGyver escape and beat the bad guys using some quick thinking!

 

Cheers,
Gordon