Category Archives: Players

Meet New People

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I want young players to play with their friends, but I don’t want them to do this all of the time. As AYL prepares for the 2014 spring season with our U9, U11, and U13 age groups we go over all the team requests we get through our registration and contact forms. While we cannot guarantee placement on a particular team, we work diligently to get players on teams primarily for carpooling reasons. Looking back on my non-driving years, my mother was clearly a saint as she spent most of the day driving through Atlanta traffic while shuttling my sister and I to school and other activities.

Kids and adults don’t like change. The difference between adults and kids is that adults understand that change is inevitable. Which is why I don’t understand the need to keep a group of 10, 15, or 20 young players on the same team for their entire youth playing days. By the time they get to high school or college they can perform the skills of lacrosse, but they lack the ability to quickly relate to a new teammate.

One of my biggest regrets was when I changed schools in tenth grade and I decided that I didn’t really like any of my peers at my new school. I chose to withdraw and interact as minimally as possible. When I got to college I was a social hermit, not by choice, but by habit. Early in life I chose to stop meeting new people and then I began to fear new people. Fortunately, a few folks got to know me a little bit sophomore year and painfully pulled me out of my shell. Now I can interact like a regular human being, but I regret how many potential friends I lost because I was fearful of not being liked.

Familiarity destroys creativity. While it is perfectly natural for a player to want to play just with his buddies, we adults must encourage them to play on teams with kids they don’t know very well. Fortunately for us, we have lacrosse as a common bond to encourage greater interaction between young players. It’s never hard to go out for a catch, but it is tough for kids to go up to another kid they don’t know and ask to have a catch. The more times a player asks new players to have a catch or go shoot, the better they get at asking, and the lower the fear of rejection. Plus, they get practice throwing with someone they are unfamiliar passing with. If they choose to pursue playing lacrosse in college, they will be confident enough to approach their new teammates and they’ll be able to quickly adjust to different passing styles.

To the parents – if your child is not placed on the team you requested even if you need it for carpooling, I suggest reaching out to the other parents on your team. There will likely be one or two families needing to rejigger their carpooling arraignments, and you might make some new friends in the process!

To the players – anxiety over meeting new people is natural. Humans are social creatures, and any kind of rejection hurts at an emotional and sometimes physical level. If you’ve got more unfamiliar faces on your team this year than familiar ones then introduce yourself and ask who want to have a catch. And don’t forget that a big smile usually helps!

Featured Image Credit – www.natgeotv.com

Cheers,
Gordon

He Didn’t Mean It!

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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!

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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