You cannot legitimately criticize a player, coach, or official if you do not understand the game.
I have finally moved through the Kubler-Ross model after listening to blatantly incorrect statements from players, coaches, and fans as a lacrosse official. More commonly referred to “the five stages of grief”, the Kubler-Ross model is a guideline for the typical emotions most people go through when facing death or extreme grief. I’ve spent five years going through my own stages of rules grief as I see less overall lacrosse knowledge as the sport grows unbounded in Georgia.
The Five Stages of Gordon’s Rules Grief
- Denial – When I started officiating I dissected the rulebook and learned the exceptions to the exceptions. I’ve never thought that the average player, coach, or fan should know precisely how to administer live-ball simultaneous fouls. But I still can’t believe how many people think that a body check to a player’s chest is a push in a Varsity game.
- Anger – In year two of my officiating career I got angry. Mostly at coaches. I was too particular in applying the least-understood rules at the worst times, and I became angry because a lot of players, coaches, and fans had no idea what I was calling and then yelled at me for making those calls.
- Bargaining – At this point in my career I started to understand the basics of game management. So I approached coaches and players with more understanding. I still applied the least-understood rules of the rulebook, but I got better at explaining what I called and why I made a call. I was also learning the game-within-a-game between officials and coaches. As I understood how coaches were approaching a game I got better at conversing with them and, while not convincing them that I was right every time, that I was consistent.
- Depression – When you ref almost eighty games during the regular season, and over 150 games of varying age levels in the off season you can get a little burnt out from the same comments endlessly repeated. I don’t have a problem with the regular “C’mon ref call something!” comments. I got depressed over hearing “he’s offside!” when the player stepping offside was forty yards away from the ball and gained no advantage. I got even more depressed when multiple parents asked me after multiple U9 games, “You mean I shouldn’t tell my player to lower his shoulder into the attackman?” No, no you shouldn’t.
- Acceptance – I am pleased to report that I have reached a state of acceptance over the general lack of lacrosse rules knowledge by the public in our developing area. I hear the same blatantly incorrect statements from the sidelines, but I let them pass through me and I am unaffected.
Now, just because I’ve reached the “Acceptance” stage of the five stages of rules grief personally does not mean I’ve reached the “Acceptance” stage for the lacrosse community that I am a part of. I do not accept that anyone can fully enjoy a sport without knowing what the rules and their application are.
For instance, I enjoy watching rugby. I find that sport to be incredibly fast and exciting to watch, but I have no idea what is going on. I do not know what the rules are or how rugby plays are designed. In short, I don’t know the game. I think I would find rugby much more fun to watch if I knew what the major rules were and how basic plays were run.
I know that any person is perfectly capable of illegitimately criticizing anyone even if the person doing the criticizing has no experience or understanding about that which they are criticizing. I could strongly question my doctor for what I believe is an unnecessary prescription of antibiotics based off a cursory reading of my cold symptoms on WebMD when I am feeling ill. Just because I can access and read any information about the common cold from a Google search does not mean that I have the same level of comprehension that a qualified and certified doctor has. That doctor knows more about antibiotics and possible medication side-effects than I will ever know, and I’m not going to tell the doctor, “Whoa, doc, I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night and read up on the best course of treatment for myself.”
We live in an age with vast amounts of interconnected information that we can access on the phones in our pockets. Unfortunately, just having knowledge does not bestow comprehensive understanding of it’s application. You need to test yourself.
I propose the following model for all youth lacrosse leagues to help increase overall understanding of the rules of lacrosse.
Rule Comprehension Testing
- All youth coaches must pass the current NFHS Rules Test and the Youth Rules Test with a score of at least 80% on both.
- All U11, U13, and U15 players must pass the current Youth Rules Test with a score of at least 80%.
- All parents must pass the current Youth Rules Test with a score of at least 70%.
- All of these tests are available to USL members online at: http://www.uslacrosse.org/participants/officials/mens-officials-information/annual-testing.aspx
- All tests are open-book, and you may order a copy of the NFHS 2014 Boys Lacrosse Rules Book at: http://www.nfhs.com/p-787-2014-boys-lacrosse-rules-book.aspx
- *Note – the above rules tests are still dated for the 2013 season. New tests are in development and will be released prior to the 2014 season.
We will never stop ignorant criticism of those who apply knowledge in a manner that we disagree with, but we can improve legitimate criticism by providing everyone the knowledge of lacrosse rules and test everyone on the application of those rules. Perhaps after a few years of doing this spectators will stop telling me that a slash is a two-minute technical foul.