Tag Archives: 2014

An Incredible Trip

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I went to Denver to ref games, and I came back with an entirely new perspective on lacrosse. I knew that lacrosse was played outside of North America, but it is one thing to know that and another thing to witness. I got to see thousands of people cheering on their teams in languages I did not understand. I got to see Team Uganda win it’s first ever game in international competition in a one-goal, come-from-behind victory. I got to watch Team New Zealand perform their Haka. I got to meet the Thompson brothers. I got to watch the officials call timeout to hand the ball scored to Team China’s Coach after they scored their first international goal. I got to witness the incredible connection that lacrosse provides to people across the globe.

There is no way to recap every great moment I experienced while at the World Games, but here are the experiences that were just too cool:

Team Uganda Wins!

While walking to catch the 2:15 shuttle back to the dorms I saw a ton of people holding cameras near Field 2. I asked one of the gentlemen near the end line what was going on and he said, “Uganda’s up by one goal with 30 seconds left!” Suddenly, I didn’t have to catch the shuttle. This was easily the biggest feel-good moment of the tournament for me, and from what I could tell everyone else at that field too. Since this was the last game on the field for the day the party didn’t end. All the players ran around the field to a standing ovation by the fans and everyone had one word to say: “Awesome!”

team-uganda-wins!

 

Red Hat!

The officials coordinator asked me if I wanted to be the Red Hat for the Iroquois-Australia game. The headset I’m wearing in the picture connected me to the TV Truck, and it was my job to inform the officiating crew when the broadcast was live or to hold them if replays were going on. Picked up on all the lingo that is used to flip cameras and how they marked plays for a new replay. Definitely a unique experience!

red-hat

Haka!!!!

One of my coaches from back in the day, John Pritzlaff, was playing on Team New Zealand with his two brothers, which made watching their lacrosse Haka even more exciting. I still have no idea what the exact translation is, but the video below explains the ideas behind the Haka. I will say that it is not possible to witness this in person and not get swept up in the excitement and energy.

Run For Your Lives!

I had just gotten settled at the international ref tent after my set of festival games, when a massive storm rolled over the mountains. We got word that the fields were being evacuated and everyone had to get to the stadium for cover. There were about six officials under the tent, but about two dozen bags from the officials who were out working games. Someone shouted, “Everyone grab a bag!” and suddenly I’m double-timing it to the Stadium Press Box loaded up like a sherpa with all the other refs. All the bags were saved!

rain-incoming

Cultural Exchange!

One experience was a little surreal. I had the honor of officiating an Open/Elite festival game between Team Tokyo and Team Tokai, two teams from Japan. The game was excellent. Both teams played with speed, finesse, and grace. On the rare occasions where I threw a flag I had to get the attention of the player who fouled and then signal the violation. No argument at all. Every player nodded their head and then ran briskly to the penalty box to serve their time. I can assure you that was not the case in the rest of the men’s club games. I didn’t really know how to accept a player accepting a penalty so mildly. The other cool part about this game was after the player shook hands each player lined up shoulder to shoulder and bowed to our officiating crew. We bowed back and shook hands with all the players.

team-tokyo-team-tokai

I consider myself very lucky to have experienced this entire event, and it is unlikely that a World Games with this many teams and festival participants will happen again in the US for a while since putting this together was a massive undertaking. Still, even if I never experience a World Games on this scale again the memories from the past ten days are going to stay with me for a very long time.

Cheers,
Gordon

The Defenseless Player

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Everyone got introduced to “Targeting A Defenseless Receiver Above The Shoulder” in college football this past season. That rule change made waves in the college football community and there was no shortage of controversy because the penalty for targeting was severe: a 15-yard penalty and the ejection of the player leveling the hit.

The rules for lacrosse are changing for the 2014 season regarding defenseless players. Hitting a defenseless player, and I’ll get to the definition in a bit, carries a more severe penalty. As I’ve been explaining to coaches since this rule change was announced:

“What was a legal hit last year might not be a legal hit this year.”

I also remind coaches that this rule has existed for a while as the “Buddy Pass” rule:

2013 NFHS 5.9.3 Situation B: A1 is receiving a pass and is in a vulnerable position, “Buddy Pass.” B1 body checks A1. Ruling: Unnecessary roughness if the check was avoidable.

In past years officials could call a 1, 2 or 3 minute unnecessary roughness (UR) penalty against the player putting a hit on a player who could not protect themselves. Generally a flag would fly on a “Buddy Pass” hit if the officials thought that the player didn’t need to hit with such force or hit at all in order to properly defend. It’s a huge judgment call that varies with the officiating crew, because that is the nature of how the rule is written. It’s called unnecessary roughness because the official judged the hit to be unnecessary.

This brings us to new terminology and definitions in the 2014 NFHS Boys Lacrosse rulebook. Specifically the language related to illegal body checking (IBC). A new article was added explaining the defenseless player and it was added to the IBC rule because any body check that isn’t a legal body check is, by definition, an illegal body check.

NFHS Rule 5.3.5: A body check that targets a player in a defenseless position. This includes but is not limited to: (i) body checking a player from his “blind side”; (ii) body checking a player who has his head down in an attempt to play a loose ball; and (iii) body checking a player whose head is turned away to receive a pass, even if that player turns toward the contact immediately before the body check.
PENALTY: Penalty for violation of Article 5 is a two- or three-minute non-releasable foul, at the official’s discretion. An excessively violent violent of this rule may result in an ejection.

Then Situation B in the UR rule was updated to match the addition to the IBC rule:

NFHS Rule 5.9.3 Situation B: A1 is receiving a pass and is in a vulnerable position, “Buddy Pass.” B1 body checks A1. Ruling: Unnecessary roughness if the check was avoidable. However, if in the official’s judgment, B1 was targeting a defenseless player, the penalty shall be a two-to-three minute non-releasable. (See Rule 5-3-5)

*Note – Unnecessary Roughness penalties in youth lacrosse are always non-releasable (page 103 in the NFHS Boys Lacrosse Rulebook)

In my last post, “Checks To The Head Or Neck,” I explained that the penalty starts at a minimum of 2 or 3 minutes non-releasable. Hitting a defenseless player regardless of whether or not the player is hit in the head or neck carries the same penalty. This is what I meant earlier when I said a what was a legal hit last year might not be a legal hit this year. For example, Red 10 has his head down in an attempt to pick up a loose ball. Blue 22 violently body checks Red 10 from the side and the official judges that Red 10 never saw the hit coming (blind side hit) and throws the flag. Blue 22 will sit in the penalty box for at least 2-minutes non-releasable. The rules committee has not taken good man/ball plays out of the game, but they have made it clear that body checking a player in a defenseless position should be called and will carry the same penalty as a hit to the head or neck.

As I did in my earlier post, let’s watch some videos to further drive this new penalty home.

Buddy pass hit, or hitting a player who just caught a pass and turned immediately before the body check

Penalty administration: Either a two- or three-minute non-releasable unnecessary roughness penalty, or a two- or three-minute non-releasable illegal body check penalty.

Blind side hit where player turns right before contact

Penalty administration: Either a two- or three-minute non-releasable illegal body check penalty. Fair warning, this one is going to be tough for officials at every level to call. The rule effectively requires the official to determine from their vantage point whether or not the player getting hit saw the hit. Because of this there is going to be variability in how this is called across the country and across age groups. Although the hit in the video above should always be called at the youth level as a takeout check.

Body checking a player who has his head down for a loose ball

Penalty administration: Probably a three-minute non-releasable illegal body check penalty at the youth and high school level, possible ejection foul as well. This is a blind side hit while the player had his head down to play a loose ball. He is hit while looking down and the hit starts and finishes at his head/neck.

Clear blind side hit

Penalty Administration: Minimum 2-minute non-releasable illegal body check penalty. I use this video in adult and youth officials training classes to show a clear blind side hit. The player with the ball was looking across the field to make a pass and gets body checked. Even under last year’s rule I’d probably call a 2-minute unnecessary roughness penalty. This year officials who flag this as a blind side hit will go at least 2-minutes non-releasable.

These changes have been in the works for years as more research comes out on the damaging effects of concussions and that these types of hits unnecessary in lacrosse. As I said in my last post it takes very little skill to blow up a player who has no clue you are coming.

As Jim Carboneau, 2002 New England Lacrosse Hall of Fame, World Game Referee, and current Chair of the US Lacrosse Men’s Officials Training Group, said at this year’s convention: “You can’t referee in the present if you’re stuck in the past.” He meant the rules were changing and all officials must adapt. I’ll add to his quote: “You can’t play or coach in the present if you’re stuck in the past.” Everyone should update their mental rulebooks, this year is going to be a bit different.

Cheers,
Gordon

NOCSAE Lacrosse Balls

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“As of January 1, 2014, all lacrosse balls used for play MUST meet NOCSAE standards and include the words ‘Meets NOCSAE Standard'” (NOCSAE Ball Mandate).

For those of you unfamiliar, NOCSAE is the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (www.nocsae.org). In 1969 NOCSAE “was formed to commission research directed toward injury reduction.” The goal of this organization is to reduce injury through research and effective standards. Notice that their goal is not the elimination of sports injuries as that is impossible and unrealistic. However, good standards for equipment are similar to good rules governing proper body contact. When both are properly applied the risk of injury goes down.

I want to be very clear on what a legal ball is in 2014 and what an illegal ball is in 2014. The image below shows both:

legal-illegal-lacrosse-balls

The white ball on the left side of the image is a legal lacrosse ball. It has the “Meets NOCSAE Standard” imprint. It also says NFHS and NCAA, but those markings do not matter according to the rule. All that matters is that the ball is imprinted/stamped with the phrase “Meets NOCSAE Standard.” That imprint means the lacrosse ball meets NOCSAE Ball Standards (PDF).

The orange ball on the right side of the image is an illegal lacrosse ball. While it bears the NFHS and “Meets NCAA Approve Specs” stamp it does not have “Meets NOCSAE Standard” label. Therefore the ball on the right is illegal and cannot be used during play.

When this rule was first published I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. Then I read: USL – “What’s in a Ball?, and heard the story again from the rules committee at the 2014 USL National Convention. The cliff notes version is that a player was struck with a ball in practice off a missed shot. He was wearing a top of the line helmet, but a CT scan revealed a ruptured artery causing blood to fill his brain cavity. Fortunately the player received emergency brain surgery and he was back on the field for his senior season. I am not writing this to scare anyone, but to explain the facts. The mother didn’t understand how her son could have sustained such a serious injury with his brand new NOCSAE-approved helmet. The balls from practice were tested and did not meet NOCSAE standards.

The balls were either too hard or didn’t compress according to standards, and the NOCSAE-approved helmet is only rated to protect players from being struck in the helmet by a NOCSAE-standard ball. Once this was discovered the rules committee moved quickly and established a new note in the rulebook:

USL/NFHS Boys’ Rulebook – Rule 1, Section 5

The ball shall be white, yellow, orange or lime green and meet the current NOCSAE lacrosse ball standard. White balls shall be used unless both coaches agree prior to or during the game to use a yellow, orange or lime green ball. Game balls shall be supplied by the home team.

NOTE: Beginning in 2014, all game balls must include labeling which states: “Meets NOCSAE Standard”.

This is a serious safety issue. Home teams and/or youth leagues are required to provide and use only NOCSAE-standard lacrosse balls for play. If there are no NOCSAE balls, the officials are supposed to ask the visiting team if they have NOCSAE balls. If the visiting team has NOCSAE balls then the game is played with those balls but the home team loses the first face off as it is their responsibility to provide legal balls for a contest. If there are no NOCSAE balls at the game then the game DOES NOT start! Treat this situation as if you did not have a legally equipped goalkeeper. It is a major safety issue to not have a legally equipped goalkeeper on the field, and it is a major safety issue to not play with balls that meet NOCSAE standards.

If during the course of play all the NOCSAE balls are lost in the woods then play is suspended until the NOCSAE balls are found. If no NOCSAE balls can be found then the game is canceled, the referees will file a report, and the league or state administration will handle how the game is restarted at a later date according to league or state rules.

If a goal is scored and the ball is found to not be a NOCSAE ball then the goal counts, the ball is removed from the game, and a face off is conducted.

I cannot stress how important having NOCSAE-standard balls are for 2014. I already had one youth game that I delayed until NOCSAE balls were found, and I explicitly told both coaches that there would be no game if those balls were not found. This is a major safety issue and it should be treated as such by the coaches of both teams, the officials at the game, and the league/site administrator.

Common questions about these standards can be found here: USL Ball Standards FAQ (PDF)

Cheers,
Gordon