Tag Archives: Check

Checks To The Head Or Neck

Published by:


I’ve gone through the procedural rules and some of the technical foul changes, but now I’m digging into the major safety violations that are different for 2014. I will use videos that are mostly from high school games to illustrate the fouls that the rules and situations describe. Please keep in mind that most of the videos that I find posted on YouTube are of truly excessive penalties and are not indicative of regular illegal body checks that occur in most games. These videos are of the outliers and they get posted on the internet because they are worse that run-of-the-mill body checks. Also, some of these videos are accompanied by loud music, adjust your speakers so you don’t lose your hearing.

NFHS Rule 5.4.1 – “A player shall not initiate contact to an opponent’s head or neck with a cross-check, or with any part of his body (head, elbow, shoulder, etc). Any follow-through that contacts the head or neck shall also be considered a violation of this rule.”

Penalty administration:  I was the official who threw my flag on the hit above. In a high school game this starts at 2-minutes non-releasable. If this had been a youth game I’m bypassing 2-minutes and going straight to 3-minutes.

NFHS Rule 5.4.2 “A player shall not initiate an excessive, violent, or uncontrolled slash to the head/neck.”

Penalty administration: This penalty occurred after the whistle so for the context of that video at the youth and high school level I am issuing a 3-minute non-releasable Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty for deliberately striking another player during a dead ball. Had a similar slash occurred during live ball play the officials should not call this a 1-minute slash. It is an excessive slash to the head or neck so 2-minutes non-releasable would be the starting point.

NFHS Rule 5.4.3 – “A player, including an offensive player in possession of the ball, shall not block an opponent with the head or initiate contact with the head (known as spearing).”

Penalty administration: I show this clip in official’s training for what constitutes an ejectable hit at the high school and youth level. The hit above was late, unnecessary, excessive, and delivered with the defender’s helmet into the back of the offensive player (spearing). 3-minutes non-releasable, the player is ejected.

The end of rule 5.4 states that the penalty for checks to the head or neck is: “Two- or three-minute non-releasable foul, at the official’s discretion. An excessively violent violation of this rule may result in an ejection.”

So, body checks to the head/neck, and violent slashes to the head/neck should be flagged and start at 2-minutes non-releasable at minimum. But at the youth level officials may bypass the 2-minutes and go straight to 3-minutes because of page 94 of the NFHS Boys Lacrosse rulebook:

“US Lacrosse urges officials to apply these rules and utilize the more severe penalty options, and reminds them that body-checks that might be acceptable in high school play may be excessive in youth lacrosse, and should be penalized accordingly. Coaches are encouraged to coach players to avoid delivering such checks, and to support the officials when they call such penalties. All participants must work together to reduce or eliminate such violent collision from the game.”

Officials are encouraged to flag body checks in youth games that may be legal at the high school level. Coaches are encouraged to coach players to play defense with skill and not go head hunting or body checking a player way off the ball.

A quick personal note: Youth coaches, I will be the first to admit that officials miss penalties, but please do not scream at my partner or I when we throw a flag for what appears to be a perfectly legal body check. Do not yell out “That was perfectly legal,” and then tell your player “good hit” when he takes a knee next to you in the box. If the hit was perfectly legal we would not have thrown our flag and now your player is getting mixed messages. I would much prefer you ask, “Mr. Official why did you flag that hit?” I will likely respond, “Coach I saw that hit as excessive. Tell #12 to ease back for me.” That is a much better way for coaches and officials to interact on excessive body checks at the youth level.

Remember, the youth game is not the high school game and it certainly is not the college game. Officials are there for safety first. Coaches are there to teach proper body contact that is in line with the rules of the game, and parents/fans are there to enjoy a youth game on a Saturday afternoon without having an ambulance show up because every adult at the game wants little Billy to “bury” little Johnny. I want good defensive stick work, foot work, and body position. It takes no lacrosse skill whatsoever to obliterate a player late after a shot. Let’s keep the focus at the youth level on skill development and leave the big hits to the older age levels after the players demonstrate good lacrosse skills.


Big, Wide Turn

Published by:

Space is always at a premium on a lacrosse field. With twenty players moving towards the ball or ball carrier, a player can be surrounded before they know it. At the youth level, this is especially prominent. Most new players do not understand that they have to MOVE when they pick up a ground ball. As a result, many youth lacrosse games devolve into a gigantic rugby-like scrum. Where players from both teams pick up the ball, turn around, and the ball gets checked right back onto the ground. This is because they are not MOVING!

If you have not noticed, I am stressing the term “move.” Because young players need to get comfortable with picking up a ground ball and running to empty space. I find that many youth players know the proper technique for getting a ground ball, yet they lack the instruction for running through the ground ball. The reason behind this conundrum is that most coaches teach ground balls with line drills.

For those unfamiliar, a line drill looks exactly how it sounds. Two groups of five to six players stand about twenty-five yards apart. The player in front scoops up the ball in front of them, runs a few yards forward, stops, and places the ball on the ground for the player in the next line to scoop. While the line drill is good for repeating the required ground ball technique, it unintentionally puts every player on that team at a disadvantage.

Since players will play how they practice, the line drill ingrains the motion of scoop, run, stop. Instead of scoop, run, run, and look for a pass. I see this every weekend. A player runs forward, bends his knees and executes a perfect pick-up. Then he stops and gets body checked. So how do coaches get players to unlearn this behavior?

Fortunately, the drill diagrammed below has yet to fail me in getting kids to MOVE!

The Big, Wide Turn Drill

The Big, Wide Turn Drill

This drill is performed in five steps:

  1. Ball is rolled out near the first cone
  2. Player runs out and properly picks up the ground ball
  3. Player runs all the way around the cones, which are arranged in a skewed semicircle
  4. Player rolls or passes ball to next player in line
  5. Player goes to end of line

Note that this drill is lined up for a right-handed ground ball pickup. When using their right hand, a player should generally run in a wide turn to their left. For a left-handed pickup, the drill is reversed, and the player engages in a sweeping turn to their right. This keeps the stick between the player’s body and their opponent.

So instead of a line drill we get a “C” drill, with the cones giving players a visual barrier they must avoid. Eventually, the behavior of running away from pressure and towards empty space becomes ingrained in each player. After a week of using this drill, and any variations you want to use with it, you will notice your players taking sweeping turns during 1-on-1 or 2-on-1 ground balls.

The best part of this drill is the lightbulb effect on kids. More than any other lesson, I see the wide-eyed understanding when a player sees how easily they can avoid pressure just by moving their feet an extra fifteen yards.

Featured Image Credit – www.swarthmoreathletics.com


AYL TV – Warding Off

Published by:

Rule 6, Section 11 – Warding Off (NFHS Boys Lacrosse Rule Book)

A player in possession of the ball shall not use his free hand or arm or any other part of his body to hold, push or control the direction of the movement of the crosse or body of the player applying the check. A player in possession of the ball may protect his crosse with his hand, arm or other part of his body when his opponent makes a play to check his crosse.

AYL TV – Warding from Atlanta Youth Lacrosse on Vimeo.

Warding is a confusing call for many fans watching the game. Often any time a player on the other team shakes his arm a, “he’s warding ref” comes from the stands. On the flip side their own player could maul the facemask of his defender with his free hand and it is all fair play to the fans. The main part of the rule to focus on is a player may not “hold, push or control the direction of the movement of the crosse or body of the player applying the check.” As long as a player does not prevent a defenseman from throwing a proper check there is no problem.

But, Mr. Official what about the Bull Dodge? Fantastic question. The Bull Dodge is exactly what it sounds like. The offensive player runs over the defensive player instead of dodging around him. That dodge does run counter to the wording above, “any other part of his body” to manipulate the defender. In fact if every official called the ward as written the Bull Dodge would be called every time.

Here is how I see it. If the offensive player cleanly runs through the defender I have no problem allowing him to do so. However, if that offensive player lifts his front arm or shoulder and moves the defender while doing a Bull Dodge I have to call that because he is actively pushing the defender away. Calling a Bull Dodge is quite the Catch-22. Don’t call it and every offensive player will run over every defender. Call it and everyone is calling for the official to let the boys play. This is one of those fouls where most officials strive for balance. They will allow some but not all wards. This is especially true as players advance into higher and higher levels of play.

I hope the video and the explanation helps everyone who was not clear on what a ward is. If you have any comments or questions please post them below.