Tomorrow is the big day because its GAME DAY! That’s right, Atlanta Youth Lacrosse’s Fall Ball season gets underway Saturday with U9, U11, and U13 games. With games comes responsibility. Everyone, including players, coaches, parents, fans and staff must take responsibility for following the rules for games and conduct at our fields. So let’s breakdown the rules for each division with this handy chart:
If anyone has any questions about the rules of the game, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me or Andy Halperin at the fields. We are always willing to answer questions.
Also, if you are new to the game please check out Tadpole Lacrosse. This is a document that I put together that is an introduction to lacrosse for new players and parents.
Now onto rules for everyone while down at our fields:
Unless you are a Pre K (Incredibles) parent, we ask that you stay behind the fence surrounding the fields. Our STAR volunteers will be on hand to assist players with gearing up.
No dogs, unless you have a service/assistance dog.
No score. We will not be keeping score during any of the games. We want Fall Ball to be centered around player improvement. Having a score gets in the way of what players should be focusing on during games.
We are guests of Riverwood High School. Please do not leave any trash at these facilities. We expect everyone involved with our program to be respectful and courteous to all Riverwood staff.
I believe that covers everything. If I missed anything, we will notify everyone via our weekly newsletter. I hope everyone is as excited for the first day of Fall Ball as I am. Let’s make tomorrow a great day for everyone involved!
I thought hard about what topic I wanted to write about for my 200th post. After many different ideas and drafts I settled on addressing how poor behavior by parents negatively impacts the children playing lacrosse. I addressed part of this in my post “Getting The Most Out Of Fall Ball.” Where I detailed the responsibilities of parents in off-season games, but I wanted to dig deeper into this area. So settle in because I’m going all out for the 200th post on the AYL Blog!
I am starting off with a video by Duke University Sport Psychologist Richard Keefe. Watch this three-minute video as the topics covered will be referenced and reinforced in the rest of this post:
The Kids Speak Out: Violence in Youth Sports article that appeared in the August, 2001 issue of Sports Illustrated for Kids featured more than 3,000 reader responses to a youth sports violence survey. It found that:
57% of the respondents said there was too much violence in youth sports
74% said they have seen out-of-control adults at their games (emphasis mine)
36% cited embarrassment as the main emotion they felt while witnessing bad adult behavior
37% said they have witnessed parents yelling at kids
27% said they have seen parents yelling at coaches or officials
25% said they have seen coaches yelling at officials or kids
4% said they have seen violent behavior by adults
The results indicate that nearly three out of four youth players have seen “out-of-control adults at their games.” Which, as Richard Keefe pointed out, could lead to the youth players to not want to play their sport anymore because of the actions of adult spectators.
Why is it that some parents work themselves up into an agitated rage while their kid is playing? Perhaps, as young Calvin puts it:
To be fair here, I do not have kids. I have no idea what it feels like for a parent to see their child get a cheap shot and the referee not call anything. I don’t have a clue how about how a parent feels when their kid gets benched. I most certainly do not know how it feels for a parent to see their child lose a game. That being said, I know exactly how it feels to be embarrassed for friends of mine whose parents decided it was important to share their opinion with the rest of the fans about how terrible the official, coach, or other team is. I can only imagine how embarrassing it was for my friends if I was feeling embarrassed for them.
Perhaps these angry fans feel that because they paid money to sign their child up that they somehow get to behave in a manner that makes everyone around them cringe. Perhaps they are just reacting poorly to not being able to control everything that happens to their child. After all, the lacrosse field can be a chaotic place.
Why is it that these individuals lose their brain-mouth connection? My theory is simple. They do not get the point of youth sports. What is the point of youth sports? Four things: Fun, Fundamentals, Sportsmanship, and Honoring the Game. If you noticed those four things are a part of Atlanta Youth Lacrosse’s mission in our community. If even one of these pillars is absent I do not believe a league can reach it’s true potential. So let’s break down these four pillars and how parents can be involved in each one:
Fun – If playing is not fun and enjoyable what is the point of playing? Parents can increase the amount of fun their child is having by remaining positive and upbeat before, during, and after games.
Fundamentals – Without a solid foundation to build on a player cannot be successful in the long term. Parents can improve their young player’s fundamentals by making sure they are at practices and games on time, having a catch with them in the backyard, or just talking with their player about what he/she may be struggling with on the field. Here’s the kicker, if you don’t know the answer or the correct fundamental skill then don’t teach it to your player! Ask your coach or contact the AYL staff. We are more than happy to assist you in putting the fun in fundamentals.
Sportsmanship – This pillar is always emphasized for the players, but rarely for the parents. Be a good steward of the game by making sure that your actions reflect positively upon it.
Honoring the Game – This is a big one for me, but I only realized how important it was until I became a coach and official. When you play all you care about is having a good time, but when you coach or officiate everything you do impacts the players. Parents, you must realize that everything you do impacts the atmosphere of the sporting event that you participate in. If every parent and family member watching the game buys into honoring the game through their actions, then the event will always be positive.
We are very grateful at Atlanta Youth Lacrosse that our parents, and their extended families, abide by the golden rule. We have what I consider seasoned parents who know how we operate at AYL, and they take it upon themselves to make sure that our new parents are introduced to how to be positive cheerers. Our parents are wonderful for two reasons:
They know we at Atlanta Youth Lacrosse are strict about what we expect regarding conduct during games.
They also know that we have enforced our expectations by removing the individuals who don’t get it from our facilities.
That is what it takes to keep everyone on the same page. Expectations and enforcement. We don’t do this to be boogie men. We do this to safeguard the game of lacrosse that we care so deeply about. So this season come share in our love of lacrosse by treating the game and everyone involved with dignity and respect.
How Does It Feel?
To wrap up I wanted to showcase some videos that came up during my research for this post. I will warn you, the behavior in these videos is both shocking and disturbing. Shocking because everyone in this video is an adult, and disturbing to see how low some people are willing to go because of a perceived injustice or their team’s loss in a game.
If you run lacrosse league you need to cover all of the rules that will apply to every division. Atlanta Youth Lacrosse uses the USL Boys Lacrosse Rules, which are slightly modified from NFHS rules, as our foundation governing play at all levels. The general AYL rules may be found on the “Complete League Rules” page.
Next, you need to specify the rules in each division. We find it convenient to split the first and second grade rules apart from everyone else since the differences are significant. The third through twelfth grade rules govern play for each of these age groups, because the rule changes are slight for each age level. So it is simpler to keep these rules together and highlight the differences.
We covered the general rules, and the division-specific rules. Now, we can cover what I call “off the book” rules. These are the rules that pertain specifically to Atlanta Youth Lacrosse.
We borrowed some from other leagues, and created a few of our own. These rules help AYL staff and coaches improve player development, and they help create a relaxed atmosphere that promotes good sportsmanship. If you run your own lacrosse league, or are a parent involved in one, I highly suggest finding a way to use these rules in your program. We have used them for years and they always benefit our league. Just remember to apply them consistently if you want them to work.
Rule 1 – This is Youth Lacrosse
You would be surprised at the amount of people who think a fifth and sixth grade lacrosse game is equivalent to the NFC championship. I officiated a game at a different league years ago, where people were hanging off the stadium guard rails to yell at the coaches, officials, and players.
This rule is critical to follow if you want to establish an atmosphere that is about the kids and not the people yelling in row C. All of the following rules are really ways to remind players, coaches, and parents that we are playing a game at the youth level.
You Do Not Talk About Fight Club
Rule 2 – This is Still Youth Lacrosse
I can’t give up a Fight Club reference, but I want to stress the point that we are playing a game. Coaches, parents, and staff always need to remember that this is about the kids having fun. Keep repeating this mantra, and everyone will join the youth lacrosse train.
Rule 3 – No One-Handed Stick Checks
This is generally reserved for the first through fourth grade leagues, but it can be applied to any age division if checking gets sloppy. Any and all one-handed stick checks are considered a “slash” if this rule is enforced.
Rule 4 – The Uncontrollable Stick
Any stick check that the official feels is uncontrollable is a “slash.” Even if the stick does not make contact with the other player. This is a great rule if you are trying to cut down on stick swinging. Inform the players that two hands on the stick, and raised to the shoulder is more than strong enough to dislodge a ball. Baseball bat swings, golf-ball swings, and behind the back checks, can and should be considered uncontrollable if this rule is applied to a game.
Rule 5 – No Horns. Mandatory Substitutions
This is a new rule for AYL that we are moving to for our first through sixth grade divisions. Every five or six minutes the clock is stopped for mandatory substitutions. Whoever is on the bench goes onto the field, and the players on the field go to the bench. This helps to enforce equal playing time and gets coaches used to the usual substitution flow for lacrosse, which is usually five or six minutes. This rule only applies when the ball is settled or dead. We will not stop the action of a potential shot on goal to get a mandatory substitution. Wait for the shot to be taken, then stop the clock.
Teams can still sub on-the-fly at any point during the game. Just no horns.
Rule 5 – Goalie Clears the Ball after a Goal
We usually apply this rule during Winter Ball because it gives kids less down time after a goal. Generally, a faceoff is set and ready to go after fifteen seconds. If each team scores five goals thats 150 seconds of dead time. By clearing the ball after every goal, the players get roughly two to three minutes of extra playing time.
Rule 6 – The No Rake Rule
Raking the ball results in a turnover. This is my personal favorite because after two weeks of consistent enforcement, nearly every player, at every level is running through the ball instead of stopping to rake it into their sticks. Players get the hint that they are supposed to run through the ball instead of stopping to pick it up. This speeds up the game and drastically decreases the amount of scrums that can occur at the younger age levels.
Atlanta Youth Lacrosse will apply this rule in the fall for all grades under seventh.
Rule 7 – Positive Cheering
I went into lots of detail with the Positive Cheering Post a while back. The short version of this rule is that whenever spectators get overly excited in a negative way. By which I mean: any type of cursing or “knock him dead” comments. If this happens, the game stops but the clock runs for one minute. If the person/people act up again, the game stops but the clock runs for two minutes. After the third stoppage, we ask the individuals to leave. Nothing calms a sideline down more quickly than messing with every kids’ game time.
Rule 8 – No One-Handed Ground Balls
I believe this is a coach’s best friend during a team practice, but it should not be implemented during a game. After all, sometimes it is appropriate to pick the ball up with one hand, so long as the player is running through the ball. Enforcing this rule during practice by having everyone do pushups or run a lap when they do a one-handed scoop will condition players to get low and run through the ball with two hands. Which is the method that gets the highest likelihood of success.
Rule 9 – The 24 Hour Rule
AYL implemented the 24 Hour rule a few years ago when handling concerns, complaints, or issues after a game/practice. Anytime anyone has something they want to say about how a game or practice was handled, they must wait 24 hours before emailing our office. This provides everyone on both sides of the issue time to cool off and gain perspective on the problem. Additionally, we do not allow anyone to accost a coach, official, or staff member in person while at an AYL event. We want anyone who has an issue to contact AYL through appropriate channels, and the 24 Hour rule helps accomplish this.
That covers the off-the-book rules that Atlanta Youth Lacrosse has enforced in the past. Don’t try to use all of these at once at your own league. Pick one or two, but make one of them the no-rake rule (seriously, it does wonders). Then have your officials and staff enforce them consistently. These rules do no good if they are applied every so often. They must be applied with conviction if you want them to work.
If you have any questions about these rules, or have an off-the-book rule to suggest, please comment below.