Tag Archives: contact

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

AYL Website Mini-Upgrade

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I spent a good amount of time this weekend doing a minor facelift to the Atlanta Youth Lacrosse homepage (www.ayllax.com), adding some new features, and creating more accessible pages for our players, parents, coaches, fans, and readers across the country.

I reworked the AYL homepage to better reflect where AYL began, what we do every day, and how we do what we do. First time visitors to www.ayllax.com will know at a glance that Atlanta Youth Lacrosse was the first youth lacrosse program in Georgia, what our five missions are every time we hit the field, and how we use lacrosse as a medium to help develop young players into responsible young adults.

There is a blue call to action area suggesting that anyone who wants to know more about AYL may send an email to our league directors. I didn’t want our contact information to be hidden on a separate page, and now a way to reach our staff is front-and-center to any visitor. Coach Lou, Mary Jo, or I will respond directly to any questions sent to questions@ayllax.com.

Visitors will also see what I consider the best compliment we’ve ever received about our youth lacrosse league, prominently highlighted in green – “We’re Intense About Being Laid-Back”. Parents bring their children to play at AYL because we do more than just develop skills or put on games. We maintain a family-friendly environment that allows kids to be kids while playing a game with their friends.

AYL-Who-What-How

Visitors will also see a new a new menu option titled “Education: learn stuff“. Coach Lou and I have spent the last two years writing blog posts about playing, coaching, officiating, and watching lacrosse. We want the AYL website to be more than just a destination for our players and parents. We want this website to be a resource for any player or parent that finds our site. Once I finish some more coding this week, the “Education” page will hold regularly updated blog posts, as well as valuable links to additional resources that will be a tremendous asset to both novice and experienced lacrosse fans.

If anyones has any suggestions on how to further improve the AYL website please contact me at rules@ayllax.com. I hope everyone enjoys the updated home page and the new educational section of the site. I’m looking forward to writing more posts, officiating more games, and seeing everyone out at the fields.

Cheers,
Gordon

I Cannot Prevent Fouls

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I-Cannot-Prevent-Fouls

Whenever I have a game with a lot of flags this comment usually gets yelled out by someone: “You’re not controlling the game ref!” I beg to differ.

The coaches and fans making that comment do not understand that I only have two additional tools at my disposal after throwing flag after flag on both teams. I can either:

  1. Ramp up the penalty minutes and start disqualifying the repeat offenders
  2. Cancel the game once I believe that the players and coaches are not getting the message from all of my flags

What non-officials do not understand is that I cannot prevent fouls. All I can really do is strongly discourage players from committing another foul. Whether or not they get the message from spending time in the penalty box is up to them. I had a coach tell me that I was not keeping his players safe from the opposing team. Despite the fact that I had thrown multiple flags and my hat on fouls the other team had committed.

I was a little confused by this coach. Did he expect me to jump in front of one of his attackman who was about to be slashed and absorb the blow? Perhaps he wanted me to tackle one of the opposing players before they had a chance to hit one of his players. He was still pissed off at me at the end of the game even though the other team spent almost the entire game with someone in the penalty box.

What frustrates me the most is after I call a penalty, usually an Illegal Body Check for a late hit after a shot, sometimes one coach will tell his player kneeling in the box that it was a great hit. It wasn’t a great hit! That’s why I flagged it! Coaches that congratulate players on a body check that levels another player when the ball is twenty yards away undermine the called penalty.

One coach yelled at me, “How can you possibly call that? This is a contact sport!” While I did not respond to him at the time here is what I wanted to say:

  1. I can call that because I judged the hit to be illegal
  2. This is a finesse sport with contact
  3. Your player released from the penalty box, sprinted forty yards to the ball carrier, hit him from behind with the exposed metal of his crosse and managed to ride up to finish in the neck of the ball carrier

These kinds of coaches do not serve the game. I much prefer the coach who asks what I saw so he can inform his player not to repeat the infraction. That coach is working with me to keep the game safe.

Officials cannot prevent fouls. Everything we do is after the fact. I can warn a player to not do something, but I have no control over whether or not that player will listen to me. The only people who can prevent fouls are the players on the field.

Featured Image Credit – www.dailytarheel.com

Cheers,
Gordon