Tag Archives: excessive

Checks To The Head Or Neck

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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.

Cheers,
Gordon

“Just Hand The Ball To The Ref!”

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My Dad and I watch a lot of sports together, and I’ve noticed a few things that he usually says during football games in particular. Be it college or professional football there is a 68% chance of my Dad saying, “quit showboating and just hand the ball to the ref,” after a player does some fancy dance after a scoring drive. There is a 100% chance of my Dad following up that statement with this statement: “act like you’ve been there before.” He is perfectly okay with an enthusiastic fist pump, but the ball better be in the official’s hands within five seconds of the score.

If the game is close he gives a little extra leeway to celebrate. Maybe a fist pump and a chest bump, but the player still has to get the ball to the official quickly. What he cannot stand more than anything is if a team is destroying another team and does some elaborate end zone dance, or if a team that is down by several touchdowns manages to finally make a decent tackle and the defender crosses his arms and does the “no-no” shake of the head. He is not a fan of showboating when a team is winning, or of defenders celebrating the one time their team wraps up the winning team’s running back. I believe he finds both of those actions pretty classless.

I take the same view of my Dad but for different reasons. As a sports official I am less concerned with how cool or funny a celebration is. I am concerned with it escalating into a bigger problem. The 2013 NFHS lacrosse rulebook has this to say:

Rule 5.10.1.c – [Players may not] bait or call undue attention to oneself, or any other act considered unsportsmanlike by the officials.

Fans look at celebrations and wonder why officials flag the players for just having a little fun, but that is not how we view excessive celebrations that call undue attention to the goal scorer or their team. Imagine you are the losing team and the winning team just scored their fifteenth unanswered goal. Then the shooting team decides to do this:

You would be justifiably pissed off, and you might decide to do something foolish if the winning team does something similar following another goal. We officials are not trying to ruin the winning team’s fun, they are choosing to win without class. Plus, they scored! It’s already fun to score! Why rub salt and cayenne pepper into the wound?

I had a game that was 17-1 to start the fourth quarter. The winning team was being very respectful in their domination, but three young fans walked into the stands yelling to the losing team, “17-1! You suck! Come back when you learn to play lacrosse!” I saw the head coach of the losing team looking both angry and a little sad, and when the ball went out of bounds I called an official’s time out and told him I would take care of the three knuckleheads. The rules state that the head coach is responsible for the spectators so I went to the head coach of the winning team and pointed out the three young men who were not representing his team or his school very well. He promptly kicked them out of the stadium. That is the mark of a classy program and the game wrapped up without incident.

If I hadn’t stepped in and had the coach exercise his authority, those fans could have incited some on-field mayhem. Some goal celebrations bump up against my threshold for calling a penalty. In those cases I go up to the player who celebrated and tell him that I’m okay with what he did happening once, but that if he does it again or goes further my flag will hit the ground before he finishes his Macarena dance.

I’m okay with being called a fun-killer by the fans, but I am not okay with a huge melee breaking out on the field and having the fans go, “why didn’t you do anything?” What I and my officiating brethren do is never popular, but we are not out there for the player’s fun. We are out there for safety and fairness. Excessive celebrations raise the game temperature and impact player safety. If you want to celebrate, pump your arm into the air and get to your spot for the next faceoff. As my Dad would say, “act like you’ve been there before!”

Here are the Top-10 Touchdown Celebrations before the NFL outlawed most celebrations:

Featured Image Credit – www.kansascity.com

Cheers,
Gordon