Tag Archives: lacrosse

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:


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)


Nutritional Practice Plans

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I’ve participated in dozens of different practice plans run by coaches of different styles. Traveling to many different colleges, high schools, and youth programs each year I’ve developed a good feel for an effective practice plan. At the youth level I can typically determine how good a team is just by watching their pre-game warmups. Those warmups are a byproduct of effective practice plans, which almost always feature new ways to teach fundamental skills.

I believe there are four fundamental skills in lacrosse:

  1. Picking up a ground ball
  2. Running and dodging while cradling
  3. Passing on the run
  4. Catching on the run

You’ll notice that I did not list shooting. That is because I do not consider shooting a fundamental skill.

I see many youth coaches waste time on the same shooting drills practice after practice. While other teams are getting ground ball and passing reps while in motion. Your first practice plan and really the first week should include very little to no shooting drills at the youth level.

Now that I’ve riled up the offensive coaches, consider this: Shooting is important. Good shots taken at the right times lead to goals, which determine who wins and who loses. I’m not writing that shooting is not something to work on, but I consider shooting to be the last thing a team needs to work on because shooting is usually the last thing that happens on a settled possession or transition.

Running shooting drills in your first few practices is the same as eating dessert before the rest of the meal. Ground ball and passing drills are the vegetables and protein necessary for a good diet of lacrosse skills. Successfully completing those drills and demonstrating good skills leads to the reward of taking a shot. In twenty years, I have yet to witness a shot taken that did not occur after a pass, picking up a ground ball, or a dodge.

Players don’t just shoot. They pick up a ground ball off a deflected pass, run down the field in transition, dodge the slide, pass the ball to their teammate who is cutting up from the crease, who catches the ball, turns, and shoots.

Notice the four fundamentals:

  1. Ground ball pickup leads to:
  2. Dodging the incoming defender leading to:
  3. A pass to the cutting offensive player, which leads to:
  4. A catch while moving towards a better shooting position

Shooting requires one of those four and usually all four, but too many youth coaches serve a desert buffet of shooting drills on the first practice. Then their players get bored the next week when they have to slog through ground ball drills after having spent 4 hours running different shooting drills the week before.

If you feel you absolutely must run a shooting drill (you don’t) during your first week then incorporate a fundamental skill into the shooting drill. Have the player pick up a ground ball, run and dodge, then take a shot from a good angle. You need to prepare your young players to be able to do everything necessary leading up to the shot, not just the shot itself.

Another thing I’ve seen from teams running too many shooting drills too early is that their offensive strategy usually involves giving the ball to one player and have them run down the middle of the field for a shot. Sometimes this works, but most of the times it doesn’t, and I hear their coach yelling, “pass the ball! You’re covered!” The kid doesn’t pass the ball because he’s been fed a steady diet of shoot, shoot, shoot.

Compare that to the team practicing moving the ball twice off of every ground ball pickup. They don’t practice shooting as much, but their ball movement out of a loose ball scrum is fantastic. That leads to two or three passes to a player parked on the top of the crease for a layup shot that most players can make. That is a team that follows a proper lacrosse nutrition plan full of ground ball drills, passing, and running with the ball.

The Lacrosse Skills Nutritional Pyramid


Remember – Prek-K, U9, U11, U13 spring 2014 registrations are open until January 31st. Register now at www.ayllax.com/register and join our family!

Featured Image Credit – www.lakehighlandstoday.com


Meet New People

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I want young players to play with their friends, but I don’t want them to do this all of the time. As AYL prepares for the 2014 spring season with our U9, U11, and U13 age groups we go over all the team requests we get through our registration and contact forms. While we cannot guarantee placement on a particular team, we work diligently to get players on teams primarily for carpooling reasons. Looking back on my non-driving years, my mother was clearly a saint as she spent most of the day driving through Atlanta traffic while shuttling my sister and I to school and other activities.

Kids and adults don’t like change. The difference between adults and kids is that adults understand that change is inevitable. Which is why I don’t understand the need to keep a group of 10, 15, or 20 young players on the same team for their entire youth playing days. By the time they get to high school or college they can perform the skills of lacrosse, but they lack the ability to quickly relate to a new teammate.

One of my biggest regrets was when I changed schools in tenth grade and I decided that I didn’t really like any of my peers at my new school. I chose to withdraw and interact as minimally as possible. When I got to college I was a social hermit, not by choice, but by habit. Early in life I chose to stop meeting new people and then I began to fear new people. Fortunately, a few folks got to know me a little bit sophomore year and painfully pulled me out of my shell. Now I can interact like a regular human being, but I regret how many potential friends I lost because I was fearful of not being liked.

Familiarity destroys creativity. While it is perfectly natural for a player to want to play just with his buddies, we adults must encourage them to play on teams with kids they don’t know very well. Fortunately for us, we have lacrosse as a common bond to encourage greater interaction between young players. It’s never hard to go out for a catch, but it is tough for kids to go up to another kid they don’t know and ask to have a catch. The more times a player asks new players to have a catch or go shoot, the better they get at asking, and the lower the fear of rejection. Plus, they get practice throwing with someone they are unfamiliar passing with. If they choose to pursue playing lacrosse in college, they will be confident enough to approach their new teammates and they’ll be able to quickly adjust to different passing styles.

To the parents – if your child is not placed on the team you requested even if you need it for carpooling, I suggest reaching out to the other parents on your team. There will likely be one or two families needing to rejigger their carpooling arraignments, and you might make some new friends in the process!

To the players – anxiety over meeting new people is natural. Humans are social creatures, and any kind of rejection hurts at an emotional and sometimes physical level. If you’ve got more unfamiliar faces on your team this year than familiar ones then introduce yourself and ask who want to have a catch. And don’t forget that a big smile usually helps!

Featured Image Credit – www.natgeotv.com