Tag Archives: officials

First Day Of Games At AYL This Weekend!

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Our players, coaches, and parents survived Snowpocalypse #1 and Snowpocalypse #2! We waited inside for two weeks chomping at the bit to get out and practice, and the last week and a half our young players have been going strong at Hammond Park and Dunwoody Springs. As teams prepare for their first day of games this Sunday I wanted to send a brief message to each group in the AYL family to help keep this 2014 spring season in perspective.

Players:

To our brand new players: welcome to AYL and the sport of lacrosse! We love introducing our favorite sport to new players, but we also know it can be a little scary suiting up to play an opponent. It’s okay to be a little scared or nervous before your first game or first couple of games. I played for over 10 years and every game I got butterflies. Those are a good feelings – they let you know you’re alive! As my one of my favorite characters, Ms. Frizzle, from The Magic School Bus said: “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!”

To our returning players: welcome back! We’re glad to have you on the field for another season and we’re excited to see you improve from last fall or spring. Do you best to make new friends with our new players both on your team and on other teams. I still talk with my old buddies from my playing days, but you don’t get to have old friends without making new friends! Relish your mistakes in this game as much as your successes, and no matter what happens remember to honor the game.

Parents:

I truly hope you all enjoy this spring season. Please make our new parents feel welcome and remember that we rely on all of you to maintain a positive game atmosphere for all of our players. Remember to please observe our 24 Hour Rule if you have an issue you feel needs reporting. This allows parties on both sides of any issue to discuss it with cool heads away from the heat of an intense game. Also, we love dogs but the facilities that we lease do not permit dogs at the field. Please be respectful of our host facilities rules regarding animals.

There is a greater than average chance that your player will either get knocked down, take a shot off his body, or sustain a good bruise over the course of an entire season. There is a reason we require the players to wear all that protective gear. The adult and youth officials we’ve requested from the GLOA will officiate the games with player safety first and foremost, but even with the very best officiating and under control play, the players can still get banged up. Pleased don’t be scared by this, but understand the reality that placing twenty ten-year-olds in a 110×60 yard area with body armor and metal sticks might result in a good bruise. The best thing my parents ever did for me besides having me practice a firm handshake was give me the chance to get hurt while being supervised. I beat up my body a good bit in youth ball and a good bit more in high school games, but my parents never tried to shield me from a little pain. I learned at a young age the difference between a little hurt and a big hurt, and I always told someone when I got a big hurt.

Don’t forget that your U9, U11, or U13 player isn’t getting recruited by a college program just yet. A mistake at this level is not marked down by a graduate assistant coach on your player’s permanent lacrosse player record. Let them know it’s okay to make mistakes so long as they work hard to not make the same one in the future.

Coaches:

I tend to have the same message for coaches every season: Simplify, simplify, simplify. Basic is better at the youth level, advanced technique and plays should be saved until every player has demonstrated mastery of the basic foundation of playing lacrosse. High school coaches don’t want to teach the fundamental way to pick up a ground ball in the open field. They want the players coming into their JV or HS program to have these skills from their youth ball experience.

There is a reason I don’t play Madden Football. I hate not scoring on every play and I broke a few controllers while getting sacked by the computer on the lowest setting. Don’t treat these games as anything more than an opportunity for your players and you to improve. Identify what needs work on after your first game, prioritize the top three and practice those the next week. Then repeat the process after each game. If a pass isn’t perfect or a defender doesn’t slide correctly don’t pull them off the field immediately. Give them a chance to self correct and if they’re still making the same mistake sub them off an explain a better way of doing it: “Johnny, I love how hard you’re going for those ground balls. Try getting your bottom hand closer to the ground before you pick it up and you’ll get the next one.” Save shouting instructions to your team on the field. Slow down and reduce your voice’s volume when speaking one-on-one or to your team at halftime.

Know your team’s priorities. If your goals are to score seven points a game, never let your opponent score, or “Championship or Bust!” then you will never have a successful season, and even if you do win the ‘Ship’ your kids, parents and you will be nervous wrecks every game. Focus on the process of continual improvement and you’d be surprised how much production you get out of your team.

Officials:

As I mentioned earlier we are using adult and youth officials assigned by the Georgia Lacrosse Officials Association. Andy and I’s schedules between work and officiating are too hectic for us to regularly offer shadowing opportunities to our STARs this season. Both Andy and I have trained every adult or youth official that is going to ref games this spring. They know what they are doing and when the game ends the game ends. There will be no reversing of judgment calls after the final horn sounds and AYL will back up the on field decisions of each adult and youth official that comes to ref. We provide a hospitable environment for our players and I expect that to be extended for the referees. These gentlemen are Andy and I’s professional colleagues and they have told us how much they respect the environment and message of AYL.

Whenever Andy or I do not have game assignments we will work to be at the fields. I’m always available to answer rules questions at rules@ayllax.com. Also check out the rules document that breaks down rules per age level and includes the new 2014 rules here: 2014 Youth Rules And Differences Summary.

STARs:

Our STAR volunteer program has been a bastion of community service since Mary Jo created it back during our YMCA LAX days. Remember to contact Mrs. Corsetti at info@ayllax.com if you are interested in becoming a STAR. Mary Jo only communicates directly to STARs and interested STARs. It is the responsibility of the young players to email Mary Jo themselves or through their parent’s email. We do this to encourage individual responsibility and to help teach our young volunteers to budget their time and let us know when they are available.

Our STARs are fantastic mentors to younger players and they provide an invaluable service in maintaining the cleanliness of our facilities, running the table, filling in as last-minute goalies, and eating all of our snacks. Just kidding, we always make sure to have plenty of snacks!

I think that covers everyone so I’ll wrap up with this:

I believe the goal of every youth sport is twofold. One, light a passion for physical activity and hard work in the youth player. Two, help teach that player to be responsible for their own actions and reactions through their on-field experiences. I want our players, parents, coaches, officials, and STARs to share in my family’s passion for lacrosse but to also remember that, at the end of the day, it’s about the kids.

Cheers,
Gordon

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

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