Tag Archives: southern lax

Avoiding Penalties in Youth Lax

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Penalties are a part of lacrosse. In the youth game, penalties are usually a big part of the game for two reasons. One, young players mature at different rates. U13 is always the worst grade for me to officiate because half of the kids are Davids, the other half are Goliaths, and the Davids do not have throwing stones. Because of some kids are bigger and faster they will, fairly or not, get the majority of the fouls. Second, youth players do not always remember the best way to check, which often results in big swings, cross-checks, and pushes. Over the years, I accumulated different methods of avoiding penalties, and I share a few here.

Slafkosky - Defensive Wizard

Slafkosky - Defensive Wizard

In tenth grade I attended a camp that Dave Slafkosky, a legendary defensive coach from Maryland, was teaching at. I inhaled his lessons about defense. He spoke about positioning, communication, and hard sliding, but he gave one nugget of information that I will forever remember. He said, “Gordon. Your first check should always be a poke check right to the guy’s stomach.” In the context of a youth game, this is very good advice. Typically, young players cradle with both hands. As a result, their stick runs diagonally across their body, which makes aiming a poke check at the stomach area a very high percentage check.

The other reason for throwing the first check at the center of your opponent is a mind game with the official. I usually remind our AYL coaches that my hand goes to my flag when I see a player wind up for a big check, since, more often than not, the stick is coming down hard on the helmet, shoulder, or back. When I see a wind up I profile that player as someone I need to watch, but when I see a player throw a hard poke check towards his opponent’s stick I profile that player as a safe/smart individual. Often, my first observation on a player’s behavior prove correct. So coaches, remind your player’s that officials pay attention to the high, wind up swings, and will focus on players who repeat that checking motion.

Now let’s talk about the “I’m Beat,” or desperation check. Here’s the situation:

  • Red player gets burned by Blue player on a roll dodge. Blue player spins around and chases Red player with his stick outstretched behind him with one arm. Red goes to shoot, and in the process of shooting, Blue swings his stick overhead. He hits Red’s stick and then ricochets hard into Red’s helmet, drawing a one-minute slash penalty.
^ Think This is a Cross-Check?

^ Think This is a Cross-Check?

I defy any coach to comment that none of their players have ever committed the above infraction. The problem here is the nature of youth players. They get beat so they panic. They know they cannot let the other player score, so a gigantic wind-up check might redeem them for getting beat. Honestly, I might as well throw the flag when I see the wind up because nothing good is coming from it.

For the coaches, there is a method of teaching the desperation check that will almost always prevent a flag, and there are three parts to it:

  1. When your player gets beat the first thing they need to do is run as hard as they can to catch up to their opponent. The distance has to get picked up before a check can be applied.
  2. Do not worry about getting in front of a shooter. Why? Because the shooter is going to do one thing, and that is draw his stick behind his body in preparation for a shot. Drawing that stick back turns it into a huge target for your defensive player.
  3. Swing the final check up to the sky, not down to the ground. It is very difficult for a player to hit his opponent’s helmet checking from below the helmet. Nearly all slash calls result in the stick coming down on top on the helmet, not the other way around. In all of my private instruction sessions, I teach players to swing up on the desperation check because the chance of hitting the helmet hard enough to draw a flag is miniscule.

I have gotten beat more times than I care to remember, but learning how to properly do a desperation check saved many goals from hitting the net. Remember, the only way to eliminate the panic from getting beat is to teach effective methods of dealing with it. If coaches do not do this, the first thing a player will do is wind up and swing down wildly. So teach them the better method, and you should see your team’s penalties decrease over time.

*Note – There will be future posts expanding on this topic.

Featured Image Credit – www.ctpost.com

Cheers,
Gordon

Ignorance is no Excuse

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Ignorantia legis neminem excusat – “ignorance excuses no one” – (www.m-w.com)

The concept of ignorance in defense against criminal punishment goes back as far as the Roman Empire, which is where we get the phrase: “ignorance excuses no one.” Imagine what society would look like if I could go up to anyone on the street, punch them repeatedly in the head, and state to the police officer: “Sir, I had no idea I could not do that.”

Ignorance

Ignorance

One jurist stated the following regarding ignorance: “It has always been accepted as an axiomatic principle that ignorance of the law is no excuse. Were the position otherwise it is obvious that the legislature’s handiwork could be flouted indiscriminately, an offender taking care to insure that he did not make himself cognizant with the law” (www.duhaime.org). That laborious phrase simply means that laws would mean nothing if individuals could say they were unaware of the laws.

Now how does this apply to lacrosse? Well, I do not have enough fingers and toes to count how many times a player, coach, or fan yelled: “That’s not a rule,” or, “I didn’t know that was a rule!” So, everyone look yourselves in the mirror and admit that you have done that at least one time while watching a professional sport.

There is not a single lacrosse official in this country who believes that every player and coach on the field knows every rule in the rulebook. In fact, I repeatedly ask coaches who argue with me what color this year’s rulebook is. Then they realize that I read the rulebook regularly. The color is green for 2011, by the way. Still, we zebras do our best to educate. We patiently explain to irate coaches, angry players, and clueless parents.

That’s right parents. I laugh every time you yell “WARD” from eighty yards away. It is not a ward, and I am supported by Rule 6, Section 11 – Warding Off. Also, here is a handy video on warding if you are unsure about what a ward looks like compared to just moving arms.

Angry Coach

Angry Coach

Ok, now it is my turn to eat all of my previous words. Even though I wear the black-and-white stripes I am ignorant of the rules from time to time. I forget when I am supposed to do a play-on verus a flag-down. I forget the specific rules and regulations of tournament play during the summer. I even forgot the required measurements of a legal lacrosse stick in a Varsity game. The point is, we are all ignorant from time to time. The difference is, officials, lawyers, and criminals are generally the only people that know we are being ignorant, and we study the laws again as soon as we get the chance.

So to ensure that everyone has a fair shake at being knowledgable about this year’s AYL Rules. Please visit this page: www.ayllax.com/ayl-2011-spring-boys-rules.

Featured Image Credit – www.threedonia.com

Guilty!
Gordon