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Gold Stick Program

In order to provide the best experience possible for the youth who currently or will be playing the sport of lacrosse, the US Lacrosse Gold Stick Standards of Excellence represent the Best Practices that should be incorporated by quality youth lacrosse programs, whether they are in established, well-resourced areas or serving emerging, less resourced communities.

Take The First Step Gold Stick FAQs

US Lacrosse Gold Stick Program Standards

US Lacrosse has worked with a select number of leagues throughout the country to pilot the Gold Stick Program, and has now opened the application process to all organizations that are ready to become Gold Stick member leagues. US Lacrosse defines a league as being "an organizing entity that oversees and manages lacrosse play for multiple lacrosse teams within a designated geographic area and/or age group and level of play." Read our full definition below.

An organizing entity that oversees and manages lacrosse play for multiple lacrosse teams within a designated geographic area and/or age group and level of play. In essence, inter-organizational play which is governed by an entity designated to oversee said play will be deemed league play. The managing entity will be deemed the “league”. Where no league exists, organizations of significant size may qualify as a league based on location and feasibility of inter-organizational play. At this time, the Gold Stick recognition program is available only to leagues.

  • Gold Stick was created to ensure that leagues across the country are following the best practices for the safe and consistent play of lacrosse.
  • The US Lacrosse Gold Stick standards are not meant to create a police state that governs league play, nor are they intended to discount the efforts of any league that does not currently meet all of the standards.
  • The US Lacrosse Gold Stick standards are benchmarks by which every league can measure its progress and create a plan for continued improvement. Every organizational leader should see the value of the stated standards, and should embrace the challenge of creating a culture where young women and men can acquire the love of our sport, the lessons of teamwork, and exposure to the “Life’s Lessons” that only youth sports can provide.
Gold Stick Affirming Leagues
(as of March 1, 2015)

Carteret Youth Lacrosse Association
Colorado Youth Lacrosse Association
Connecticut Valley Youth Lacrosse League
Connecticut New York Youth Lacrosse Association
Eastside Lacrosse
Gwinnett Lacrosse League
Hampton Roads Lacrosse League
Hereford Recreational Lacrosse League
Hunterdon Mohawks Lacrosse
Jersey Girls Lacrosse Association
Madison Area Youth Lacrosse
Mass Bay Youth Lacrosse League
Milwaukee Area Youth Lacrosse Association
Minnesota Boys Scholastic Lacrosse Association
New England Coastal Lacrosse
New Hampshire Youth Lacrosse Association
Youth Lacrosse of Minnesota
St. Louis Youth Lacrosse Association
Smithtown Township Lacrosse
Sylvania Recreation Youth Lacrosse
Utah Lacrosse

Background

In order to provide the best experience possible for the youth who currently or will be playing the sport of lacrosse, the US Lacrosse Gold Stick Standards of Excellence represent the Best Practices that should be incorporated by quality youth lacrosse programs, whether they are in established, well-resourced areas or serving emerging, less resourced communities. At their best, youth sports programs provide young people with a safe environment in which to have fun, build character, learn sportsmanship and develop life skills that help them become responsible adults.

Adoption of the US Lacrosse Gold Stick Standards of Excellence provides an extraordinary opportunity for parents, coaches and sports administrators to positively influence the development and growth of the next generation of lacrosse players. The Gold Stick Standards embody the “Honor the Game” culture of our sport, and articulate the most worthy objectives of youth sports programs. The Gold Stick Standards present a framework of values that establish high but attainable standards of quality, benchmarks to which all youth sports programs should aspire. Lacrosse leagues that adopt and practice these standards are US Lacrosse Gold Stick programs.

The Gold Stick Program is a critical element of US Lacrosse’s effort to develop and deploy national standards for the youth game. The first step in this endeavor was the US Lacrosse Youth Rules, rolled out in 2012. Part of the continued deployment of USL National Standards will be solidifying US Lacrosse regional and chapter infrastructure. US Lacrosse is moving to an 8-region structure, with regional staff serving as the key point people to assist our chapter network in deploying US Lacrosse programs and services to the local constituent organizations embodied by groups/leagues. Supporting the Gold Stick program will be a critical point of emphasis for the regional staff and chapters.

Development History

The USL Sport Development Department led the development efforts of the Gold Stick Standards by working with an internal core team that included staff members from the following departments: Programs, Education & Training, Membership & Groups, Games Administration, Marketing & Communications, IT and the COO. Target focus groups were conducted to vet the purpose, definition, appropriateness and desired impact of each standard, with specific focus placed on the boys’ and girls’ youth game constituents. Furthermore, to ensure the integrity and viability of the standards, countless telephone calls, meetings and interactions were made over a period of 18 months to vet the standards and future self-recognition program with a large and diverse group of USL Board, Game and Chapter leaders, as well as youth league leadership across the country.

League must adhere to all current rules and age guidelines as published for each level of play, have them publicly available and regularly communicated to program coaches, administrators, and parents.

Rationale:

Age appropriate rules and recommended guidelines are designed to emphasize player safety, enjoyment and retention through the development of individual stick skills, team play, safety and sportsmanship. US Lacrosse firmly believes that in order to establish the safest and most positive playing environment for players that all coaches, officials, league administrators and parents have a responsibility to know and appropriately implement the rules within all aspect of youth play.

US Lacrosse establishes eligibility standards in order to promote the game of lacrosse among the youth of America in a safe and sportsmanlike environment. This goal can be best achieved by facilitating playing opportunities that seek to establish a “level playing field” among players of similar age, size and ability. Teams should be balanced as to physical size, cognitive, and developmental stages.

Meeting the standard:

  • League must adhere to all rules and age guidelines as published for each level of play, have them publicly available and regularly communicated to program coaches, administrators, and parents.

Additional Best Practices:

  • Organizations should consider implementing additional rules to further emphasize the intent and nature of the published rules (i.e., no body contact at all levels U15 and below, grouping players for competition by individual age/year – U15, U14, U13, U12, etc).
  • League commitment to providing league representation at USL Convention (Rules Interp, Coaching certification opportunities, etc).

Tools and resources available to support programs seeking to meet this standard:

Organization maintains current, written governance policies that are publically available and regularly communicated to program administrators, coaches, parents and players through a multi-faceted communication system.

Rationale:

US Lacrosse believes that in order to provide the optimal lacrosse experience for all lacrosse participants, organizations need to have clearly defined governance policies that explain operational policies, process, standards and expectations. Deliberate and regular annual communication of these policies to participants establishes expectations, promotes fairness, maximizes transparency and ensures consistency.

Meeting the standard:

Organization must have the following current policies publically available and regularly communicated to all program administrators, coaches, parents and players:

Organizational bylaws specifically defining: purposes, governance, committee/officer structure, eligibility, league membership, grievance procedures, and conflict of interest guidelines. Also needed: mission and vision statement, age and eligibility requirements, dues structure and annual budget, behavior guidelines and an inclusion statement.

Organizations must establish and utilize a multi-faceted communication system in order to keep players, coaches, administrators and parents clear on leagues policies, practices and Gold Stick progress. At a minimum, this communication system must include the following fully functioning elements:

  • Web site
    1. Provides public/league-wide access to all league administrative, contact, rule, emergency, safety and schedule information
    2. Site is updated regularly to house current and accurate league information
  • Email platform
    1. Current and accurate email contact information for all parents, coaches and player
    2. Annually confirms accuracy of list
  • Templated/standardized face-to-face meetings – at a minimum, the following must be conducted annually:
    1. League board/leadership pre-season/off season meeting
    2. Focus: Any changes to rules or policy
    3. Pre-season coaches meeting
      1. Focus: Affirmation of program’s coaching philosophy, address and highlight any rule changes, disseminate any changes made during Leadership meeting
    4. Pre-season parents meeting
      1. Focus: In addition to standard coach-parent content (i.e. when and where practices are, etc.), programs must be able to use parents meetings to disseminate:
        1. Any program-wide philosophies, policies, and rules
        2. Any program-wide expectations for parent behavior and conduct
  • Organization has written policies and plans for safety and risk management that are publicly available and regularly communicated to program coaches, administrators, and parents. Unless specifically noted, all policies are followed during all practices and games.

    Rationale:

    US Lacrosse believes that in order to maximize player safety, minimize risk and establish clear expectations, all lacrosse organizations need clearly defined and publicly stated safety and risk management policies that are regularly communicated to all stakeholders.

    Meeting the standard:

    Leagues and programs must have documented, promoted and publicly available policies and resources that at a minimum must include the following safety and risk management components:

  • Emergency Action Plan (EAP), at a minimum:
    • Plan must be comprehensive and practical, yet flexible enough to adapt to any emergency situation.
    • Plan must have written documents for each location and be provided to coaches and field leader at each location.
    • Plan must identify the personnel involved in carrying out the EAP.
    • Plan must specify the equipment needed to carry out the tasks required in an emergency, and specify the location of all equipment.
    • Plan must be rehearsed annually, with results determining whether the EAP must be modified. Documentation should reflect how the plan was changed.
    • Plan must be reviewed at least annually by organizational leadership, local emergency leaders and as available, legal counsel.
    • EAP must also include:
      • Coach on-field checklist: includes items coaches need at all times at each practice and game
      • Sudden cardiac arrest and commotio cordis protocol
      • CPR awareness and protocol
      • AED awareness and protocol
      • First Aid plan, including a stocked First Aid kit
      • Concussion management plan
      • Heat illness protocol and dehydration policy
      • Extreme weather policies and protocol: lightning, tornado/severe storm
      • Incident reporting and documentation protocol
  • Concussion Management Plan (CMP):
    • At a minimum, the CMP must include:
    • Concussion education for athletes, parents, coaches, and program administrators including: the signs and symptoms, possible prevention, mechanisms of injury, treatment, return to activity guidelines, and limitations of protective equipment.
    • A process that removes an athlete who exhibits signs, symptoms or behaviors suggestive of a concussion from athletic activities and does not allow return to play until that athlete is evaluated and cleared (in writing) by a healthcare professional.
    • A written policy that precludes an athlete diagnosed with a concussion from returning to athletic activity for at least the remainder of that calendar day.
    • A written policy that provides a multi-step outline of the return-to-play protocol, how it will be managed and what players, coaches and parents should expect if there is a concussion diagnosis.
  • Safe Sport Program
    • At a minimum, the following policies must be included:
    • Defined and assigned 'Athlete Safety Director' duties
    • Required reporting and adjudication procedures
    • Appropriate behavior guidelines and limitations
      • One on one interactions
      • Physical contact
      • Communication
      • Verbal, physical and psychological abuse
    • Education program for athletes, parents, coaches and administrators

    Additional Best Practices:

    League provides a detailed sportsmanship and conduct policy to players, parents, coaches, officials and administrators. Additionally, the league has an established and publicized process to receive, review and address all incidents relating to the violation of these policies.

    Rationale:

    US Lacrosse believes that all lacrosse players, coaches, officials, parents and fans have a responsibility to prioritize player safety and embrace positive conduct and sportsmanship as a fundamental tenant of their lacrosse programs. We also believe that each constituent should embrace and be held accountable for their personal conduct (on and off the field) and to know the appropriate on-field and league rules and support the healthy development of the youth player and league culture by adhering and supporting these rules.

    In addition to sportsmanship and conduct policies, a simple and transparent process must be established to accept and address all constituent concerns and violations of these policies.

    Meeting the standard:

    Lacrosse organizations must minimally have the following policies and resources documented, promoted and publicly available to all participants:

    • Codes of conduct: clearly defines expectations; annually signed by all players, coaches and parents
    • Grievance and Conduct Violation Policy: clearly outlining how constituents can submit issues/concerns, the process by which they will be reviewed and addressed, and the timeline and format that will be followed to return the outcome and/or information
    • Game day policy, includes:
      • Pre/post-game sportsmanship procedures (such as hand shake)
      • Officials Engagement policy
      • Game sportsmanship message, to be read prior to each game
      • Sideline Conduct policies, potentially posted at game site
    • Playing Time policies
    • Inclusion Statement
    • Additional Best Practices:

      (1) Require coaches to be fully USL Level certified before their first season
      (2) Require all parents to complete the PCA's Second-Goal Parent online course
      (3) Fully adopt and implement the US Lacrosse Sportsmanship Card program
      (4) Establish and communicate participation limits and rest guidelines

      Tools and resources available to support programs seeking to meet this standard:

    All head coaches are NCSI background checked and Level 1 certified through the US Lacrosse Coaching Education Program.

    Rationale:

    US Lacrosse believes that all lacrosse coaches need to have baseline, sport-specific training in order to provide the most effective, safe and enjoyable playing environment for participants. US Lacrosse strongly recommends that youth lacrosse programs establish a criminal history background check program for all coaches and volunteers who interact with youth players. The US Lacrosse coaching education program provides the most comprehensive lacrosse training curriculum with a solid platform to deliver national standardized training to all lacrosse coaches in any program at any level; and we believe that full Level 1 certification represents a high standard of achievement and comprehensive suite of training, insurance coverage and screening unparalleled in the youth sports arena. The components of certification are: current USL membership, Level 1 Online Course, Level 1 Instructional Clinic, How to Make Proper Contact Online Course (men’s game coaches only), Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) Double-Goal Coach 1 Workshop (online or in-person) and the NCSI background screening (non-expired).

    Meeting the standard:

    Leagues and programs must require, at a minimum, that all head coaches hold a current US Lacrosse NCSI background screening and have completed the Level 1 online course before commencement of their first season. Coaches must complete the remaining Level 1 certification requirements (How to Make Proper Contact, PCA and the Level 1 instructional clinic) before commencement of the second season of coaching at the latest. (This includes non-concurrent seasons)

    Certified coaches must renew membership annually and background screening every two years in order to maintain a non-expired certification.

    US Lacrosse strongly encourages all of a program’s head coaches to complete the certification before the completion of the first season but also recognizes this may not be feasible.

    Tips to Meet the Standard

      (1) Help your coaches become members of US Lacrosse, so that they can easily sign up for online courses, on-field clinics, and continuing education opportunities offered through US Lacrosse and the NFHS.
      (2) Ensure that your program’s timeline for identifying coaches is long enough before the season that most coaches can make plans to attend a Level 1 instructional clinic, or consider working with your local chapter to host or support one.
      (3) Communicate early and often with coaches how and when to complete their training requirements (resources available from US Lacrosse).
      (4) Use the online tracking tools available to you from US Lacrosse to view your coaches’ training progress and certifications.

    Additional Best Practices:

    • Require the passage of the background screening before engaging the coach in the program. Use this as the first “gate.” It is much easier to deny participation if this occurs before the coach is identified with the program or assigned to a team. (see MBYLL CORI model).
    • Before “hiring” a coach, it is strongly recommended that programs have a formal application process, interview process, and reference check of last coaching positions (see USOC SafeSports handbook)
    • Require coaches to complete a free concussion awareness course. USL does not require this as part of Level 1 certification at this time nor does it endorse any specific course. Gold standard leagues have the policies and resources in their distributed materials.
    • Require coaches to complete the PCA Double Goal Coach 1 clinic (online or in-person) before or during the coaches’ first season.
    • Use program view in uslaxteams.com or uslacrosse.org sites to view coaches training achievements.

    For programs seeking to meet this standard, US Lacrosse strongly recommends working with your US Lacrosse Chapter and Regional Representatives to acquire tools and resources; to answer questions and to request support in the application and fulfillment process.

    Organizations must require that all officials assigned to games are US Lacrosse certified. All contests (with the exception of U-9 on a shortened field) will have a minimum of two officials assigned to each contest.

    Rationale:

    US Lacrosse believes that all lacrosse officials need to have baseline, classroom and on-field training experience in order to provide the most effective, safe and enjoyable playing environment for participants. US Lacrosse officials education program provides the most comprehensive training curriculum and clinicians with a solid platform to deliver national standardized training to all lacrosse officials. Certification represents a base standard of on-field skills and abilities to implement the training that has been received, as well as comprehensive insurance coverage for all reasonable contests following a US Lacrosse recognized rulebook.

    Officials are expected to be active participants in on-going educational and professional development, which means regardless of certification level, officials are current with the latest rule interpretations, and information from all relevant rule making bodies.

    Meeting the standard:

    • Organizations must require that all officials assigned to games are US Lacrosse certified. All contests (with the exception of U-9 on a shortened field) will have a minimum of two officials assigned to each contest.
    • Organizations should either utilize the services of a Local Officials Organization and an Assigner, or should be in compliance with the standards set forth for appropriately assigning games by both the level of play and rules the players will be using, as well as the level of certification currently held by the official.
    • Through a comprehensive partnership with ArbiterSports.com assigners will be able to view officials certification completion and membership in ArbiterSports.com.

    Tips to Meet This Standard

    • Meet with the Local Officials Association leadership to establish a relationship and rapport.
    • When recruiting staff for the league also recruit and refer people to the officials education program. The responsibility to service the game is shared by all participants, so when you’re recruiting parents to coach and volunteer, also recruit them to officiate.
    • Communicate early and often with the Local Officials Association regarding your play dates and tournaments
    • Use the online tracking tools available to you from US Lacrosse to view your officials’ training progress and certifications. Implement and encourage the older youth player participants to be junior officials to service your league.
    • Establish guidelines for conduct regarding parent/coach interactions with officials
    • If and when using junior officials on contests implement a game administrator at every field and/or a silent sideline protocol.

    Additional Best Practices:

    • Provide scholarships for promising officials to attend ongoing training opportunities through US Lacrosse
    • Recognize officials for their part in the success of your program by including them in any award or recognition programs
    • Provide or offset the cost the Local Officials Association incurs to put on the officials training – classroom space, clinician compensation, classroom materials, new officials registration fees, field space and play days.
    • In concert with the Local Officials Association, utilize the ala carte background check feature of the new database system, and require all officials to have a current background screening through NCSI

    All players, coaches, officials and administrators are current US lacrosse members.

    Rationale:

    US Lacrosse firmly believes that the optimal lacrosse experience includes a US Lacrosse membership. US Lacrosse is dedicated to providing our members with the opportunity to discover and ultimately embrace the shared passion of the lacrosse experience. Being a US Lacrosse member allows lacrosse organizations to provide protection for their players via US Lacrosse's superior insurance program that provides unmatched supplemental accident insurance and general liability for the league. Additionally, members of US Lacrosse receive tangible benefits that will enhance their game and directly connect them to the greater lacrosse community. These benefits include, but are not limited to:

    • US Lacrosse team and league development resources and best practices
    • Direct connection to safety initiatives, breaking lacrosse news and ties back to the communal aspect of lacrosse.
    • Educational training for coaches and officials, like free access to all CEP and OEP online training courses.
    • A comprehensive lacrosse insurance program
    • Direct assistance and relationship with local US Lacrosse Chapters
    • Lacrosse Magazine and access to LaxMagazine.com
    • Exclusive invitations to clinics, games and special events
    • Constituent specific newsletters
    • Member discounts, grant programs and much more!

    Meeting the standard:

    Leagues / Programs must require, and verify to the best of their ability, 100% US Lacrosse membership of all participants (players, coaches, administrators), within their scope of operation.

    Additional Best Practices:

    • To more easily meet this standard,
      • Properly maintain league’s/program’s and Program Administrator’s records in the USL database in order to assure that information is accurate
      • Initiate and complete registration with enough lead time to ensure proper membership well before the season begins.
      • Use the online tracking tools available to you from US Lacrosse to view your participants’ membership information
    • Additionally it is recommended as best practice to:
      • Use USLaxTeams.com / LeagueAthletics to integrate registration process to include membership workflow

    Tools and Resources

    Questions?

    Please contact the US Lacrosse Programs Department by e-mail at sportdevelopment@uslacrosse.org.