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By Gordon Corsetti
Earlier this month, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) published the rules changes for the 2016 high school boys’ lacrosse season. What follows is a layman's explanation of the four major rules changes and five points of emphasis to help you better understand what's new for the upcoming season.
Head dimensions are moving to the NCAA specifications, but this will not be enforced until the 2018 season to give players time to purchase new heads. This is a big plus in the consistency column between NCAA and NFHS rules, and once enforced, will benefit teams traveling in the regular and offseason because no matter which rule set is used, the stick specifications will be the same.
Last year the rules committee delayed the implementation of the 4-inch shooting string rule to the 2016 season. Starting next season all players may not have strings below 4 inches from the top of the head, which eliminates the “U” or “V” shooting strings. Players should restring their sticks now to get used to this in fall ball and ask the officials to check their sticks before the game if they have any questions.
Language was added for consistency with other rule codes to prohibit the use of pull strings to alter pocket depth. These strings have only one function: to quickly make the pocket shallow following a goal, and is a clear attempt for a player to have his cake and eat it too. Players shouldn’t be allowed to have a deep pocket and a string that makes his pocket magically legal at the flick of a wrist. Also, players may only use one sidewall string.
One thing that players must keep in mind with these changes is they will be down in the faceoff position longer. The sequence will be:
If a player keeps coming down with his stick on the line or his hand on the plastic after repeated adjustments and verbal warnings by the official; the official may call a pre-whistle violation. Just because the officials may adjust players does not mean players get to come down illegal every time. The cleaner faceoff players get into position, the less time they will spend crouched down being adjusted.
By far the biggest violation for faceoff players and coaches to note is: A violation will be called if a player picks up and carries the ball on the back of his stick. It is legal to clamp the ball with the back of the stick, but it must be moved, raked or directed immediately. Immediately is defined as within one step.
To put it simply, the pinch-and-pop is still legal, as long as the player pops the ball out before he steps in any direction.
Think backcourt violation in basketball. If the offensive team satisfied the 10-second advancement count by touching the ball into the attack box on their half of the field, it is a violation if the ball returns to the defensive half of the field except on a shot or if the defensive team deflects the ball.
This could be an immediate whistle or a play-on. If the ball breaks the plane of the midline and the offensive team was the last to touch it and it lands at the feet of an attackman while he is surrounded by opponents, then it should be an immediate whistle because he has no chance for a clean pickup. However, if the ball rolls over the midline and an attackman makes a beeline for the ball and there isn’t a defenseman within reach, the official may signal and say “play-on” to give the attackman a chance to pick up the ball and push for a fast break.
Penalties for excessive hits to the head and neck, as well as penalties for hits to defenseless players and blindside hits.
This is a point of emphasis nearly every year. Coaches and players are reminded that high hits and hits to defenseless players and blindside hits should not be part of the game, and officials are reminded to make these calls when they occur.
Helmets shall meet current NOCSAE standards and be properly fitted for each player.
Officials certify coaches before every game that the equipment is legal for play and that all players know how to properly wear the equipment. Coaches are reminded to ensure that helmets (and all equipment including sticks) are legal before every game.
It is recommended that the final three minutes of intermission be used as a team warm-up period.
Injury statistics led to this point of emphasis. The rules committee was alerted that many injuries that could be attributed to players moving very little during halftime and then starting the second half with cold and tight muscles. This is an emphasis to coaches to have all players participate in a warm-up before the next half.
Coaches should educate players on the need to be properly equipped at all times.
This is a safety emphasis and it makes sense. Players shooting hard on an empty net or walking around or through drills without helmets and other required equipment put themselves at an unnecessary risk for injury.
It is recommended that coaches not teach nor encourage field players to block the goal when the goalkeeper has vacated the goal crease area.
The goalkeeper wears very specific and required equipment (throat guard and chest protector) to reduce the risk of injury from shots. Field players do not, and that is why coaches are asked to not teach or encourage this action.
It is important to note that there is no rule against a field player diving in front of the goal to stop a shot.
Gordon Corsetti is manager for men's officials education for US Lacrosse.
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