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By Gordon Corsetti
This post is the first of a multi-part series breaking down personal fouls in youth and high school boys lacrosse. Quotes and explanations below are specific to NFHS and US Lacrosse Boys’ Youth Rules. The post has been reviewed by Walt Munze, the national NFHS rules interpreter.
Rule 5.7.1: “Swinging a crosse at an opponent’s crosse or body with deliberate viciousness or reckless abandon, regardless of whether the opponent’s crosse or body is struck.”
Personal foul for 1, 2 or 3 minutes.
At all levels of play, officials must judge whether a swing is vicious, reckless or both. The threshold for vicious and reckless swings is higher at the high school level compared to the youth level. A game between two high school rivals will have a higher limit for what constitutes slashing than a U11 game.
A vicious swing is most clearly defined as one that would do serious damage if a player were not wearing equipment. A huge two-handed swing that crashes down on the top of a shoulder pad is a vicious swing because without equipment, a player would likely suffer an injury.
A reckless swing is one that demonstrates a lack of control. The two most common examples are when a defender is beat and quickly swings his crosse behind him, and a riding attackman whips a one-handed check to a clearing midfielder who just broke past the midfield line. Those checks have a low chance of only hitting stick or glove hand, and if a player swings in desperation and hits the body, it’s likely that a flag will be thrown.
One key part of this rule that many people miss is that contact is not required for a slash to be called. While it is very rare for slashing to be called at the high school level without contact, it is more likely at the youth levels, where such an uncontrolled swing needs to be flagged so the coach has an opportunity to teach his player about better defensive fundamentals.
For games played under US Lacrosse Youth Rules, add Rule 5.7.4: “Any one-handed check shall be considered a slash, whether or not it makes contact with the opposing player. NOTE: if the defensive player’s hand comes off his stick in his legitimate follow-through motion after, or during his recovery from, a controlled poke check, this need not be considered a slash solely because his hand came off the stick.”
At the youth level, a one-handed swing is considered reckless and should be penalized as a slash. The qualifier of the hand coming off the check is because many youth players lose their grip when their stick recoils, which is often the result of a good check and not a demonstration of a lack of control or a true one-handed wind-up.
The NFHS rulebook lists five specific situations to better explain common situations where slashing may or may not be the appropriate call. Here the situation is quoted and the “why” explained.
B1, while playing A1, makes contact on A1’s head with his crosse.
Ruling: No penalty. Contact itself does not constitute a foul. The contact shall be a definite blow or strike. Otherwise, it is considered a brush.
Explanation: Reports that brushes were dead were highly exaggerated. Brushes exist at every level of play; if they didn’t U9 games would take three hours to finish.
A1, in the act of shooting or passing, strikes B1 on the head because of his legitimate follow-through motion. Has A1 committed a foul for striking an opponent on the head?
Ruling: No penalty. A1 was in the act of shooting or passing.
Explanation: “Legitimate follow-through” is the important part. If a player shoots or passes, and his stick somehow finds a way to smack into a player standing off to the side, then that is a player trying to disguise a slash as a pass or shot.
Can a defensive player, who does not have reasonable access to an opponent’s crosse and makes no apparent attempt to dislodge the ball or prevent a feeder’s pass, choose to strike repeatedly the lower gloved hand on the crosse with undue force?
Ruling: Penalty. Personal foul for slashing.
Explanation: There are a few things to pay attention to here, in particular “reasonable access” and “no apparent attempt.” There is a difference between a defender timing a check to the glove to disrupt an offensive player’s rhythm and just wailing on the hands holding the stick. That is an attempt to injure and not an attempt to pop the ball out.
A1, advancing the ball toward B1, holds his crosse back with one hand and protects his crosse with the other arm. B1 then swings his crosse and strikes A1’s protecting arm.
Ruling: Penalty. Personal foul, slashing against B1.
Explanation: This situation really forces the official to judge all of the different parts of slashing. Is the swing reckless and/or vicious, and is the contact a definite blow or strike? If yes, slash; if no, brush. The higher threshold for checking at the high school level means that some checks to the arm will go uncalled because more often than not, a single swing does not reach that threshold.
A3 has beaten B2, who swings his stick in a check and strikes A3 on the shoulder or across the back in an attempt to get to A3’s stick.
Ruling: Penalty. Personal foul, slashing against B2. This is an illegal back check.
Explanation: One of the most common displays of a reckless swing that catches the body is the desperation check from a beaten defender. These checks make the job of an official pretty easy because if the swing hits anything but the stick or gloved hand a slash is pretty evident to everyone at the game.
Gordon Corsetti is manager for men's officials education for US Lacrosse. Still have questions about how slashing works? Leave a comment below or submit a question here.
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