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By Gordon Corsetti
This post is part 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 5.2: “A player may not check his opponent with his crosse in a cross-check position. That is, a check with that part of the handle of the crosse that is between the player’s hands, either by thrusting away from the body or by holding it extended from the body.”
Personal Foul for 1, 2, or 3 minutes.
The cross-check penalty is written very simply and is also the shortest rule in the personal fouls section of the rulebook. Despite clear wording, cross-checking is widely misunderstood, and before explaining the rule and the official’s perspective on this call I must stress that:
There is no such thing as a cross-check hold.
The term “cross-check hold” does not exist in the NFHS rulebook. A player may be penalized for a hold or a cross-check, but not a hybrid of the two. Cross-checking is a personal foul and is called when an official judges that safety, not fairness, is a concern.
That safety concern is well founded because getting hit with the exposed metal of a crosse carries a greater risk of injury than getting hit the chest or shoulder. A hit where the crosse is the initial point of contact forces all the energy from the body check into a smaller, more targeted area. For those who haven’t played, an odd but apt comparison is that it’s painful when your foot is stepped on, but it’s excruciating when the other person is wearing stilettos. It isn’t a matter of force, but how that force is applied to the body.
Keep in mind the principle that contact in and of itself is not a penalty. Merely running up to an opposing player and tapping him on the shoulder or chest with the metal between the hands does not set off alarm bells when visualizing that level of contact. However, a player running from a few yards out and leveling another player with one hand on the butt end and the other on the throat brings greater concern to mind.
If a player runs towards another player with his hands apart, the official is already thinking that he might have to make a call. If that player then body checks his opponent with his hands apart and his arms thrust forward, then he just gift-wrapped a cross-check call for the official.
Similarly, if a player runs with his hands apart straight out in front, which is more often seen at the youth levels, as soon as he runs a player over, it’s a pretty clear cross-check call to make.
When a player body checks with his hands apart but his stick is off to the side and he hits with his shoulder, that is not a cross-check. That is a body check with the stick out of the way. This goes back to the rule – in order to be a cross-check, the stick has to be the initial point of contact.
There is no specific youth adjustment to the cross-check rule, but the personal fouls section does state: “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.”
One common fan complaint at the youth level is, “They didn’t call that in the high school game last week!” I am certain the fans are telling the truth, and I also bet that none of the parents at the U13 game let their player climb into the driver’s seat and take the wheel like a 17-year-old may do. Youth players are not high school players. The game is the same, but the rules are different to match the skills of most youth players, as well as their mental and physical development.
Gordon Corsetti is manager for men's officials education for US Lacrosse. Still have questions about how tripping works? Leave a comment below or submit a question here.
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