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The NFL’s recent officiating debacle provides the perfect example of what can happen when improperly trained officials take the field in any sport. Unfortunately, the lack of consistent, national education and training requirements for officials has been an issue in men’s and women’s lacrosse for many years. With the exception of college officials, national certification requirements for which have been in place for a number of years, the responsibility of educating and training youth and high school lacrosse officials has been largely the responsibility of independent local officials associations. While these associations continue to play an important role in the sport’s development, the way they train and evaluate youth and high school officials varies widely because, prior to US Lacrosse, no standardized officials training and certification requirements existed. This longstanding inconsistency has resulted in significant differences in how games are called, which is compromising player safety to a greater and greater degree.
Just as important, youth leagues and tournament organizers must demand that their investment in officiating services – typically their biggest expense – is contingent upon the assignment of at least two qualified officials, properly-trained according to US Lacrosse-established education standards and rule mechanics, to every game. In many cases this won’t happen unless consumers – the parents who care so deeply about the safety of their children, as well as the opportunity lacrosse can provide, exercise their influence to make sure that officials, leagues and tournaments are each doing the right thing. US Lacrosse is doing its part, as well, by launching our Gold Stick Standards of Excellence as a way for parents and administrators to differentiate between lacrosse leagues and events that follow national best-practices…and those that don’t. To learn more, visit www.uslacrosse.org/GoldStick.
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