BALTIMORE, Sept. 15, 2011 — The US Lacrosse Board of Directors voted Saturday to approve age-appropriate, national playing rules for youth boys’ lacrosse and youth girls’ lacrosse, as recommended by the US Lacrosse Men’s and Women’s Game committees, respectively. The vote implements the rules for the 2012 season, including the annual US Lacrosse Regional and National Championships slated for June and July, respectively.
"Ensuring a positive youth lacrosse experience remains at the core of US Lacrosse’s operations, and passage of the youth rules represents an important first step in moving the youth game from good to great," said Lee Stevens, chair of the US Lacrosse Board of Directors.
The youth rules and accompanying best practices emphasize the proper development of individual stick skills, team play, player safety and sportsmanship, and they will govern play at the U15, U13, U11 and U9 age levels. The research and development effort included those most closely involved in the youth game among US Lacrosse staff and volunteers, multiple rounds of surveys that reflected current rules and opinions of over 170,000 constituents in youth lacrosse, and input from the US Lacrosse Sports Science and Safety Committee.
"This has been an exhaustive team effort by many stakeholders in youth lacrosse," said Ann Carpenetti, managing director of game administration at US Lacrosse. "We wanted to level the playing field of youth lacrosse across the nation and bring the focus to player development and safety."
US Lacrosse has held or scheduled meetings with youth leagues around the country regarding the best practices and newly approved rules. Among the leagues already on board are the Mass Bay Youth Lacrosse League and the Mass Bay Girls Lacrosse League, which total more than 1,000 teams and 21,000 players.
"We’re very supportive as a league," said Tom Spangenberg, president of the Mass Bay Youth Lacrosse League. "Having US Lacrosse unify a set of rules that are geared towards safety, sportsmanship, fair play and fun is a good thing. US Lacrosse is the right place for it to come from."
The youth rules and best practices will be published in various US Lacrosse media, including a new guidebook. Below are selected highlights from the rules passed by the US Lacrosse Board of Directors:
Boys’ and Girls’ Lacrosse
Leagues and tournaments should field U15, U13, U11 and U9 teams based on the age of the player, with Aug. 31 the cutoff date. For example, all players on a U13 team must be 12 years old or younger on Aug. 31 of the preceding year.
US Lacrosse made a number of amendments to the National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations (NFHS) boys’ lacrosse rules. Play not specifically addressed by an amendment will still be governed by NFHS rules.
The minimum stick length at the U11 and U9 levels will decrease from 40 to 37 inches (maximum of 42 inches). Long poles will be prohibited at the U9 level, and they will not be recommended for U11. Strings or leathers will be limited to a hanging length of 2 inches. All goalies will be required to wear arm pads and a protective cup.
At the U9 level, given mutual agreement of the teams, one coach per team may step onto the field during play to provide instruction.
Depending on the age level, the length of game quarters may vary from 10 minutes of stop time (U15, U13) to eight minutes of stop time (U11) to 12 minutes of running time (U9). In the last two minutes of regulation at the U11 and U9 age levels only, rules dictating that the offensive team must keep the ball in the attack zone will be waived. However, game officials may warn against and penalize stalling tactics. Also in the U11 and U9 divisions, should the score differential become four or more goals, the trailing team will be given the ball at midfield following a goal (unless the trailing team opts for a standard faceoff).
The defensive 20-second count and the offensive 10-second count will not be used in U11 and U9 play.
The distance from a player to a loose ball within which legal stick checks, holds, body checks and pushes may occur will be reduced from 5 yards to 3 yards at all age levels.
Violent, purposeful collisions, particularly those targeted at unsuspecting players and that feature one player intentionally putting another player on the ground or inflicting injury, will be prohibited at all age levels. This would include an illegal body check on a player in a defenseless position — one whose blind side is exposed to the hit, who has his head turned for a pass or who has his head down playing a loose ball. Body checking will be prohibited at the U11 and U9 age levels.
At the U13, U11 and U9 levels, any one-handed check will be considered a slash, regardless if the attempt makes contact with the opposing player.
Honoring the game remains an important part of the youth lacrosse experience, and US Lacrosse added examples of unsportsmanlike conduct — including verbal language and body language — that may be penalized by game officials.
A U15 or a U13 player that accumulates four personal fouls or five minutes in personal foul penalty time will be disqualified. At the U11 and U9 level, three personal fouls would warrant disqualification.
In games where running time is used, penalties also will be running time and will begin with the resumption of play whistle. Penalty time will stop for all timeouts and end of periods. At the U9 level only, the offending player must leave the field for his designated penalty time, but a substitute should enter at the time of the penalty. There will be no extra-man situations at the U9 level.
Full checking will be allowed at the U15 level as long as there are two officials assigned to the game, one of which must at least have a Local rating. Modified checking (below the shoulder) is allowed at the U13 level. No checking is allowed at the U9 or U11 level.
At the U9 level, the field shall be rectangular, 60-70 yards in length and 30-40 yards in width. Fields should be marked with 8-meter arc, goal circle and center circle. U11 may play on the modified field with reduced players if they choose or if their participation numbers do not allow for a full team on a regulation field. Standard size fields will be used at U13 and U15 levels.
An initiated or non-incidental check to the head is a mandatory red card at the U15 level. At the U13, U11 and U9 levels, checks to the head will result in yellow cards.
Mesh stringing is allowed only for goalie sticks and the maximum stick length for goalies is now 52 inches.
The deputy (allowing a field player to enter the goal circle in place of the goalie) has been eliminated at all youth levels.
At the U9 level, one coach from each team is allowed on the field to instruct players. At the U11 and U13 levels, coaching are permitted along the length of the field, going behind their opponent’s bench. At the U15 level, coaches are allowed from the substitution area to the end line on their own half of the field.
U9 and U11 games will play 20 minutes halves (maximum). U13 and U15 games will play 25 minutes halves (maximum).
If a team is ahead by four goals, the team with fewer goals gets possession at the center of the field and this player may run or pass, but may not shoot unless another player has played the ball. The team with fewer goals may choose to start with a draw.
For more information about US Lacrosse’s youth game initiative, visit www.uslacrosse.org/youthrules2012.
About US Lacrosse
US Lacrosse, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, is the national governing body for men’s and women’s lacrosse. US Lacrosse is the parent organization of the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams program. US Lacrosse has nearly 375,000 members in 63 regional chapters around the country. Through responsive and effective leadership, US Lacrosse strives to provide programs and services to inspire participation while protecting the integrity of the game. To learn more about US Lacrosse, please visit www.uslacrosse.org.