“Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

-John F. Kennedy

Recently, US Lacrosse published a summary of the changes that are happening to the youth lacrosse rules (boys | girls), effective in 2017.  There are some that feel these changes have gone “too far” and are ruining the sport of lacrosse.

Here’s the thing — we have to change. Kids are dropping out of all youth sports at a rate of up to 70 percent by the age of 13. They’re not hopping over to another sport, they’re quitting sports altogether.  We know more about the ill-effects of concussion and sub-concussive blows to young athletes. We know that kids are specializing not only in a sport, but in a position way too early, leading to overuse injuries and burn out. We like to blame “early-recruiting” for the specialization issues. We like to blame officials for not calling games properly, potentially leading to injury. We like to blame opposing coaches for not teaching their kids properly. We like to blame parents for forcing us to only play the best kids so that we can win the 10U championship, because if we don’t win we won’t have a coaching job next season. The sum of all these parts has detracted from the youth lacrosse experience, more than any shift in the rules of the game ever will.

Folks, we don’t have a rules problem…we have a culture problem in youth lacrosse. We have taken the game away from the kids and forced them into being mini-gladiators who serve to entertain us with their physical prowess, as opposed to their smiles and laughter. We want to see them make plays like Taylor Cummings or Myles Jones make on television. In a survey of 10-18 year olds asking them what they want, their answers were simple; fun, trying something new, making new friends, fair play, and lots of action.

While you may agree or disagree with the rule changes, these changes were not only desirable, but required to improve the lacrosse experience for the kids. Kids will enjoy playing lacrosse no matter what the rules are.  As the adults in charge, we have a collective responsibility to put their best interests first and promote an environment that is fair, safe, and developmentally appropriate. We can no longer continue to put kids on the field and force them to play a game that was designed by adults for adults. The changes are not about you or me and how we played the game. The changes are about the kids, who they are, where they are developmentally and helping them reach their full potential in lacrosse.   

Change is never easy.  Change often forces us out of our comfort zone and challenges us to think and act differently. Change is inevitable. Let’s embrace it and work together to improve the experience for the kids we are charged with coaching.

US Lacrosse is here to help you understand why this change was needed and we have created numerous resources to help program leaders, coaches, officials, and parents understand what Athlete Development is all about and how to create an environment where kids will learn lacrosse better, love lacrosse more, and stay with lacrosse longer. You can find them at www.uslacrosse.org/athlete-development or learning.uslacrosse.org (US Lacrosse login required with free and paid content available for US Lacrosse members).

T.J. Buchanan is the manager of the coaching development program for US Lacrosse.

Lacrosse Athlete Development Model

The Lacrosse Athlete Development Model - Providing every athlete the opportunity to enter, enjoy and excel by learning and playing lacrosse in a way that’s best for each stage of growth and development.

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