Self-starts, a cleared defensive zone for 8-meter free positions, and a new checking category for play at the U14/U13 level are among the new US Lacrosse girls’ youth rules approved for the 2019 season. 

Developed by the US Lacrosse Women’s Rules Committee, most of the changes align with the recent changes announced for girls’ high school rules. US Lacrosse youth rules seek to balance safety concerns and the specificities of the youth game with a larger understanding and commitment to the growth and evolution of the sport. 

“While the rule changes for 2019 are significant, we feel that they will encourage growth and enjoyment of the game for all our youth players,” said Aubrey Whittier, chair of the US Lacrosse Women’s Rules Committee.

The most substantial change for the upcoming season is the introduction of self-starts for most play outside of the critical scoring area. After reviewing the implementation of self-starts and free movement at the collegiate level, the rules committee recognized that the game is evolving in ways that increase pace of play and decrease official’s involvement in restarting play and the burden of monitoring players behind the play.  

The committee was mindful of implementing changes in a way that both allowed for appropriate education of officials on a national level and the excitement for the evolution of the game.  

“I believe that these rules appropriately reflect US Lacrosse’s commitment to promote the growth of the game and are focused on ensuring a standardized and safe playing experience for youth athletes. This is a great step for the future of our game,” said Caitlin Kelley, US Lacrosse staff liaison to the rules committee. 

Another change is the creation of a penalty zone in the critical scoring area, such that all players’ and sticks must be 8 meters away from the goal circle above goal line extended and the area created by the extension of the 8-meter mark to the dots and across the dots. This zone was created to establish an area that must be cleared when a major foul by a defensive player occurs from the 8-meter arc down to the goal lines extended. Clearing this area will increase both safety and pace of play by limiting the recurrence of shooting space calls.

A significant change specific to the youth game at the 14U (and 13U level) is the introduction of a new checking category, transitional checking. This checking category was created to balance the development of checking skills with concerns about safety and studies of physical skill development and concussion risk for 14U players. The general parameters of the transitional checking category allow 13U and 14U players to check above the shoulder but extend the sphere area around the head where checks are not allowed from 7 inches to 12 inches. Additionally, checks across the body will be prohibited.

Finally, the rules committee aligned with the new high school rule to establish the release of the ball from the stick as the definition for a shot. This change allows that a goal can be scored if the shot occurs before time expires rather than when the whole ball passes completely over the goal line. 

“US Lacrosse rules are grounded in the principles of player experience and safety, the integrity of competition and balance between offense and defense, the alignment across levels of play, and the preservation of the integrity of the game,” Kelley said.  

Three points of emphasis have been identified for the 2019 season:

• Obstruction of Free Space to Goal - Opportunity to Shoot 
• Rough and Dangerous Play
• Empty Stick Checks - Intentional vs. Incidental Contact

A focus on penalizing Rough and Dangerous play is a priority to the rules committee because it disrupts the flow of play and also places the player at risk for injury. This point of emphasis highlights that any check performed in a reckless, dangerous or intimidating manner around or into a player in playing distance from the opposing player must be called. Additionally, any other action with the stick which in the official’s opinion amounts to dangerous or intimidating play can be called.  

The complete list of rule changes will be contained in the rule book which will be posted online this fall and available for purchase online. Additionally, US Lacrosse will provide more in-depth FAQs on self-start and the penalty zone in the coming weeks.  US Lacrosse, through its officials’ and coaches’ education programs, will be focused throughout the fall and during the 2019 National Convention to provide instruction and support to its constituents to prepare for the new season.