The Rules of the Game
part of an E-Lacrosse Interview with Trish Cummings
In this issue of Girls Lax Guide, I will be focusing on several of the key rules in women's lacrosse. Whether you are learning to play, coach or just watch lacrosse, this will give you a basic overview of the game. I will also discuss the new modified checking rule that is currently being instituted in youth lacrosse and up to eighth grade leagues in many areas.
A women's lacrosse game is started with a center draw. The two opposing players stand with one foot on the centerline. They hold their crosses in the air, back to back at about hip level so that the ball can be placed in between them. The players must remain set until the whistle is blown. They should draw their sticks up and away from each other so that the flight of the ball is above their heads. A center draw is used to begin the first and second half of the game. It is also taken after any goal scored during the game.
Not to state the obvious, but the winner of a women's lacrosse game is the team who scores the greater number of goals. The whole ball must pass over the goal line and between the posts to constitute a goal and receive a point. There are several reasons why goals can be disallowed. A goal is not counted in the following cases:
The ball goes in the goal after the whistle is blown.
The player has followed through a shot with her stick and/or body into the goal circle.
The ball enters the goal when the attacking team has more than seven players over the restraining line.
The umpire has called either a dangerous shot or follow throw on goal.
The Stand Rule
The stand rule is one of those that spectators often don't understand. When the whistle is blown, all players must stop and stand in that position. The ball is considered dead until the whistle is blown again to continue game play. Therefore, players on the field may not move on a dead ball when the whistle is blown. If a time-out is called during a stand, all the players will leave their sticks where they stopped when the whistle blew and then come back to that spot to continue play after the break.
In a women's lacrosse game, when indecision occurs warranting a fair and even distribution of the ball, like a "jump ball" in basketball, a throw is taken.
The throw is taken by one player from each team, usually the two involved in the initial pursuit of the ball or in conflict when the indecision occurred. The two players stand next to each other about 1 meter apart on the side that they are defending. On the whistle, the umpire throws the ball with a short high toss so that the two players can move in towards the game as they attempt to catch it and run or pass to a teammate. On a throw, the umpire positions herself 4 to 8 meters from the two players. The throw is taken where the incident happens on the field. All other players on the field must be at least 4 meters away from the two players involved in the throw. If for some reason, the throw is not taken properly and neither player touches the ball, it will be redone over again. A throw can be taken in the following cases, for example:
The ball becomes lodged in the clothing of a player or umpire.
Both players draw in an illegal manner or it cannot be determined why the draw was illegal.
The game is stopped for any reason not specified in the rules.
The Modified Checking Rule
A new modified checking rule has just been established for many middle school teams and recreation council lacrosse programs. The adjustment is a very important change to the way young women are taught the game. The main emphasis for youth players is to master the fundamental skills such as cradling, scooping, passing, catching, footwork, proper positioning and marking. Under the new scheme, eighth graders and younger would play with the modified (or stricter) rules as an intermediate step towards full checking in the ninth grade and beyond. Modified checking rules only allow checking the stick if it is below shoulder level, using a downward motion away from the other player's body.
For young players, the major objective on defense is to practice running with your opponent, shadowing her stick, working to come up with a block and/ or interception while also maintaining proper goal side position. By seeing your player and the ball at all times, you have the ability to pick up any ground balls and come up with possession of the ball for midfield transition. When marking a player with the ball, the defense should always employ patience and accurate timing, along with precise checking, and under these rules, only below shoulder level. Older youth players can improve and hone their checking skills, before they are used in potentially dangerous situations. While, at the same time, on the offensive side of the ball, players will have time to develop better stick skills and gain valuable experience before the higher checks become part of their games.
Stick-to-stick contact is not always a violation of this modified checking rule. The defender who holds her stick in good defensive position can force the attacker to cradle into her stick causing contact. It is not considered a stick check because the attacker caused the contact. In another similar case, if the defense pulls her stick up to block or intercept a pass and the attacker makes contact in the act of passing or catching the ball. In both instances, the attacker caused initial contact so it would not be a foul on the defense.
For the most part, the new modified checking rule has been introduced for youth lacrosse programs in order to maintain the safety necessary in keeping lacrosse a non-contact sport. By eliminating any potential or harmful stick checking near a player's head or face, the game will continue to require extreme skill and finesse all over the field. The new rule will allow players to focus on their own body and stick control without having any dangerous, wild or swinging checks near the face and body. It is very important for umpires and coaches to enforce the rule in a serious manner in order to prevent any unnecessary injuries or concussions on the field.
The new modified checking rule emphasizes learning the fundamental skills of lacrosse at a young age. It looks like it will be a success on the field now and for the future.