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New Youth Lax Rules for 2012 (w/ Coach B comments!)

Posted by Barry Marenberg on October 12, 2011

U.S. Lacrosse has adopted a number of new age-appropriate youth rules for the upcoming Spring 2012 season.  It will be up to individual lacrosse organizations to adopt and implement the proposed changes.  I wholeheartedly believe the changes should be adopted.   I’m going to summarize below the relevant portions (as they apply to Boys lacrosse) and add my own personal comments following each proposal.

(1) Sticks/Equipment:  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.

Coach B comments: I agree with these changes.  The younger players can benefit from using a smaller stick length.  This will allow them to learn to master throwing and catching with a stick that is more comfortable in their hands. With regard to the requirement that a goalie wear a protective cup — any goalie who chose not to wear a cup should have had his head examined! 😉  With regard to longpoles, there are differing schools of thought – some believe getting the longpole into a player’s hands early allows the player to get used to the pole length and develop the defensive skills early.  Others believe that mastering the fundamentals of lacrosse are difficult enough and should be mastered first with a short stick before moving on to a longpole.  Personally I align with the latter view but do believe that each player should be evaluated individually and that some boys can benefit from using the longpole earlier.

(2) On-Field Coaching (U9 level): At the U9 level, given mutual agreement of the teams, one coach per team may step onto the field during play to provide instruction.

Coach B comments: Great idea. At this level, players can benefit immensely from having a coach on the field with them.  If a coach can be on the field during play, he will be able to communicate with individual players easily and more quickly.

(3) Checking: The distance from a player to a loose ball within which legal stick checks, holds, body checks and pushes may occur is  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.

Coach B comments: like many other coaches/former players who have commented on the new 3-yard contact rule, I would have spent significantly more time in the penalty box as a player if this rule had been in place back in my playing days!  Nevertheless, 5 yards is quite a bit of distance and in the name of safety, restricting the contact to 3 yards should make the game a lot safer.   With regard to the one-hand slash rule, I like this change as well.  Middies and attackmen should learn the fundamentals of the ride by moving in step with their opponent and not flailing their stick wildly.  Penalizing this now at the youth level with condition players at a young age to that its not a problem at the higher levels of lacrosse.

(4) Score Differential: 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).

Coach B comments: In the North Jersey Junior Lacrosse League in which my Chiefs play, this rule has been in effect for years.  At the younger levels I think this rule is a good one since it attempts to keep the score close and provides each team with the opportunity to get as many touches as possible.

(5) Extra Man Situations: There will be no extra-man situations at the U9 level.

Coach B comments: Agree!  In the North Jersey Junior Lacrosse League we have not allowed man-up play on our 3rd/4th grade teams for years.  The penalized player simply leaves the field to serve the penalty and a new player subs in.  This lets another player into the game while the penalized players serves his penalty.

(6) Personal Fouls: 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.

Coach B comments: I’ve never been involved in a game where a player accumulated 3 or 4 personal fouls but if US Lacrosse felt the need to propose this rule change then it obviously happens.  A player getting 3 or 4 personal fouls is just outrageous and should not be tolerated at any level. Good rule to enforce now.

(7) Honoring the Game: 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.

Coach B comments: this one is a no-brainer.  The youth game is all about developing lacrosse players to appreciate the game and play it with true sportsmanship.  Any actions not inline with “Honoring the Game” or anything that detracts from Honoring the Game that cannot be toleratedI have seen many players – my own and those on opposing teams – mouthing off, slamming their stick after a poor play and other verbal and/or physical actions that just should not be a part of the game.  Calling more penalties for these types of actions will will provide negative incentive to avoid these types of behavior outright.

By the way, for those not fully fluent in the lacrosse age grouping lingo, the following is how US Lacrosse defines the  age group references for league and association play:

U15: Players 14 years old or younger on the August 31st preceding the season or competition season.
U13: Players 12 years old or younger on the August 31st preceding the season or competition season.
U11: Players 10 years old or younger on the August 31st preceding the season or competition season.
U9: Players 8 years old or younger on the August 31st preceding the season or competition season.

So there you have it – my take on the most notable of the newly proposed rules.  As the saying goes – HONOR THE GAME!

– Coach B


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