As some of you know, the NCAA has decided to ban the dive shot for the 1999 season. This, IMO, is an incredibly stupid decision and I support
Lacrosse is probably the oldest American sport and is derived from a sport the Native Americans called Baggataway. The name lacrosse derives from the French la crosse, a reference to the fact that the sticks used in the native game somewhat resembled the bishop's crossier. Baggataway was far less structured than lacrosse today, had fewer rules, and was often a quasi-warfare between tribes to settle differences. Games could range for miles and last for weeks.
Modern men's lacrosse is played on a field usually about that of a full-size soccer field. It resembles hockey, basketball, and soccer to some extent. Box lacrosse is a variation of this, played indoors, and is usually subject to slightly different rules. Lacrosse is now played world-wide, from Australia to the United States to the Czech Republic (it's also the national sport in Canada). Each team starts with ten players on the field. At any given time, four of those players must be present on the defensive half of the field and three must be present on the offensive half. This can be any three or any four (it need not be the same group of players the whole time, so long as there are the correct number of players on the right part of the field).
The field is broken lengthwise into two halves. Each half has a restraining box, a crease, and a goal (referred to as the cage). The restraining box extends twenty yards in front of the goal, from the back of the goal to the end of the field, and most of the distance from the goal to each side of the field. The crease is the circle around the goal. Offensive players may move around in the air above the crease, but may not step or fall into it while the ball is in play. They may reach in with their sticks to get a loose ball. No one may interfere with the goalie when he is in the crease.
There are four different positions. Attack plays up near the opponents cage, usually playing offense. This is usually where the most scoring comes from. Good stick skills are extremely important at this position. Midfielders roam the whole field, playing offense and defense. It is a midfielder that takes the face-off to start the quarter and to restart after a goal. Defenders usually stick to the defensive half of the field and almost always carry long sticks1. They are responsible for protecting the cage, and are usually paired up against attackmen when playing man-on-man defense. The goalie is the person who is psycho enough to stand in the cage and try to stop anything the opposing team throws at him. Goalies should either be willing to take pain or should be immune to it. If they try to duck, they usually aren't very effective.
Modern lacrosse is very structured. Games are usually broken in four quarters (though variations, such as running time halves, may be used). At the high school varsity level, these quarters usually last around fifteen minutes each in actual playing time. The clock stops at every whistle. I will try to go through some of the more basic rules; however, I'm not going to reproduce the whole rule book here. You can buy a copy from either NCAA or Brine for under US $10.
Attention: the NCAA has changed the rules regarding dive shots and made a few other changes for the 1999 season. See the NCAA report.
I may be wrong on some of the following; I don't have a rule book to refer to.
Penalties come in several forms. A technical without possession (where neither team has the ball), such as a loose-ball push, results in the award of possession to the opposing team. A technical with possession (where the team committing the offense has the ball) results in the award of possession to the opposing team. A technical with the other team in possession is a 30-second man-down penalty. Personal penalties result in a man-down situation, usually for a minute (e.g. slashing). Accumulating enough personal penalties in one game can result in expulsion.
Physical contact (body-checking) is allowed within five yards of a loose ball. Also, you may body-check the man with the ball at any time (unless he is the goalie and is in the crease).
I will try to get some pictures to illustrate the above.
It is worth noting that NCAA is considering making offset heads and shafts illegal for the 1999 season (they have said that anything legal in 1997 will be legal in 1998, though). Check out the NCAA report on their decisions.
Various head designs have their advantages and disadvantages. See the Lax Heads FAQ.
There are three kinds of sticks allowed in a modern lacrosse game:
For standard heads, pockets are limited to a certain depth. When you look across a pocket with a ball in it, you should not be able to see the top of the ball and still see across the pocket to the other sidewall. If you can see air over the ball when looking straight across at the bottom of the sidewall, you are looking at an illegal pocket. Officials often also do other tests (e.g. holding a stick almost straight up, head towards the sky and butt-end towards the ground, then tipping it forward to make sure the ball comes out). Check with your coach, league, or officials in your area on local specifics as this varies from place to place. Also, the crosse must be at least 6.5" wide at its widest point (inside measurement) and the head (inside measurement also) must be at least ten inches long.
Defensive sticks: A stick for the defenseman is all about personal preference, just as everything is. Some defenders prefer the heavy duty industrial strength sticks with a broken arrow wood, or aluminum shaft with a heavy, stiff head (such as the MD, Edge, or STX Dominator). This may be the way for you if you like hard poke checks that make offensive players think twice before trying to score on you, or if you enjoy giving pain. Yet since these sticks are so cumbersome and hard to handle, you can get burned easily. Other defensemen prefer lightweight sticks so you can have deft handling of your checks. These type of players may use titanium , STX alloy, or any other type of composite shaft along with a light head (such as the Viper, Sniper, or Sonic). Only the stiffness of a head matters when choosing a head for defensive play. Most defensemen prefer very stiff and versatile heads such as the Turbo or MD. The most important aspect of this is how firm it will be on a check and if it will snap or break easily. But don't be fooled, sometimes more flexible heads are better, since they will simply bend instead of snapping. The bottom line is no one can give you a definitive answer as to what the best defense stick is. As with all things, you really are on your own to find out what you like best and what works for you.
An STX representative said a new shaft
is in the works. Please remember that development is in the very early
stages, so details are nebulous and slack. The new shaft will be made from a
metal (the name was long and hard to pronounce) that is supposedly stronger
and lighter than titanium. It can only be found in Russia, where it has been
mined to use on Russian fighter panes. Apparently, STX has cut a deal with
these Russian miners for this metal. Don't expect to see this product for a
few years though. Also, as silly and absurd as this story sounds, keep in
mind that I got this information from a certified STX representative. But
I'm not holding my breath to see this new shaft.
[Apparently this is the Scandium shaft. Remember, you heard it here first. -- ed]
The same STX representative said that the friendly folks at STX are looking into making an "offset adapter." It will reportedly hook onto your favorite shaft and head to offset any stick you have that isn't already offset. This product is in the very early stages also, so don't expect to see it any time soon. Again, this product sounds foolish, but this is only what I've heard.
STX also said that the offset adapter would be coming out late spring early summer [at a coaches convention in January 1998] --
Players are also required to wear helmets that meet NOCSAE standards (stickers may not be removed), shoulder pads, arm pads, gloves (no cutout palms), and a cup. I repeat: helmets must meet NOCSAE standards and must have the stickers with that logo and the warnings present according to NCAA rules. Some officials apparently consider this to mean "NOCSAE" seal only (at least some around here--I know guys who are have been checked without the "Warning" sticker with the list on it and were told that they were okay); I have also heard from people who got busted with a seal but without the warnings. Removing those stickers results in an illegal helmet (a three-minute non-releasable penalty. Ouch.). New this year:cleats can no longer be more than 1/2 of an inch long, and the NCAA has set standards for maximum heat offset.
The rules listed provide a basic outline of the game, but rules are not the whole game. Off-ball movement, ball movement, and movement in general are all important to playing a good game of lacrosse. I'll try to outline basic info on some of these.
If you stand still, it makes it very easy for a defender to cover you. Unless you are participating in a play where you are specifically not to be looking for the ball, you generally want to be moving to try to get open. Don't make the man with the ball run all over the place to get an open pass to you; move with him so that he can pass you the ball. Beyond this, I really can't explain it; either you get it or you don't.
Sometimes you have a specific offense to run. More often, you need to be flexible and work with the flow of the game to get men in position to score. This means moving well with and without the ball, setting picks for your teammates (but remember: no moving picks!), and moving in whichever way leaves somebody open, with the ball, on the crease. This is something that comes with playing time; sometimes it's better to pass around the outside until you get an opening, sometimes it's better to drive in quickly. Test the defense and see what they can do.
On defense, you have a simple job: keep the ball out of the cage. Though the goalie is ultimately the last obstacle to a goal, your job is to make his job easier. First off, don't let someone have an open lane to the cage. If someone beats his man, the next defender needs to slide to pick the cutter up. Then another defender needs to slide to pick up the newly open man. When this slide works well, the furthest man from the ball is open and the man with the ball is blocked and/or on the ground. If you're a big defenseman and somebody cuts in, let him know you're there. Make him prefer not to cut in for the shot. I'll try to get a diagram to explain the slide; most poeple who have played know how this works.
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