There is no place for late hits/head shots in (youth) lacrosse
As some of you know I have been around lacrosse on so many different levels for quite a while. I love it like it’s my own child and it’s given me everything I have in my life. There are clearly some great things going on with the sport and clearly some big issues. Among the things I love are the growth in participation, the fact that elite NCAA players are coming from all over the U.S, and the growth in television coverage.
Amongst the issues in my mind are the rising costs of participation and the early recruiting mess.
However to me the most startling is the lack of quality officiating during tournaments and in general all youth play and the emphasis on physicality and in particular shots to the head and late high hits. I recently spoke with a true legend in the game. A guy who coaches HS lacrosse, coaches in the MLL, coached Team Canada to the World Championship, played at Hopkins and grew up in Canada. His take? Lacrosse should not be a collision sport it should be a physical contact sport. Is he soft? Am I soft? If you think so come watch me coach or view some highlights of how I played the game. Physicality is a part of the game and for high school, NCAA , and professional players that have further developed brains and the ability to dodge to avoid the checks I have slightly more tolerance for it, not the late ones. For 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th graders, I have no tolerance and NO ONE is taking this serious. One of my teams played in an event in Maryland last fall, in one tourney game there were 12 penalties, about eight of them were high hits to the head. None of the high hits inspired an ejection, a three to five minute penalty, a warning to the players, NOTHING. This then is ok with the tournament director? Is it ok with the refs not to protect 6th graders further? Was this the world championship or a game amongst 6th graders in the fall? Is it not in the interest of US Lacrosse to try something to police this? What to me is ironic is that the NCAA, where the players can dodge and do have more developed brains ARE taking head shots serious just not the lawless irresponsible world of youth lacrosse. Is this just an anecdotal situation? Am I just upset about what I witnessed last fall in Maryland? You tell me from what you have seen. My answer is hell no, I have seen this happening more and more during the last three years and its getting no better. It’s getting no better because there is no leadership. It’s really not something that can be argued, these type of hits are NOT part of the game and not safe for youth players.
So why wouldn’t the tournament directors simply tell the referees high LATE hits are unacceptable and will be met with game ejection? How simple is it for the ref to speak to the game coaches pre-faceoff and remind the coaches/players “all head shots/late hits are game ejection”, would it still happen? Would people be that pissed off if Joey gets ejected for an egregious late hit or head shot? Isn’t that like taking the keys from a drunk driver, no one argues with that right? The kid could sit one game and learn his lesson; would it hurt the team that much? If it does is the game that important to you? And if it is then don’t freaking hit a kid high in the head in the first place. The only argument would be its subjective, it leaves it to an official to eject a player for a high hit and maybe it wasn’t. I say why in the heck not err on the side of caution, if this cleans up the youth game and a few kids need to suffer by getting ejected? So be it, look at the flip side risk.
Anyway, love to see someone argue with me that head shots and high hits are good for lacrosse and especially youth lacrosse. Just look at how the multi billion dollar empires of the National football league, NCAA football, or the NHL views head shots, everyone seems to care except youth lacrosse. If everyone agrees let’s mandate the tournament directors and leagues where care more about our kids safety, take more leadership, educate the refs, and keep these boys enjoying the game the way it should be. Our young kids should be taught how to play. How to dodge, how to develop great stick skills, to have fun. It’s just not fair to the kids, it’s not safe for the kids, and it’s the responsible thing for everyone to start taking this serious.