Counting Down the Top Boys' Lacrosse Rules Myths


US Lacrosse Gordon Corsetti helps shed light on the top boys' lacrosse rules myths.

The NFHS released new rules for the 2018 boys' lacrosse season Wednesday. Here are 10 commonly misunderstood elements of the existing rulebook, as identified by Gordon Corsetti, manager of men’s officials development.

1. A goal is scored if the ball hits two pipes

The rules require the entire ball to cross the entire plane of the two-inch goal line. Hitting a side pipe and the crossbar means that, geometrically speaking, the entire ball never once crossed the entire line. Part of the ball might have, but part of the ball doesn’t cut it. The only time a ricochet off the pipe would be a goal is if the ball crosses the line and hits the pipe along the ground. The ball will fly out of the goal, but in order to hit that inside pipe the ball had to go across the line first.

2. When a player is injured the game is stopped immediately

Not necessarily. If the officials notice an injury and the player is “in the scrimmage area,” or somewhere near the play, then play should be stopped. What usually happens is a midfielder will become injured and go down while his team is riding. Suddenly his team’s fans are screaming at the officials to stop play for the injury, but the ball is being cleared way away from the injured player. In these situations the officials wait to see what the offense will do. If they attack the goal then play should continue, but as soon as they slow things down and stop going to the net the whistle should sound to stop play.

3. Clamping the ball on a faceoff and turning around and around is legal

Faceoff players get one step with the ball in the back of their heads. When a player clamps the ball, it is in the back of his head. In order to legally move with the ball he has to be actively moving the head of his stick off the ground to pop the ball out before he takes one step. This means a player clamping the ball and spinning around should be called as withholding the ball from play.

4. A team is offside if it only has two attackmen or defensemen behind the midline

It is perfectly OK to have too few players behind the midline when on offense or on defense. There is no advantage to having too few players fifty yards away from where the ball is. Sometimes a player subs off the field and his replacement is a little slow getting off the bench, not a big deal. Now, if an extra player runs out of the substitution box and tries to play offense or defense for his team, that would be offside or too many men on the field. Remember, no more than six players when on offense and no more than seven players when on defense.

5. Body checking is illegal.

Stricter body checking rules were introduced solely for player safety. Players may body check other players with the ball and within five yards of a loose ball, but the window of legality has shrunk. This actually puts the men’s game in closer alignment with how the rules were when the game was first standardized in 1869 as Canada’s National Sport. Even then, the game had more contact than a Native American Chief expected.

“We were invited by a Chief, at Caughnawaga, early one morning last summer, to witness a game of lacrosse on the common,  after watching a hard-fought game of an hour, the [chief] turned to us, and said, in broken English: ‘You can’t play lacrosse like that. You smash heads, cut hands, make blood. [Native Americans] play all day; no hurt.’ It is very rare that a [Native American] is injured or injuries ever so slightly when playing with his fellow [tribesman].”

So the new rules are really old rules, benefiting not only player safety but also keeping the game true to its historical roots.

6. The goalkeeper cannot hit the ball with his hand while in the crease

While inside the crease the goalkeeper, and only the goalkeeper, receives special privileges. One of those is to block or bat the ball with his hand. The hand can be holding the crosse or not. What the goalkeeper cannot do is physically hold the ball with his hand. No picking it up off the ground and putting it in his stick, and no catching a deflected ball in his hand.

7. If you dive and get illegally pushed into the crease and score, the goal stands.

If you dive and land in the crease you can never score. If you jump, dive, or otherwise leave both feet by your own choosing and you land in the crease you can never, ever, ever score. However, if you dive and get illegally pushed into the crease then the flag should be thrown, the goal wiped out by your crease violation, but your team gets to keep the ball and be man-up for the next restart.

8. The coach can ask for any stick on the opponent’s bench to be checked by the officials, even if not being used by a player.

Some coaches bring their stick to a game and leave it on the bench. It will never once come into the game, but the opposing coach tells the officials that he wants them to check that stick at the end of the bench because it was made in 1985 and won’t be legal according to the rules today. The coach is trying to get a free penalty, but he is not allowed to ask for that stick to be checked. By rule, in order for a coach to ask for a stick check he must refer to an opposing player’s number.

9. Goalkeeper interference is always a free clear.

Goalkeeper interference with possession is a free clear, but loose-ball goalkeeper interference just gives possession to the goalkeeper’s team. Say the goalkeeper clamps the ball in the crease, an attack man checks his stick, the official raises an arm in the air and states “play-on.” If the goalkeeper picks up the ball then the play-on is over. If he doesn’t pick it up then the whistle is blown, awarded to his team, and play restarted with no free clear.

10. A player on the field cannot be considered defenseless because he knows he is playing a contact sport.

This is a fallacious argument used by some to say that defenseless and blindside hits should not be penalized. It’s a type of argument called “argument by personal astonishment,” which is stating offhand opinions as proven facts, often loudly. There is a situation analogous to playing a contact sport that most adults experience on a daily basis: Driving. When you drive a car you are bound by certain rules and restrictions while on the road. When at an intersection you do everything you are supposed to do before a left turn. You check your mirrors, blind spot, and that oncoming traffic is stopped before turning. Then you get blindsided by another driver who ran a red light. Is it your fault that you got blindsided by another driver? No.

Applying the argument against defenseless and blindside hits in lacrosse to this situation exposes the fallacy. A player on the field is not omnipotent, as this argument implies. Do everything right and you can still be blindsided, and with what we learn every year about concussions and the dangers of defenseless/blindside hits in youth and scholastic play the more easily we can dispel this weak argument.

Do you agree with our list? Message with other rule myths that you would like to see explained.

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