Last week the Men’s Lacrosse Rules Committee recommended several new rules to be implemented for the
upcoming 2013 season. While these are currently recommendations, we understand that each individual rule
will be voted upon by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel at some point in September. While there were many recommendations—there seemed to be more this year than in recent years—we intend to focus on those
affecting that which is dear to us, the face-off. We understand that these recommendations were meant to
address safety and fairness of the face-off. As such, we keep that in mind in our thoughts that follow:
The new rules are not that big a deal: we will adapt.
New rules have come and gone for the face-off. “Down, Set, Whistle” was widdled down to “down, whistle” only to have the “set” brought back. We used to be able to touch the line, now no longer. We used to be able to check an opponent’s crosse to the ground, put our elbow on our stick for extra strength when tied up, and hesitate to line up second. Face-off men have and will continue to endure the changes imposed on them.
What do you actually want?
It seems like the rules committee doesn’t want to sleep in the bed they have made. Over the past decade they have sought to impugn those that either beat their opponent off the whistle, timed the whistle effectively, and/or went early to beat their opponent (note: I do not advocate moving early as an effective strategy to win). The rules committee was successful in doing so. They wanted both face-off men to react at the same time, most of the time they now do. What happens when two players opposing each other, engaging each other, with a similar stature and technique react at the same time? They get tied up. Having a double-over or motorcycle grip doesn’t create tie-ups, effective rules have. Does the rules committee want the ball to come out quicker? Yes. Has the rules committee watched the 45+ second face-off that started the second quarter of the 2010 Duke versus Notre Dame National Championship? Probably. Did they
watch with the sound off? More than likely. The crowd erupted 30 seconds into the face-off after they realized the two players continued to pour every ounce of strength they had to be able to maneuver the ball safely away from their opponent and to open space. The crowd likes the aspect and face-off men thrive on the competition, but the rules committee doesn’t like the new monster that they have created. Tie-ups will continue, regardless of grip, if you have both players reacting at the same time.
Fairness? What is the definition of fair?
The face-off violation rule of running off the field was meant as a deterrent for player’s going early or bending the rules; it was very effective. As a result, face-off men react at the same time nowadays. Thanks to better coaching and preparation, there is better face-off technique in the college game. So players with similar technique are moving at the same time, i.e., better technique and superior timing have arbitraged away advantages once gained by top face-off men by better coaching and rule changes—is that not the fairness you are looking for? If two guys go early at the same time, did the referee do his job? If the Rules Committee wants the ball out quickly, someone is going to have to be cleanly beat off the whistle—is that unfair? Regarding motorcycle grip and fairness, I’m almost 100% certain that the other guy can do it too. What if we let face-off men choke up on their plastic? Everyone would be allowed to do so, that seems
fair. Could a player’s hand be injured doing so? Yes. Do sports contain an inherent risk to one’s health? Yes. Could a face-off man’s hand be just as injured by a check when he pulls the ball out? Yes.
Anecdotal? Come on.
I have mountains of anecdotal evidence on a variety of topics.
Specific Rule Recommendations—What we like. What we don’t like.
Players taking the faceoff are not allowed to use a motorcycle grip any longer.
We do not like this proposed rule. What are you trying to address? Let’s have an open
After two pre-whistle violations in one half by a team, subsequent violations result in a 30–second technical penalty.
Lukewarm feeling. Is this like a double-bonus in basketball? I understand the proposal, it makes sense. Does it carry-over between halves? What about over-time? I bet Alex Smith would’ve loved this in the 2007 Semi-Final against Hopkins.
When a violation occurs, the faceoff player is no longer required to leave the field.
Previous rule change proposal makes up for this as most teams just happy for possession when this occurred and stopped trying to run a 6 on 5 scenario with a face-off man and a long-stick.
During penalty situations, there must be four players in the defensive area and three players in the offensive area. Exception: When a team has three or more players in the penalty area, a player may come out of its defensive area to take the faceoff.
Love it. MLL does it. Really punctuates a non-releasable penalty.
Tape may not be added to the throat of the crosse of the player taking a faceoff.
Don’t like. Tape on a stick is used to gain better grip or train the hands to be at certain spots on the shaft—and sometimes for show. Face-off men, however, use it to both gain a better grip and hide where the head begins and where the shaft ends as part of a ruse to have our hands close to our head, gaining better force, quicker reaction, and more leverage when performing our moves. If we let everyone put their hand on the plastic, this rule is unnecessary.
Also, as a point of emphasis officials are to enforce the rule that says players must keep their hands off of the plastic of the crosse. Players can gain an unfair advantage to gain possession of the ball if this is not called.
I’m going to play Devil’s Advocate on this one as this rule has been in the books for awhile. What if this was actually enforced, instead of every year reminding the refs to enforce it? Kind of like when a ref doesn’t call a push that occurs behind the play, which then escalates later in the game?
Finally, the committee considered moving the faceoff players from four inches to 12 inches apart. The committee ultimately decided, however, to experiment with this procedure this fall to see what the impact would be. “The proposed changes to the faceoff are intended to enhance the procedure,” Hind said. “There was some support for moving the players further apart, but it hasn’t been used anywhere, so we’d like to have teams use it in the fall first.”
In the loud words of a hoarse and somewhat raspy Dave Kenneth Cottle, “good move.” Moving players further away will increase the impact of the collision. The rationale that player will now have to move their crosse as it is no longer within the distance of where the crosse lines up is a fallacy. Show me a face-off man that doesn’t move his crosse when the whistle blows and I’ll show you the opponent I want to line up against, again and again.
The committee also is proposing changes to the stick specifications that states any additional strings or laces (e.g., shooting strings) must be located within 3½ inches from the top of the crosse. Also, no more than one sidewall string on each side of the crosse will be allowed.
I can’t speak for the shooting strings, most face-off men I know have no ‘V’ that would violate this, typically opting for three shooting strings at the top of the crosse. However, we believe the sidewall string regulation to be overkill or redundant given the new stick check rules, which would include checking the back of the crosse for fluidity of ball movement.
The ball is placed in the back of the crosse at the deepest point of the pocket and pushed in to reverse the pocket. The crosse is inverted 180 degrees. The ball must come out of the crosse without shaking, etc.
Like it. I have a habit, and teach the same, of showing the refs my stick before the game and showing them how I contort the plastic to pick the ball up and move it, proving that the plastic and stringing are not doing the work for me. The ball moves freely, pops freely, and does not defy gravity as a result. Several players I have instructed and coached cannot say the same; as a result, their technique suffers as they let the stick do the work for them. If we can get players away from relying on gimmick stringing and pinched heads, the face-off will be cleaner and the ball will not be stuck or “plunged” into the back of the crosse.
In conclusion, we end where we began. This is not a big deal. Face-off men will adjust and we will endure. New rules have come, old rules have gone. We will adapt our techniques; we will tailor what we teach as well as how we train. We will change the way we win.