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Jan. 13, 2015 — Self-stop

This spring, collegiate lacrosse is going to borrow from the world of field hockey and institute the self-start, a mechanism designed to keep the game flowing without having a whistle to administer a foul and another to recommence play.

Before going further, let’s read the section of the rulebook — all of it.


Self-Start
RULE 5, SECTION 6

Following a whistle blown for a major or minor foul outside of the critical scoring area, the player who is awarded the free position may continue the course of play from a settled stance (both feet stationary on the ground and the ball positioned in the head of the crosse) without waiting for an additional whistle. The offending player must immediately move four meters behind or to the side of the player taking the free position as indicated by the official. Any other player(s) within four meters must move to a position indicated by the official. All players farther than four meters from the foul must “stand.”

The player who has been awarded the free position may self-start following the official’s signal of the foul and the official’s awarding of the free position. The option of self-starting is administered at the spot of the foul. However, if the ball is within playing distance (a stick and a half length away) from the player who is awarded the free position, the player who is awarded the free position may pick up the ball and from a settled stance, self-start.

If the ball ends up outside the playing distance of the foul, the player who has been awarded the free position and the ball must return to the spot of the foul for the self-start. If the spot of the foul cannot be determined, the official shall indicate the location for the free position. If the official has to reset the free position, the whistle of the official will restart play.

If the player who has been awarded the free position chooses to self-start, then defensive players may play her immediately following the self-start.

If any player moves prior to the player who has been awarded the free position self-starting, this is a false start and shall be penalized at the spot of the ball. Repeated false starts, delays in moving four meters by the defense, or self-starts by the attack beyond the playing distance of the foul may result in a delay-of-game card.

A self-start is not an option in the following circumstances:
a. Stoppage of the game clock;
b. The ball has gone out of bounds;
c. Offside violation;
d. Illegal draw;
e. Awarding of alternate possession; and
f. All major or minor fouls occurring in the critical scoring area.


The application of the rule, going forward, is going to create a number of interesting situations. I think this especially goes for teams which are penalized for a major foul — a check entering the imaginary sphere surrounding the head or a check that strikes the body of a player in possession.

You see, most players at higher levels are trained to watch the closest umpire to see when the whistle blows, and they are going to have to retrain themselves to watch the rear foot of the player with the ball. I also think that there’s no way to give the penalized player the full-measure of a four-meter penalty on a self-start. I think you’re going to have several instances where a player is able to run down the ball-carrier from behind because the self-start may yield a visibly lesser penalty than if the players were set correctly under the old rules.

I also believe that you’re going to have the fouled players putting doubt in their opponents’ minds by alternating self-starts with opting to have the umpires place neighboring players in place. This way, opponents aren’t always going to be looking for a player to self-start every time.

Also, watch for some gamesmanship on free positions; some subtle crow-hopping or other foot movements may be used create false-starts by the opposition.

Either way, I think there’s going to be a key situation this year — dare I say, during the Final Four? — where the self-start rule is going to shift the outcome of a contest. We’ll be doing a number of liveblogs this spring, and we’ll keep track of what we see.

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