Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

April 4, 2016 — A rule change which may not have served its purpose

This year, the world of women’s lacrosse has borrowed a procedure from field hockey.

The “self-start,” meant to speed up the game, says that a player being awarded the ball for a major or minor foul outside of the crifical scoring area (which, this year, is 12 meters from the goal cage) has the option of not waiting for the official’s whistle to restart the game either through running or passing.

Last Thursday however, in the showdown between Northwestern and Maryland, the host Terps committed three self-start violations that resulted in turnovers.

To explain what happened, let’s go over the four listed exceptions to the self-start rule.

  1. Out-of-bounds on either sideline. If that happens, there needs to be an administration of the rule where the team being awarded the ball needs to have a player come over to the point at which the ball crossed the sideline. Presumably, the umpires will need some time to change their positioning if the ball is lost deep on one end of the pitch.
  2. Offside violation. The umpires need to take time to send the offending player back into the midfield, but also to position a ball-carrier and a member of the offending team four meters behind her. This like the out-of-bounds situation, requires the movement of at least two players.
  3. When the game clock is stopped. This includes the last two minutes of a half or game, the issuance of a card, or the halting of the clock to set up a free-position shot.
  4. Major or minor fouls, offensive or defensive, in the critical scoring area. This year, that zone was moved from 15 to 12 meters.

I noted that one of the turnovers occurred on an out-of-bounds situation, and another was deep in the Maryland defensive end, but as I was standing on the grassy knoll behind the play, I didn’t get a great look as to where the player was in relationship to the 12-meter arc.

I’ve been also told that there was one turnover in the final two minutes of the half, when the clock is started and stopped with the umpire’s whistle.

Although there is significant historical overlap when it comes to field hockey and lacrosse, I question the further role of the self-start rule in women’s lacrosse. If your defending national champions — presumably the best in the craft — and run afoul of the new rule three times in one contest, I don’t think it’s a good sign.


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