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BULLETIN: July 21, 2017 — Beyond “freeze-tag”

Today, the NCAA adopted a number of rules changes which, following on from experimentation at college all-star games and United Women’s Lacrosse, is promising a style of play which you can explain to a parent or bystander more readily than with some of the old rules.

It will cause substantial tremors in the sport at all levels, even though today’s changes only govern the college game. We do not know when or if U.S. Lacrosse or the National Federation of State High School Associations will follow suit.

So, as a public service, we are going to take the rules changes one by one, since each of them will make a discernible change in the pace or the flow of the game;

1. FREEZE-TAG
Old rule: All players stop on the whistle
New rule: Unlimited movement on dead-ball situations
The skinny: The most distinctive and unique rule in sports is no more. But the loss of the rule means so much more than just appearance and flow. The game is going to open itself up for multiple changes in substitution strategy, since there will be truly unencumbered free substitutions. Having players being able to move on a dead ball will also make DIRO (draw in, run off) more of a strategy. The only weakness, I think, is that umpires aren’t going to be able to issue a four-meter penalty for someone making a bad check in the midfield. But there are other penalties which are available

2. BREAKDOWN IN THE MIDFIELD
Old rule: Unlimited number of fouls allowed
New rule: On any given possession, a defense is allowed only two fouls until the attack is able to clear the ball into its attacking 35-yard zone. A third team foul is a one-minute penalty.
The skinny: This is a rule borrowed from water polo, a game which saw defenses use multiple minor fouls to try to disrupt their opposition. But the persistence part of the rule in lacrosse is only in the midfield

3. THE DRAW
Old rule: Three players on each team may be on or in the draw circle, but once the draw is up, any player from either team could contest the ball in the midfield zone
New rule: Only the two centers and four wing players are eligible to contest the ball until possession is established
The skinny: This is one of the few times that the National Federation was ahead of the NCAA in terms of rulesmaking. This rule will make DIRO players (as well as all-rounders who are good on draws) even more important

4. PLAYING A LET
Old rule: If an umpire spots a shooting-space violation, the whistle is blown and the ball is dead, no matter whether or not a player takes a shot on goal
New rule: If a shot is taken and the ball goes in, the goal counts. If the goalie saves the shot, the save counts
The skinny: A number of games in the history of lacrosse have turned on a sequence in which a goal is taken off the board because of a shooting space violation, only to have the goalie make the save on the follow-up chance. Here, it’s “play on.”

5. IT’S GOOD IF IT GOES
Old rule: The ball has to be over the line when the clock (game clock or possession clock) hits zero
New rule: A shot taken before the expiration of the clock counts as a goal even if the clock expires with the ball in the air
The skinny: A number of sports, including water polo and basketball, has the standard of whether a shot is released before the clock expires, rather than having to judge whether the whole ball is over the whole line before the clock hits zero. I believe this is an easier standard for the umpires.

6. TEAM YELLOWS
Old rule: Any team can accrue an unlimited number of yellow cards in a match
New rule: A team is allowed three yellows, but on the fourth and subsequent fouls, the resulting two-minute penalty is non-releaseable
The skinny: This is a happy medium between the NCAA’s old rule and the NFHS rule which says that a team must play short the rest of the game on a team’s fourth yellow card

 

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