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July 11, 2018 — The FIH meets the UWLX/WPLL halfway

Today, the FIH announced a number of changes not only within its corporate structure, but in rules packages in order to position the game of lacrosse as a worldwide sport capable of making it into the Olympic program someday.

The biggest changes were for women’s international lacrosse, which will now look an awful like the professional game which is on offer this summer from United Women’s Lacrosse and the Professional Women’s Lacrosse League.

In both leagues, the teams play with nine outfielders and a goalie rather than the 12-a-side rules which has been the standard for women since the rules were codified in the British Isles around 1912. Back then, owing to the popularity of cricket in the Commonwealth nations, a number of the positions in lacrosse (third man, point, cover point) were borrowed from the bat-and-ball sport.

In women’s lacrosse, that started ebbing away with innovations in the game such as Princeton and Penn State putting running 11 players on offense, the addition of restraining lines in the late 1990s, and the NCAA rules packages of the 2000s that mandated a rectangular pitch, hard boundaries, and the self-start.

In addition, there was specialized recruiting and game philosophies that made the game much more like the men’s game, including a raft of male head and assistant coaches in North America such as Gary Gait, Ricky Fried, John Sung, and Scott Teeter who have brought their training and coaching into the mix of the women’s game.

We’ll know more how this changes women’s lacrosse worldwide not only when it comes to international play, but I’ll also be interested to see how quickly other governing bodies of the sport adopt the new rules. Will the NCAA, which has already been changed because of the possession clock and the self-start, go to 10-a-side?

Will the same happen in the National Federation of State High School Associations? I think this is the open question when it comes to the future development of the sport in the United States. The reason: with a 10-a-side game instead of a 12-a-side game, you might get smaller schools in non-traditional areas (especially the American Midwest and West) to take up the sport. On the other hand, the new rules will mandate that two fewer players will get to play at any one time during a game.

I also think the pace of play is going to change, as well as the type of athlete that lacrosse is going to require. I envision a faster game, one which requires fewer players of the soccer/field hockey type that can run for hours, and more of the ice hockey/basketball type of player who are asked to give their all for several minutes, then take a break.

I envision teams platooning groups of midfielders for the draw, for man-up, and for man-down situations as well as first- and second-midfield groups, just like in the men’s game.

Now, I don’t know whether FIL is going to adopt the “grapefruit wedge” arc that the WPLL is using, or whether the standard arc and fan will remain.

I guess that’s another vote. After all, the next FIL Women’s World Cup isn’t for another three years, plenty of time for new rules to be tested and implemented.

Stay tuned.

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