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Archive for June 7, 2021

June 7, 2021 — Unwilling to admit a mistake

In this COVID year like no other, there was one region of the country which embarked on some radical rules changes for scholastic sports.

It’s not unusual for Massachusetts to make news when it comes to school sports rules changes, sometimes with unintended consequences. The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association mandated helmets in girls’ scholastic lacrosse in the mid-1990s, a move which resulted in less-skilled defensive play and the unwillingness of some college coaches to recruit within the Commonwealth.

The MIAA also had a rule for field hockey which was meant to prompt the goalkeeper to play any ball heading into the circle instead of letting a ball from outside the circle to go into the goal. But that had the unintended consequence of taking the striking circle out of the equation when it came to strategy and tactics.

Radical rules changes were instituted by the MIAA in many sports over the 2020-21 academic year, which put Massachusetts student-athletes in the position of playing a radically different sport from neighboring states, sometimes putting them at a competitive disadvantage. In field hockey, the sport went from its usual 11-on-11 format to a 7-on-7 format.

And one major rules change resulted in half of the state playing the fall under a different set of penalty corner rules from the spring-playing schools. In the fall, the awarding of a penalty corner resulted in a 23-meter free-in. In the spring, however, a penalty corner was the result. And it wasn’t just any corner, not even the penalty corner situation which you might find in reduced-side overtime in every other state.

Instead, the all-knowing MIAA decided to alter the penalty corner rules to only allow defenses two outfield players and a goalie to defend the goal instead of the usual three.

This spring, a sizable amount of debate has come up around the four-quarter system used to play girls’ lacrosse. The debate surrounds the final minutes of the first and third quarters. When it comes to timing, the final two minutes of the first and third quarters are not subject to the same stop-time rules of the second and fourth quarters. This means that, if a free position shot is awarded — even in the critical scoring area of the final third — the clock is allowed to run until the end of the period.

Enough coaches saw a problem that a resolution was voted on last week by the Tournament Management Committee of the MIAA. The resolution, which would have reinstituted 25-minute halves, was voted down 10-3.

It’s befuddling how the MIAA is so incredibly willing to interfere in the duly-arbitrated rules of the National Federation of State High School Associations.

And unwilling to know when to quit.