When people think of lacrosse, they think of the boys’ game. It’s physical, grueling, and tough, but the girls’ game is much different. In fact, when my daughter came home thinking of trying out for the high school team, I jokingly asked to get a good look at her so I could remember her before she was somewhat “re-arranged”. It was then my education started; “Dad! It’s not like the boys game.” Although there are a few sticks flailing, bumps, and tumbles on the ground, the girls’ game is much more about finesse and skill.
In the girls’ version of lacrosse, some contact is allowed but many aspects of the boys’ game are not allowed; checking is minimal with both the body and the stick, reaching across the opponent’s body, simple obstruction of a player’s path result in play stoppage and minor infraction penalties. Any touching of the head results in a major infraction or yellow card and a timed penalty for that player. Red cards are given when the fouls is flagrant or repeated.
New rule changes are in effect this year for the main purpose of making it safer for the girls. Stricter penalties and more rigorous enforcement are making it top of mind for the players. New this year are more whistles and more play stoppages as referees are calling more fouls. Once a red card is given, a player is ejected for remainder of the game and must sit out the next two games. Two yellow cards in a game, results in a red card suspension. Should a team receive its third card of the game they will play short for the remainder of that game, including overtime, and an additional player will be removed from the game for each subsequent card received.
Any player or coach serving a “next game suspension” shall not be allowed in attendance at the site of the game. Violation of this policy will result in the game being forfeited and a red card being issued to the offending player or coach. All of these tougher rules tend to tighten up the standards for safety. Of special note this year, fans being overly boisterous can cause an infraction for their team. These changes and more all help to keep the level of safety up while still creating a structure for an exciting competition.
The sport needs to continue to be self-policed. The directors and coaches of the league do a good job of defining what constitutes a fair and foul play. Off-season team meetings are held every year to listen to concerns and react to feedback to make the game safer and fun to play while keeping a sprit of competition. Local officials take their direction from US Lacrosse, the governing body of the sport in the United States
Coaches are the greatest deterrent for injuries and supporters for good sportsmanship. Coaches are leaders, teachers, and role models. They impart their experience and skill in playing the game. More importantly they hold in their hands an adolescent that is ripening to understand the more subtle issues of team development and working with others.
Making a plan and sticking to it, dealing with strengths and weaknesses in themselves and others, and developing strategies to use strength effectively and to overcome limitation are exemplary lessons to learn for girls interested in developing their skills beyond the game. That being said the “win at all costs” approach can lead to injuries for kids taught to bend the rules.
Ultimately, Chances of getting hurt are low as long as the rules are followed, the coaches and leaders are diligent in promoting acceptable behavior, and the governing body reacts to incidents and any changes in the game. Accidents and injuries will happen. Lacrosse is a fast-paced exciting game for both players and spectators and that constitutes a certain level of risk. That level of risk is minimized by the safeguards put in place and the peace of mind that officials, coaches, parents, and spectators all have the players safety in mind.
For all of these reasons it is not necessary to force players to wear helmets. The biggest reason is about what will happen if in fact they are forced to helmets. It may provide a false sense of protection causing players to be more aggressive. The nature of the game will change and unfortunately, the risk to the players will increase.
I sincerely hope that athleticism and sportsmanship triumphs over the extremes of anarchy and over-regulation.