Things To Look Forward To In 2018 For Lacrosse

Every year changes are made in the game of lacrosse in an attempt to continually improve the experience and growth of our beloved sport.  Changes come primarily from US Lacrosse and occasionally from other governing bodies like the NCAA.  Most of the time, changes end up being for the better.

For 2018, one of the exciting developments carrying over into youth lacrosse groups from last year is youth leagues across the country taking the plunge to implement small ball for optimal development of young lacrosse athletes.  The small ball approach maintains smaller field sizes and team sizes.  The result is that players get more touches of the ball and remain more consistently engaged in play.  See the link below for the current US Lacrosse youth small ball guidelines:

https://www.uslacrosse.org/blog/us-lacrosse-announces-new-boys-youth-rules

What spurred this initiative was reporting by the Sport and Fitness Industry Association that 2007 – 2014, the number of children aged 6-12 participating in traditional sports (baseball, basketball, football, soccer, softball, track and field) dropped precipitously from 35% to 27%.  During the same time, the same study concluded that hockey participation grew by a stellar 43% (lacrosse during this time lacrosse grew by a more modest 29%).

Looking to emulate the success of USA Hockey in shortening the size of the hockey rinks and goals for young lacrosse players led to the new small ball standard for maximizing development and enjoyment in the the sport of lacrosse.

From the college recruiting side of lacrosse, we can look forward to a new era where young lacrosse players can enjoy the sport without the pressure of the college recruiting process.  In a vote that went down last year, college coaches are now prohibited from making contact with players before September of their junior year of high school.  In a college recruiting process that had players signing commitment letters as ridiculously early as 7th grade, this is a huge development.

As already mentioned, this restriction facilitates unbridled enjoyment of the sport without the pressure of the college recruiting process that can be overwhelming to young athletes. It also evens the playing field for young athletes that are late bloomers that may have otherwise gotten passed over in the recruiting process simply because they needed more time to hit puberty.

In girls and women’s lacrosse news for 2018, they will now be allowed to use lacrosse sticks with pockets strung with mesh.  This will offer girls and women more variation in their preference for different pocket types that the boys and men’s game has enjoyed since the 1980’s.  Lax.com has already begin selling girls and women’s lacrosse heads strung with custom mesh pockets for 2018.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Off Limits! The “Scourge” Of College Lacrosse Early Recruiting And The Pending Vote To Finally Stop It

Boys and girls are being recruited for college lacrosse as early at 7th grade, some signing letters of intent before even reaching high school.  It is wrong on so many levels and it is exerting negative effects not just in the sport of lacrosse, but across the spectrum of youth athletics.  College coaches often dislike this practice as much as anyone, but are loathe to stop because they feel that if they do not do the same, they may miss out on the the next great blue chip athlete that may be program changer.

US Lacrosse CEO Steve Stenersen has branded the early recruiting epidemic as a “scourge” that is damaging to the sport of lacrosse (and youth sports in general).  Lacrosse participation has leveled off.  Single sport specialization is at an all time high, as are overuse injuries that are clearly associated with single sport specialization at a young age.  70 percent of youth athletes are quitting organized sports by the age of 13, and college transfers are at an all time high.

Beyond these facts, the pressure being placed on young athletes to perform is unprecedented and is zapping the fun out of lacrosse and other sports.  While a minority of parents relish in the notion that they are spending crazy amounts of money to keep their child playing year round on multiple state and national club teams, the financial strain and time commitment that cuts into precious family time is troubling to many others.  Look no further than the high divorce rates of families that commit all of their resources and time to making their child a singing or acting star to see why such a course is not healthy.

Says WLCA president Alicia Groveston, “We are at a tipping point….Some sanity could be restored to the recruiting process.”  What she is referring to is NCAA DI Council Proposal 2016-26, the vote of which if passed, would ban all college coach contact with youth and high school athletes until September 1 of their junior year of high school.  The vote will take place when the Council meets April 13-14 2017.

If the measure does not pass, it may not come up again for consideration for another 2 years or longer.  For the sake of the kids and the sport we love, let us hope good sense and a commitment to the greater good prevails.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of tpics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

 

New Girl’s/Women’s Lacrosse Helmets Remain Controversial

New Cascade LX Women's and Girls Lacrosse HelmetThere has been a lot of controversy surrounding the requirement of helmets in girls and women’s lacrosse.  Proponents for protective gear opine that girls must have head protection from injury caused by collision with other players, as well as stick and ball contact to the head.  Opponents to the head gear requirement feel that head gear would serve nothing more than to provide a false sense of security for players and actually have the net result of more head injuries.

Further inflaming opponents to head gear is that there is no minimum standard for female lacrosse head gear as there is for male lacrosse players that have had helmet mandates for several decades.  This lack of standardization leads to very significant disparities in the various products available for states that have a head gear requirement.  It is noteworthy that the governing body of the sport of lacrosse nationally, US Lacrosse, has been one of the most ardent critics of head gear mandates for girls and women’s lacrosse players.

Women's-Girls Game Breaker Lacrosse Helmet/Protective Head GearIn my home state of Florida, for example, a head gear requirement went into effect 2 seasons ago as mandated by the Florida High School Athletic Association, the governing body of high school athletics state wide.  While it is too early to tell what impact this has had on head injury statistics, the lack of any standard for head gear could not be more obvious.  Pictured here is the Game Breakers rugby style helmet worn by some programs.

However, once girls became aware that simply putting “something” on their head would suffice to satisfy the FHSAA head gear requirement, the majority have gone with this minimal head band type of protective gear made by Storelli.  Storelli Lacrosse Protective Head Band For Women and GirlsThese are but a couple of the variations available in the lacrosse market even at this time when Cascade has teamed up with US Lacrosse to provide a helmet that satisfies minimum head gear requirements (more on this below).  This lack of standardization has essentially made a joke of the head gear requirement, as, regardless of the choice of protective head gear, lacrosse officials have no guidelines as to whether a particular head gear item is acceptable or not.

I am all for efforts to make the sport of lacrosse safer, but to impose protective gear requirements with no standards for what that protective gear should provide makes no sense.  This most certainly not one of FHSAA’s finest moments, and that is an opinion shared by the vast majority of girls lacrosse coaches across the state.

At least finally there is a standard that US Lacrosse has signed onto with the help of helmet manufacturer Cascade.  They have produced the Cascade LX girls and women’s lacrosse helmet  (picture at the top of the page) in accordance with ASTM f3137, the first minimum lady lacrosse helmet standard the fulfills the ultimate goal of girl’s and women’s lacrosse helmets: to reduce the impact forces associate with stick and ball contact to the head.

Still, while US Lacrosse approved of this helmet as the standard, they still do not deem protective head gear in girls and women’s lacrosse with the jury still very much out on the ultimate impact helmets will have on head injuries in the female game.  US Lacrosse is simply saying that for those who buy in on the the concept of protective head gear for girls and women, this is the standard.

On the other hand, state regulating bodies such as Florida’s FHSAA will continue to have their own mandates that may disagree with US Lacrosse.  Clearly, there is a precedence for state regulating bodies to detour from US Lacrosse stances and recommendations.  It is not clear where the requirement goes from here.

With US Lacrosse having a strong track record of best practices and safety, with strong research departments that further support their credibility, my opinion stands with theirs; that is, that head gear should be optional with the science still strongly lacking in support of increased safety for girls playing with protective head gear.  In fact, there is credible evidence to the contrary, that head gear may create a false sens of security that encourages more contact an subsequent risk for serious injury.

As such, with the youth lacrosse club I preside over, not under the FHSAA mandate for require protective gear, the requirement use of head gear remains optional.

Dr. Roger Welton was a 4 year starter for Montclair State University and was selected as a First Team All Knickerbocker Conference Midfielder in 1995, 1996. He is the founder of the Viera-Suntree Lacrosse Club and Space Coast Elite Lacrosse Club in Brevard County, Florida.