Wow, what a difference a year makes for the game of lacrosse! Hats off to all of the hard-working women’s collegiate officials who strive to be the best officials they can be, and who just like players and coaches, continue to adapt to evolving NCAA rules. Our game continues to get better, faster, and more challenging each year with talented athletes and coaches employing and developing new strategies, and officials mastering and managing the approved rules and points of emphasis.
In the 2016 season, the self-start was considered a big rule change, and that change is nothing compared to the implementation of the Possession Clock in Division I. In no way can I capture all officials’ perspectives in this note to you, but, I’ll attempt to share some perspectives officials have shared with me about rules and prospective rules changes.
The management and mechanics of self-starts were a challenge at first… What do we do if the player self-starts when they are not allowed? How will the player know the clock is under 2 minutes? What if the player does not self-start? Well, the self-start has taken care of itself, with players, officials and coaches becoming quickly adept at it. The possession clock is a rule change that has changed the dynamics of Division I women’s lacrosse games dramatically. Speed, speed, speed is the name of the game. Quick transitions and clears with players getting into their offense with speed has become the norm. Officials had to learn new mechanics and make decisions about possession clock starts, stops, resets, and when possession was gained after a draw or loose ball after a shot. These mechanics, though complicated at first, are now done with ease. Like any change, it takes time to feel confident and competent in employing new mechanics and making solid split second decisions about the new rule. Officials were further challenged by the automatic clock stoppage for a restraining line violation and a reset of the possession clock. The renewed emphasis on restraining line violations and a more significant penalty for those violations have dramatically decreased players running over the restraining line and being off-sides.
And now we find ourselves going into a rules change year, with the 2017 NCAA Rules meeting just around the corner. Though we cannot see into the future, what might collegiate women’s lacrosse look like if there was free movement, a 4-meter/5-yard non-engagement zone for the ball carrier after a foul, a broad clearing of the 8 meter on free position shots, a hold on the restraining lines until clear possession is gained on the draw, and a foul count or non-releasable yellow cards after a certain number of cards are administered to one team? In a rules change year, which we are in, anything can happen.
My hope is, whatever is decided in this rule’s change year, that we stick with the rules for a while, so that players, coaches and officials can perfect what we have and work with what we have – rather than changing rules on an annual basis. The NCAA Rules Committee – a group of committed coaches and administrators, chaired by the talented, visionary Jen Adams – works in tandem with NCAA staff, officials, the NCAA Secretary Rules Secretary and Coordinator of Officials to achieve this end. I have faith in this group and know their thinking and decision-making will yield what’s best for this game we love. One thing we know though, change is never easy, and as Socrates said, “the secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
For additional information about the CWLOA or collegiate officiating, you can contact Patty Daley at firstname.lastname@example.org.