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Charlie Obermayer | @reflax53
Many of you will recognize the photo of former Delaware All-American Alex Smith grabbing the ball on a faceoff as the picture that stoked the proverbial fire when it comes to cheating during faceoffs. In reality, this debate has been going on for decades.
Faceoffs are one of the most critical—and at times, hotly-contested—aspects of today’s game. It seems like every rules cycle, a proposal surfaces to outright remove faceoffs from the game and multiple proposals are brought forth on how to prevent players from gaining an advantage.
Last year, at the NCAA level, the rules committee made headlines by outlawing the “motorcycle” grip and then reversing that decision later in the fall. The photo was one of the strongest pieces of evidence when the sport’s governing bodies (US Lacrosse, NFHS and NCAA) ruled this type of action by a faceoff player an unsportsmanlike penalty. This year, the NFHS followed the NCAA’s lead and put in a rule stating that faceoff players may not have any tape going from the shaft to the head of the players stick.
These changes have been enacted because that faceoff men are constantly trying to gain an advantage over their counterparts. The purpose of a faceoff specialist is to gain possession for their team. Possession is everything in this sport. If you don’t agree, ask Syracuse about the impact Duke’s Brendan Fowler had on last year’s NCAA Championship.
Officials have a difficult job as it is, and managing faceoffs is becoming more and more difficult. Here are some tips for officials on how to better handle this aspect of the game.
Practice makes perfect, and I constantly work with officials to strengthen their craft of managing the faceoff. Hopefully, these tips will help you do just that in the upcoming season, because I can guarantee you that there will be players attempting new tricks to gain an advantage for their teams.
Charlie Obermayer is an officials education program manager at US Lacrosse and an active NCAA, high school and youth official in the mid-Atlantic region. Suggest future officials education topics in the comments section.
Photo Credit: Scott McCall
Looking for more tips on managing faceoffs? NCAA District 1 official Josh Blaisdell will present “Dynamic Faceoffs” on Friday, Jan. 10, at the US Lacrosse National Convention, presented by Champion, in Philadelphia. Register before Nov. 30 to get the early-bird rate of just $95.
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