When I directed officials for Atlanta Youth Lacrosse, I had a unique opportunity to experiment with several “off the books” rules that would help players improve their skills and maintain a positive field experience for everyone. The most successful rules were the No-Rake Rule, the Uncontrollable Stick Rule, the Circle of Shame Rule, and the 24-Hour Rule. Here is how they work.

Note: These experimental rules work best in recreational or developmental leagues. We encourage youth leagues to follow the US Lacrosse Youth Rules and Best Practices Guidebook for Boys.

1. The No-Rake Rule

The No-Rake Rule is an adaptation of the covering minor field foul in girls’ lacrosse. Young players under pressure will revert to the more comfortable and less technically sound method of raking. With this rule in place, a player can’t rake the ball into his stick by covering it with the head of his crosse and drawing the head sharply backwards.

Within two weeks of implementing the No-Rake Rule, which turns the ball over to the other team for an attempted or successful rake, the amount of raking attempts plummeted. Taking the ball away for raking incentivized our coaches to put more emphasis on not only teaching their players the correct method for picking up a ground ball, but requiring it in every game.

I knew the rule was working when one player with no opponent around him slowed down to rake the ball and all of his teammates shouted, “Don’t rake!” He picked the ball up properly on the run and pushed transition.

2. The Uncontrollable Stick Rule

The Uncontrollable Stick Rule is quick way to explain a slash without contact. Rule 5-7 states that contact is not required for a slash to be called, but few coaches and players understand that rule at the youth level. When I coached, I wanted to see quick, sharp poke checks, solid lift checks, and slap checks where the head of the stick didn’t go beyond the corner of my defensemen’s eyes when they threw them. I wanted those checks because they’re only possible with excellent body and foot position.

As an official in a youth game, I want to reward skilled checking. A huge swing and miss would draw a flag because the player demonstrated a lack of control. It took until the midpoint of the season with calling the uncontrollable stick penalty tighter before the number of wind-up-and-pray checks declined. Guess what else happened? The number of passes (and missed passes) went up after offensive players got frustrated with defenseman who were persistently staying in front of them with good body positioning.

3. The Circle of Shame Rule

My father, Lou, practiced the Circle of Shame Rule for players U9 and below through the ingenious use of hula-hoops. The circle of shame was developed because young players needed to learn that hitting one another on the head wasn’t good. In these age groups, the teams don’t play man-down, but the player who commits a foul has to sub off the field for the length of their penalty time.

This didn’t have the same impact on the young player as taking a knee in the penalty box, so two hula-hoops were put on the ground at the edge of each team’s bench. If a player committed a penalty, they had to sit in the circle of shame, and this negative consequence had a positive effect on all of the players. They knew they had to sit in the circle, which prepared them for having to serve time in the penalty box when they moved up to the next age level, but it also helped identify the young player to his coaching staff. Earlier, the player could get lost in the bench, but with the circle of shame, coaches saw their player and could take a quick moment to explain why they got penalized.

There were also hula-hoop competitions after practice and games, because after all, this is supposed to be fun!

4. The 24-Hour Rule

The 24-Hour Rule was the single most effective rule in eliminating almost all field issues between coaches, parents, and administrators. This rule was put in place after several unpleasant incidents where adults behaved poorly in front of youth players.

The rule is very simple. Unless there is a life-threatening emergency or gross misconduct, if an adult takes issue with something at a practice or game, they must wait 24 hours from the time of the incident before sending an email to the program administrators. This cut the heated arguments down significantly and provided an appropriate cooling-off time for all parties involved. Having a process for working grievances up to the program administrators and holding people to it worked wonders. At the end of the day, people want to be heard. This rule allowed us to hear and address issues without exposing young players to adults acting poorly in the heat of the moment.

Have you found success with any other experimental rules in youth boys' lacrosse? Let us know in the comments section.

Gordon Corsetti is the men's officials education manager at US Lacrosse.

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