Each year in College lacrosse there are a few new rules changes that seem to come along. Some of the rules make a little bit of a difference and some of the rules seem to make no difference what so ever. This year at the beginning of the 2006-2007 season there was a new rule that I believe will change the game in a more positive way then any other rule has in the past. It's the new stick check rule.
The rule states that the ref is allowed to check 6 sticks on each team at any time during the game. While many people will look at this rule in a negative way, either because they think it will slow the game down, or because they play with illegal sticks themselves and hate the fact that they can't anymore, I look at this rule change for what it is. It is a great rule that will eliminate some of the cheating in this game that adds an unfair advantage.
Without incriminating anyone I will just say that the number of people that use illegal sticks with pockets that sag down to the floor is surprising. Many of the players that fans look at and say "wow that kid has great ball control" or "he never gets stripped", unfortunately it is because some of these players are using extremely illegal sticks.
You might be asking, "How can these players get away with this?" The answer is because of a little cheating device that many people already know about. It's called a "pull string", and it is something that has been used by a lot of players over the past 6 or 7 years. It might even go back further then that, I don't know. However, with this years new rule change, players can't get away with such device in their sticks. Referees have been told that if a stick shows any sign of having a pull string on it that an illegal stick penalty shall be called immediately (see Chris Ely's Rules Column).
While it might look like I'm saying that everyone in the game has been cheating, and that all your favorite players are in fact frauds that is not the case. There are many players, great players, that don't use illegal sticks. Not even close. And it always seems that when I ask them why they use such a shallow pocket they all have the same answer. They tell me that when they get in trouble and are under a great deal of pressure, they will need to get the ball out of their stick as quick as possible. The fact is, that's just something you can't do with an illegal pocket. While a deep pocket might benefit an outside shooter, or a ball carrier, it does not help any player that needs to throw a pass under pressure. And truth be told, these are the truly great players. These are players that force the slide, and make the feed to the open man under pressure. These are the players that make everyone else on their team better.
Over the next few years there will continue to be rule changes. This time involving stick dimensions. These are all rules that might be seen as a problem to some players that play today. But what they really are is a return to the way things were. I remember picking up my father's stick that he used at North Carolina and being amazed that anyone can ever control a ball in that thing. I guess I should look back and be thankful that my dad played in the era that he did. Because he always made sure that my pocket was never illegal, and my heads were never pinched. While I always thought that he was just being a pain, I now realize that even after he has passed away he still continues to help me out with my game. Because of him, I never have to worry about these new rules, because I've always used a legal stick since the day I started playing, and I won't ever have to change.
March 1, 2007
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