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Ask A Ref: Players Switching Sticks

1 - Published May 7, 2013 by in The Life

We get great questions from our readers on traditional stringing, but we also get some really awesome, and sometimes weird, questions that stump even the finest minds at LAS. When it comes to situations like that, we reach out to the experts.

A couple of months ago, we got a question from a reader about players switching sticks during a game that stumped us, so we reached out to Gordon Corsetti, an official who refs lacrosse down in the Atlanta area, for his expert interpretation.

We can’t remember who sent us this question, and we reformulated it a bit, but to whoever dropped this gem, THANK YOU. It’s a doozy:

1. If a player drops his stick on the ground, can another player drop his stick, and pick
up his teammates?
2. What happens if a player knocks the stick out of an opponent’s hands, and the ball
stays in it – can the defender pick up their opponent’s stick?
3. Can two players switch sticks during the play of the game in any way?

Let’s allow Gordon to take the floor:

Whenever I get a rules question I go to the one place that has never let me down – the rulebook!

Only one of these questions has an explicit ruling in the rulebook, and the other two are open for interpretation. I will tell you what is most likely to happen based off my reading of the rulebook and knowledge of lacrosse officiating for the above three situations.

1. If a player drops his stick on the ground, can another player drop his stick and pick up his teammates?
a. There is no definitive answer in the rulebook to this question, but there are a few guiding principles that officials will probably follow. If a player drops his stick and he is nowhere near the play and his teammate picks it up there is not likely going to be a foul because there is no advantage gained by this exchange. However, if the ball is anywhere near the dropped stick and a player’s teammate drops his own stick before picking up the originally dropped stick, the officials will most likely whistle the play dead with an Illegal Procedure call for playing without the crosse.

2. What happens if a player knocks the stick out of an opponent’s hands, and the ball stays in it – can the defender pick up their opponent’s stick?
a. This is the question with an answer straight out of the rulebook! Short answer is no. Long answer is according to Rule 5.10.1 Situation D, “B1 drops his crosse, then secures an opponent’s crosse and continues to play. RULING – Personal foul, unsportsmanlike conduct.”
b. Rule 4.7.1 Situation: “A1’s crosse is dropped or checked out of his hands and onto the ground with the ball in it, or under, it. RULING – Illegal Procedure. Award the ball to Team B.” If the officials are on top of this situation there should be an immediate whistle as soon as the stick hits the ground, and the defender should not have the opportunity to reach for his opponent’s stick in the first place.

3. Can two players switch sticks during the play of the game in any way?
a. Again, there is no defined ruling or situation in the rulebook that addresses this so I default to whether or not an advantage is being gained due to the actions on the field. If two players exchange sticks and they are forty yards away from the ball I’ve got no problem with it. However, if one of those players is the ball carrier he will technically be playing without the crosse for a split second, which could result in an Illegal Procedure penalty. Better question here would be why would you exchange crosses with the ball carrier when you could much more easily, and sneakily, flip the ball and break to the cage in different directions?

As a lacrosse official, I live for these kinds of questions. They get me digging into the rulebook and thinking of weird situations so I know exactly what to do when I run into a strange situation on the field. If anyone has any additional questions feel free to comment below!

Thanks to Gordon for taking the time to answer this wacky question. If you have more questions, or some weird situations of your own, send them in to us via the Tipline, and we’ll make sure they get answered and figured out!

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