Editor’s Note: Kacy Small saw both the NCAA rules and FIL rules firsthand this year. After reflecting on his experience, he’s sure one of them is doing it right, while the other has some potential areas for improvement. Can you guess which version of lacrosse Kacy prefers before reading the article? And what do you think of his argument?
Photo Credit: Craig Chase
This past spring The Hill School started playing by NCAA rules in the Inter-Ac Conference in PA. As Assistant Head Coach I was worried at ﬁrst about how our players and coaching staff would adjust to these new rules. Personally, I was still on the fence as to whether or not I was in support of them.
As the season progressed, I realized that the new NCAA rules positively affected, and only enhanced, the sport by making the game smoother, quicker and faster. The season ended and I was totally on board with the direction the NCAA had headed. America loves speed and excitement and I believe the NCAA had that in mind. At the end of the day, the new rules worked, at least in my opinion.
Two months after the spring season ended, I traveled to China to play in the 2013 ASPAC tournament for the Thailand National Lacrosse Team, which I have been a member/captain for almost two years. Thailand ﬁnished the tournament in third place behind the Australian U23 team and the Japan U21 team. Our accomplishments at the 2013 ASPACs were a huge step for Thailand, but I couldn’t help but notice, on a game-by-game basis, how much slower the international lacrosse game was, and not because of the skill level of the players, but more so because of the rules the FIL (Federation of International Lacrosse) currently uses.
On my ﬂight back to the US, I couldn’t help but start to compare and contrast the NCAA rules against the Federation rules. I personally believe that NCAA Lacrosse is the best lacrosse on the planet and it’s played in the US, the same country where lacrosse is labeled “the fastest growing sport”…this isn’t just a coincidence. Kids in our country are fortunate to see more NCAA games on TV every year and the NCAA must have TV on their mind when they make these rule changes every year, in addition to others aspects of the game.
So how do NCAA and FIL rules differ so much?
Here are some of the rules that differ from the NCAA and the FIL, and I believe these rule differences are slowing down the FIL, and the growth of the game internationally.
Firstly, the game time format is a huge difference. The NCAA plays four 15-minute quarters while the FIL plays four 20-minute quarters. Some might think that more playing time equals more fun and that may be true for a viewer, but as a player I can tell you that four 20-minute quarters in the International game is brutal. It is almost a full quarter more for the International athletes who are not nearly as conditioned as an NCAA athlete. This consistently created a slower pace of play as the game got into the 4th quarter. Teams also had a tendency to slow their possessions down in general, to help the athletes conserve energy.
The second rule detrimental to the game is the quick restarts. The NCAA has been making it a priority to incorporate “Quick Restarts” and it helps the game move faster and helps keep viewers attention. The FIL has no such practice of quick restarts. They are still allowing players to slowly pick up the ball, move players 5 yards away, look around, stand and then ﬁnally blow the whistle. I think a spectator at an FIL game would think they were at a baseball game at times, so instead of quick restarts, maybe the FIL should incorporate a 4th quarter stretch for fans to stand up and circulate some blood in their bodies.
The third issue that I believe needs to be investigated at the FIL level would be substitutions. The NCAA substitution box is 20 yards wide while the FIL substitution box is only 10 yards wide. The longer sub box in the NCAA allows players to get on and off faster adding to the game speed. FIL also makes you round the cones on at the back of the box to sub as opposed to using the sideline, this is a wasted 5 yards during subbing.
The fourth potential change I noted had to do with the NCAA allowing teams to do mass subs during dead ball situations, like EMO, while the FIL will still make you sub on the ﬂy to get your extra man group on. An international team that is not extremely disciplined will lose up to 10 seconds of their EMO time subbing through the box. The chances of scoring on a 30 second man up are low enough. 20 seconds is truly a challenge.
The ﬁfth issue and, in my opinion, the most important issue is advancement. NCAA gives you 30 seconds to get the ball in the offensive end, whereas, FIL does not have any counts. This slows the game down tremendously. There is no urgency at the International level to advance the ball. Teams will slow the game down to get a rest.
Imagine if NFL teams could sit in the huddle as long as they wanted too or an NBA player could inbounds the ball and then dribble in the back court for a minute before crossing half court.
To piggy back on the advancement rules let’s look at “stall warnings.” NCAA gives the referees the option to speed up the game and the offense by issuing a stall warning when no one is attacking the cage. The offense then gets a 30 second shot clock put on by the refs and this year I bet we see an experimental on-ﬁeld, visible shot clock. At the International level there is no such “stall warning’’. The offense can take all the time they want, except at the end of the game when the leading team must “get it in, and keep it in”…sound familiar? Yes, the old school Federation rules that the NCAA did away with when IMPROVING the game for players and viewers!
The purpose of the NCAA Rules Committee is to improve the game and that has indeed been happening. Lacrosse is at an all time high in our country. The FIL’s purpose is to GROW THE GAME internationally, but yet, when it comes to improving the rules, I don’t see the same efforts. The International game is SLOW and this is supposed to be the “fastest game on two feet”.
I look at the NCAA like I look at Apple and Steve Jobs. Apple, aka the NCAA, has pushed the boundaries and thought outside the box with the end result in mind, whereas the FIL model, aka Microsoft, is fading away slowly but surely.
What will it take for the FIL to look at the NCAA and start making moves?