Hot Pot Of Lax: Do Sideline Substitution Horns Need To Go?

Salt Shakerz Invitational Lacrosse
Less sideline horn! More havoc!

On guard (I’ll let you try my Wu-Tang style), this week’s Hot Pot is… GAME CHANGING!

This past weekend I played on the team in the Salt Shakerz Invitational and I was interested to see that they were using some slightly different rules, and a couple of them really excited me.  I’ll get to those in a minute, but first I want to focus a little more heavily on ONE rule change: the elimination of the sideline horn for substitutions.

In the high school and college game, it all comes down to personal preference, and there is no “correct” answer when it comes to keeping, modifying, or even getting rid of the sideline horn.  However, in games with running time clocks, like Summer ball, the sideline horn should be eliminated.  Period.  If you’re playing 25 minute running halves and there is a horn for substitutions every time the ball goes out on a sideline, you’ll probably only play 18-20 minute halves in reality… and that’s just not enough lacrosse!

Salt Shakerz Invitational Lacrosse
Less sideline horn! More havoc!

Now in the college game, there aren’t technically moments of game play lost to sideline substitutions if you have a clock that stops with the whistle.  It does, however, slow the game down, break up the back and forth flow that we often associate with lacrosse, and make it much more boring as a spectator.  But that is more of a personal bias, I think.  Some people love football for that very reason: it’s one minute of lead-up for 4-10 seconds of action.

I love lacrosse for the opposite reason: I think of it as fast-paced.  And for that reason, I’m a proponent for either eliminating the sideline horn, or adding a shotclock.  While I may like the latter idea in concept, the shotclock is expensive (think of the DII, DIII and MCLA schools, and ALL the high schools that would have to buy one) and requires electricity at each field.  But eliminating the sideline horn?  That’s free!  And it definitely speeds up the game and makes for more exciting moments.  O-mis trapped riding and on D, d-mids clearing the ball… it would only make the game more exciting, and push all players to be better, and more well-rounded.

In a college game, the ball will go out on a sideline and both coaches will change out most of, it not all, of their midfielders, and maybe even an attackman or two.  These guys are all fresh and have been coached up on the sideline before going in.  All that situational work in practice is now being utilized.  Specialty players are used.  But since when did LACROSSE become a coaches’ game?  This isn’t baseball!

Now over the Summer, a middie on D will pick up the ball after it goes out, get back on the field, and the whistle will blow.  That middie may be tired, he has no set play from a coach in his head to run, and his job isn’t just to clear the ball… he’s just out there playing lacrosse the way he knows how.  No one knows what’s going to happen, and that’s what makes it exciting!

Now I’m not saying that lacrosse should be totally free flowing, and that we should get rid of the coaches.  But the sideline horn is an OBVIOUS area where the speed of the game can be increased, specialization can be reduced and coaches can be removed from a couple more plays on the field.  Baseball and football are both heavily reliant on managers and coaches making calls.  That’s fine, but it was not what drew me to lacrosse, and it isn’t what our sport is all about (at least in my admittedly biased eyes).

International lacrosse is played without sideline horns, and it’s great.  For the game overall, I think it would result in more transition, more broken plays, and in the end, more goals with a greater diversity of scorers.  Sounds like an easy change to make, and definitely worth a try in 2012 or 2013!!

Now some of the other rules that the Salt Shakerz used were a little more crazy, but I liked a couple of them!  For instance, if a game was tied in the “borough” round, it was decided by an LSM braveheart.  Awesome.  The other rule change they added was the Dive!  It was back, and seen a couple of times.  No goalies were hurt and it only added to the game.  But I know this isn’t going to come back to the college or high school games any time soon.  Oh well!



– The 4th Annual Maverik Showtime Lacrosse “National Recruiting Spotlight” will run from July 11th-14th at Western CT State University.  Want to see some AWESOME high school Summer ball?  Recruit some D1 players?  Check it out! |

– Tim Soudan new Rochester Rattlers Head Coach | Democrat and Chronicle

– Well worth a read if you missed it… AED saves lacrosse player’s life |

– Citywide team in Delaware lets the kids PLAY! | Delaware News

– Keegan Wilkinson new Head Coach at Marist |

– Lacrosse beginning to stick in Nebraska |




  1. As a 1st line 2-way midfielder I would love this. Some coaches get horn-happy as i like to say and sub the lines way to much. I would go through whole games AS A MIDFIELDER and STILL BE FRESH! Something isn’t right there. I also think it’ll make the game more fun, and i’m ALL about FUN!

  2. I agree. In fact, most of the games that I’ve watched recently that involved a running clock have not allowed substitution horns. I think this is a great rule of thumb for tourneys or leagues employing a running clock. Without a shot clock in the college or high school game, a no-horn rule wouldn’t necessarily speed up the game. In fact, more of the live clock action would be spent running guys in and out of the box to get the right personnel on the field. If we really wanted lax to be an up and down game with guys playing an all-around game, lacrosse could always take a page out of soccer’s book and simply limit the number of substitutions allowed per quarter to say….20?

    • The elimination of the sideline horn might not speed things up, but it would create more opportunities for a defense to push the offense, who would be in a man-down situation during the sub process…potentially creating loose balls and transition scenarios…which would speed it up

  3. Three things:

    First – I have to admit that I am a high school coach who utilizes offensive and defensive short-stick midfielders.  During the season we do what we can to switch up personnel on a change of possession.  Last year I had a HUGE group of seniors, all of which were talented, and I needed to find a way to utilize all of them.  This was the best way to do that.

    That said – I totally agree with you on summer/pre-season ball.  If there is a running clock, horns should be eliminated.  There are other ways to get somebody else on defense (i.e. running off with your man if he subs), and this is a good opportunity to practice in those situations.  There are plenty of times during a game in the regular season when you want another midi on, but don’t get the opportunity for a horn, and games without a clock allow you to figure that out.

    Finally – Are adult summer club teams really trying to use offensive and defensive midis?  Since win did men’s summer club ball start getting technical?  I thought abstaining from drinking until AFTER the game was about as serious as teams got in the summer.

  4. I like the idea, but I agree with 24 seven Lax that without that shot clock, guys are just gonna jog the ball around until subs are complete anyways.  Also, The Fresno Lacrosse Tourney has gone by international rules for 3 years now (which includes the dive shot) and it is awesome.  Too bad it can’t come back at other levels other than the adult.  So much fun. 

  5. I agree on eliminating the horn, or at least limiting it.  Although it would make for yet another thing for the officials/table to keep track of, maybe the horn should be limited like time outs.  Keep it simple like two horns per quarter.

  6. A shot clock that is hard to disagree with is the ‘soft’ 20 second (using the ref’s NFHS 20 second timer) clock that replaces the ‘keep it in’ stall warning with ‘timer’s on’.