My Harebrained Thoughts On Speeding Up The Game

Syracuse Hopkins Lacrosse
5-4. Yup.

Editor’s note: Welcome Matt Rowley to Lax All Stars! Matt is the program director for High School Lacrosse under NESLL (New England Select Lacrosse). Today Matt shares some of his thoughts on the game, and what can be done to keep it fast-paced and fun! Expect lots of great commentary and content from Matt from here on out. His first post is evidence of the quality! Connor Wilson and Ryan Powell aren’t the only ones with outspoken opinions!

There’s so much talk about the pace of the game these days, and when Syracuse is averaging less than ten goals a game maybe it is time to make some changes. The stick changes seemed to be a step in the right direction, but they haven’t made much of an impact on the speed of the game.

With the geometric multiplication in the numbers of players and the interest in lacrosse, it’s imperative that the product showcased at the highest level (my humble apologies to the MLL and NLL) feeds the hunger and excitement of our new participants. I can guarantee you that 5-4 games won’t help the game continue to grow at the rate it has over the last fifteen years. If kids wanted to stand around a field waiting for two guys to make a play on a ball they would have continued to play baseball.

I’ll admit that the ending of the Hopkins – Syracuse game was exciting, but the four plus quarters preceding Stephen Keogh’s game winner were pretty boring. Hopkins spent most of their possessions standing in the corner of the box while the referees battled the effects of lactic acid as they maintained minute long stall warnings. This game specifically influenced my thinking about some changes that could speed the game up.

Syracuse Hopkins Lacrosse
5-4. Yup.

First, let me say that I do not like the new rule that gives teams 30 seconds from possession to the offensive restraining box. With the old 20-10 rule the opportunity to ramp up the ride and take advantage of mistakes in the defensive half allowed teams to pressure occasionally. I think the new rule will keep that from happening; robbing the game of a few quick restarts and the resulting transition.

Most of the talk has been of implementing a shot clock, and I think it is the obvious answer, so I will contemplate some not so obvious ones. The concepts examined here are not fully realized and are probably fatally flawed, but I’ll present them anyway in the hopes that discussion ensues as a result.

After watching Hopkins play to a stall warning and then sit in the corner of the box below GLE I began to contemplate how changing the box itself might affect the game. Maybe changing the dimensions of the box would help. Right now it’s to easy to clear in the thirty-second time frame. Moving the top of the box back five yards and the sides of box in five yards on each side would encourage teams to pressure more outside the box. Additionally, once a stall warning is issued it would further constrict the area that an offense can operate. By constricting the box the defense is able to apply more pressure on the ball. Heightened pressure results in turnovers and transition, which in turn leads to goals and excitement.

If decreasing the size of the boxes is out of the question, then maybe a trapezoid shaped restraining box with less room behind GLE would work. This would keep teams from taking the ball to the goal line corners and sitting there waiting for substitutions or simply killing clock. Pinch the box in as it extends to the goal line and those safe corners are no longer safe. If you want to stall, the shape of the box will encourage you to stall above the GLE. The reason teams stall behind the GLE is to mitigate the risk of transition on a turnover. If teams are forced to stall above the GLE those mistakes will lead to better transitions opportunities and as a result it may discourage teams from playing stall offense at all.

Say good bye to the LSM. This idea saddens me, as I think it’s one f the most exciting positions in lacrosse. It would be a shame to rob college lacrosse of players like Joel White, CJ Constabile, Brian Karalunas and Milton Lyles, but one less pole on the field means that there is one more player that coaches are willing to let their players dodge against. With three shorties on the field offensive production will increase, and coaches will be willing to take more chances. Six vs. six offenses will surely improve, but with coaches taking more chances offensively there may actually be an increase in transition opportunities as well.

Joel White Lacrosse Syracuse Maryland lax
Loosing players like White could help the game?

This one is really out there. Immediately after the team in possession touches the offensive restraining box substitutions will cease. Therefore, all substitutions have to happen in transition. I stole this from the NHL whom no longer allow subs after an icing call. This rule would put an end to the thirty seconds wasted. While teams sub out the their transition and defensive players. My hope is that we see the return of the two way middie. Additionally, as players tire they make mistakes leading to ground balls and more transition and unsettled opportunities. The biggest issue is that players could be trapped on the field for multiple shifts. Maybe substitutions restart when the offensive team has taken a shot.

Again, these ideas are all somewhat hair brained, I understand that. That said something needs to change for the betterment of both the college and high school game. I’ve heard from multiple sources that the financial effect of the shot clock and further stick constraints stand in the way of those changes. If that is true, than maybe some of these ideas are valid.I still believe that ultimately a shot clock is the way to go but that won’t necessarily slow down the specialization of players to the point that it now permeates youth, high school, and club lacrosse. It seems a shame to designate a kid as a D middie at the age of fourteen, but it happens. That however, is another post for another time.

Editor’s note: One thing to think about regarding losing the LSM… It could be done another way.  Teams could still use a LSM.  But they would be limited to 3 poles on the field.  So Joel White and others could still do what they do, but teams would have to put a short stick on an attackman if they wanted to use a pole in the midfield.  Either way, the idea of taking a pole away is controversial, but very interesting nonetheless!


  1. I think there are some good ideas here, other than the shot clock. I love the way college lacrosse is played even if it is slow at times. I cannot stand to watch MLL anymore because it is not team orriented. With thier 60 second shot clock there is no time to set up an offense and is often one player running through the defense.

    I also think that there is too much complaining about stick width, and D-poles not being able to get the ball. Even with these sticks the game is still low scoring, and we do not want to make it to easy to get the ball because the game would end up like hockey just going back and forth with little scoring.

    I really like the trapeziod behind GLE confining the attack, which i think would definatly speed up the game after a stall call.

      • i would like to re implement the 20-10 rule, but messing with the dimensions of the box is not in the best interest of the college game. moving the net back, to eliminate attack men space would be a good place to start. but anything more than that, is changing the game totally. maybe making the stall warning a bit more strict could also speed, up the game.

    • Agreed. Stick width complaints need to stop. There’s nothing compelling about the ball being on the ground all the time and it’s no coincidence that this sport’s popularity began to climb rapidly upon the invention of the offset narrow-width stick head. People like some daring on offense.

  2. Well,
    There are other things you could consider.
    1, limit the LSM to a 52″ stick length which could allow him more opportunities in transition.
    2, get rid of the side line horn for substitution, if you want to make these subs do it at your own risk on the fly.
    3, on a flag play, if the iminent chance to score is gone eg: ball travels more than once round the back of the cage, blow the whistle and send the offending player off. Also do not allow time for subs in this situation, a quick whistle to restart play will keep more middies in the game.

    All these things would lead to more 2 way middies being developed and allow more transition play.

  3. That NHL rule might be the best idea I’ve heard. In combination with something else, that could be the answer.

    As for sticks, they are still a bit too pinched. I like that they widened the throat, that really needed to happen. I’d like to see them widen the middle of the stick more. Not to a ridiculous degree, just to something like the original brine edge. Sticks like that would help with the problem of defenders checking too hard while still allowing gifted offensive players to work their magic (see mike powell and his highlight video).

  4. As I continue to read posts like this, the one thought in my head is that the concept of offense needs to change in lacrosse. Advertised as ‘the fasted game on two feet’, it should not take up to a minute to set up a play. Much like basketball, once players are in position, the play can be run regardless of how many times the ball is passed around the horn. The addition of a 60 second shot clock would inspire offensive teams to become extremely efficient, and would also inspire defense to become more daring in an effort to generate turnovers and transitional goals. Therefore, (higher efficiency + riskier defense resulting in turnovers = more shots on goals per game).

    Couple that with the NHL rule on substitution, and you have an extremely fast paced game based on capitalization of errors and efficiency of offense.

  5. great post and some solid insight. I like making the size change of the box….GREAT idea IMO. However being a fellow defensemen I like the LongPole. it creates transition and its a fun element to watch in a game, especially guys like Joel White, etc.