Editor’s Note: Justin Skaggs, the Lead Stringer over at Stylin Strings Lacrosse, was as interested by the proposed string rule changes as the rest of us, but unlike the rest of us, Justin actually got in touch with John Hind, the head of the Rules Committee, and had a very productive conversation about the proposed rule changes! See below for an in-depth update on where one of the biggest the proposed rules now sit!
As many of you know, my company makes the sticks for The University of Virginia Men’s Lacrosse Team. While I was not personally affected by many of the rule changes proposed by the NCAA rule committee, the rules revolving around pockets made sending out the Freshman Wahoos’ sticks a serious headache.
(The above is last year’s effort. Keep your eyes peeled for the 2013 version. It’s definitely on the next level.)
The new rules regarding how the referees are to review a player’s pocket proved not to be an issue for us, as we have always strung our sidewalls appropriately so that the ball can release from the back (one of the more discussed pocket-related rule changes). The most dramatic proposed rule change would be the shooting string restrictions.
With the rules only being an idea at this point, I gathered as many interpretations as I could. So many industry experts seemed to be saying so many various things that I decided to use some of my contacts and try to reach the source. Jon Hind is the Chair of the NCAA Lacrosse Rules Committee. The explanation I received from him and his colleagues matched nothing that I had gathered from the rest of the lacrosse community.
Let’s start with a breakdown of what the proposed shooting string limitation rule would actually mean. The rule that is up for debate at this time states that all shooters must be 3.5 inches from the scoop of the stick.
Some of the questions I had for Jon Hind were as follows.
Skaggs: Where is this 3.5 to be measured from? Will it be the top of the plastic of the bottom where plastic meets pocket?
Hind: The 3.5 inches will be measured from the top of the plastic.
Skaggs: So if a head has a scoop with a steep arch does one measure from the highest point and then move down 3.5 inches?
Hind: No, the measurement of 3.5 inches travels with the curve of the scoop.
Skaggs: So what you are saying is that the shape of the scoop will be identical to the bottom limitation of the shooting strings? We could, in essence, just pull that same shape down by 3.5 inches from the top of the plastic?
Hind: Yes that is correct.
So with this I had one of my graphic designers whip me up a diagram. The first image shows the proposed legal area for the shooting strings:
The second image shows the most plausible placement for shooters within these regulations:
So there you have it. This image has presented to Jon and he clarified that that is, in fact, the rule, and the ramifications of this rule really results in only two shooting strings.
Here is the kicker: The rules committee was not trying to limit players to two shooters, far from it. Jon did not see that this proposed rule would eliminate the third shooting string. The intention of the rule from Jon Hind’s perspective was to minimize the hold that players attained from U shooters. Even a low straight shooter can allow for a level of hold that they feel is a detriment to the game.
All opinions aside, the NCAA Rules Committee is concerned with the avoidance of someone having what they consider to be an unfair amount of hold, not with eliminating the third bottom shooter or making some new chapter in pockets, by forcing players to use something completely foreign.
Once Jon Hind saw my image our conversation changed. It changed from me asking him questions to him asking me questions. He was legitimately interested. Many of us like to think that the people who make the rules are isolated from the game and indifferent to the effects their decisions have. This is not the case with Jon Hind. Our conversation then went as follows.
Hind: Would this be an issue as far as you are concerned?
Skaggs: Yes, the limitations of the pocket would severely hinder the players’ game.
Hind: So what would only having two shooters do? How would it affect the players?
Skaggs: If a player used a low pocket, once the fibers softened and the materials wore down, the two shooters would act like a brick wall. Players with high pockets would no longer be able to nestle the ball against the bottom shooter. Traditional stringing’s would need constant adjustment as the natural fibers begin to stretch even more under the second shooter, because of how high it is.
Also, the players have never used a stick that would meet the regulations. Everyone has used a three straight, whether it is theirs or a friend’s, but they will have to adjust their whole game. Granted, most of them will be skilled enough to do this.
Hind: What would you suggest now that you know what it is we are trying to achieve?
And on it went back and forth. Jon Hind, as well as the rest of the NCAA Rule Committee’s opinions were surprisingly open to outside views and opinions. After a long discussion I wrote up a few proposed ideas for him to digest and share with his fellow committee members. Jon indicated that he would like my continued input regarding the potentially unintentional consequences of the proposed changes.
Now that I have my ear to the ground with this issue, I continue to update you along the way.