Why The Shot Clock Is Good For Lacrosse

Joe Vitale Adelphi Lacrosse
Joe Vitale (#1) for Adelphi in 2011.
Joe Vitale Adelphi Lacrosse

Joe Vitale (#1) for Adelphi in 2011.

Editor’s Note: Ryan Connors’ first post on LAS centered around the shot clock debate at the IMLCA Convention.  In the end, Connors settled on the idea that keeping the shot clock out of college lacrosse may be for the best.  He came up with a couple of ways to speed up the game without a shot clock.

Joe Vitale, an All-American midfielder at Adelphi, has a slightly different take on the shot clock, and we’re really excited for this point-counterpoint approach to the debate!  Two top notch players from top notch D2 schools with very different perspectives on the shot clock!  The debate rages on.  Main photo courtesy Larry French and


I am going to start off by saying that I believe the MLL (and the style of lacrosse being played there) is very fun to watch, and that the shot clock and two point arc have a lot to do with this.  Now you know where I’m coming from.

A huge debate going on right now in the NCAA ranks is the need to speed up the game. Last year some of the games were brutal to watch with all the stall warnings and nonstop NOT going to the cage.  This is not only a huge turn off to current fans and players of the sport, but also to prospective new fans. With our sport being as small a community as it is, we need to focus on what is not only going to make the game better for current players but for the fans who have NEVER watched the sport before. We need to continue growth of the wonderful sport that we play, and personally, I think a 60 second shot clock would do the trick.

Ryan covered many of the finer details in the debate very well, so I am going to focus more on why the addition of the shot clock will grow the game to new levels.

If I was a recent new fan who watched the NCAA D1 tournament last year and purchased tickets to go see the championship, I would have been extremely disappointed, as it was a bit of a snooze fest.  Even as a current player I think I fell asleep on my couch watching the championship game. Between the 3 championships last year you could make a very good argument that the D2 game was the most exciting due to the up and down 9-8 score of the game, but at times even that game could be called extremely boring by a spectator.

As we try to find ways to attract new fans to not only the championships, but also to regular games, there is no doubt in my mind that a high-paced, up and down style of lacrosse WITH a shot clock will accomplish this.  Yes, to a person with a long history of lacrosse knowledge a 6-5 battle is one a hell of a game, but to just an average fan this game would have most likely seemed boring. People want scoring, and the NFL is a perfect example of this.  A well fought defensive battle with a final score of 14 – 7 would be considered boring to many fans, but to someone who religiously watches the NFL, this is a great game to watch. This is the same for lacrosse; in order for it to be entertaining for newer fans there must be lots of scoring or, at the very least, lots of scoring chances.

The game has become extremely over-coached and scripted, and players have turned into robots, being directed to do everything they do from the sideline.  A 60 second shot clock gives coaches less of a chance to direct and more time to actually coach.  And 60 seconds is not as short as everyone thinks!  In 60 seconds the ball can still be worked around until the right match up is found. Now for someone currently watching the game they see the ball going around a couple of times then a player dummy dodges to the cage and pulls it back out and the ball goes around again. With the 60-second shot clock this will all be eliminated.  Teams will be forced to go to the cage or they will lose possession.  And this is a good thing.

With the shot clock, a two-point arc might also have to be added due to teams packing into zones. But I say bring on the zones, because with more and more specialization, better athletes, and stronger players, a 16 yard 2 point arc wouldn’t be unrealistic.  A player today, with the current sticks that are being made to shoot harder and more accurately then ever before, should definitely be able to make this shot, and this is proven by recent goalie save percentages going down. The arc would create opportunities for teams that are down by a few goals in the last quarter. Along with the shot clock and two point arc the chances of a team being completely out of a game are slim. The winning team will now not be able to stall for a whole quarter, rather they will still have to play the game the way it should be because of the shot clock.  Add in the 2 point arc and they wouldn’t be able to just pack it in because with a couple of 2 pointers and a team that was down by 6 would now only be down by 2. This will make for a more exciting game, much like college basketball, which I think everyone can agree has become one of the more exciting sports to watch.

Maybe the shot clock isn’t the answer, but we will not know that until it is tried out. With a faster paced game of lacrosse, fans will be able to experience it the way it was supposed to be played. With many kids making the switch to lacrosse, even as it is being questioned on its speed, maybe these numbers will grow even more?  Kids will keep putting down their baseball bats for lacrosse sticks. Basketball and hockey fans will start watching more lacrosse due to the similarity and flow they would all share due to the shot clock.

Ultimately this is what we want, to make lacrosse a main stream sport being played for one reason, because there is a love of the game.

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  • I think that is the chance you take in having all the championships in one weekend, some games will be great (DII last year), some will be blow outs (Salisbury-Tufts last year), and some will be more defensive (DI) and considered boring to the new fan, but as a goalie i love those games.  My dad and I have been going to the championship every year for the last 10 (this will be our 10th) years.  I believe the games to really watch are the semifinals, most of my most memorable game are from those, including what I think is the greatest game i’ve ever watched was Cuse-UVA at Rutgers in 2001 or ’02 that was a double OT game with Mikey Powell, Tillman Johnson (my favorite goalie).  If a newbie to the sport is going to tune into any games, I think the semifinals are where it needs to start there and then they will be hooked for the rest of their lives, much like I have been since that first year as a soph in High School.  I think the shot clock would improve the pace of the game, but that could also develop into a sloppier game because players would be looking to force an ill-advised pass to a guarded player closer to the goal for a shot, and that could prove to be as boring a game as any on the games that a new fan could watch also, and turn them off to the sport before they ever really get the chance to enjoy it…

  • Change the height on the sidewall of the sticks. Think about it, you have 2inches of sidewall then roughly 2 1/2 inches of pocket holding the ball in. The bottom of the ball has to travel 5 1/2 inches before it’s completely out of the stick. The offset head forever changed the way sticks are as well as the game making it more difficult for defenders to poke the ball loose. Hence more individualistic play and slowed down play because ball control is so easy. Even though they just changed these up THE COMMITTEE NEEDS TO MAKE THE RIGHT CORRECTION. Nothing changed from the last adjustment. This will likely never happen since manufacturers will likely sue the NCAA to protect their investment over lost revenue from the inventory that is now all void — rightfully so. They could also tinker with the pocket depth, but then how would you measure that? If they aren’t going to make the appropriate adjustment to the height of the sidewall then shrinking the box would be the next best thing financially across the board. I’m not a fan of radically changing all the rules to the game nor do I think a shot clock is the answer despite all the buzz it’s receiving. Fix the pockets, the sidewalls or shrink the box are my solutions to the slowed down pace of play and stalling issues.

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