I watch a lot of field lacrosse each year, on both the men’s and women’s side, and the more I see, the more I think some form of crosschecking should be legalized for both games, at least at the college level. I know field lacrosse isn’t box lacrosse, and women’s lacrosse isn’t men’s lacrosse, but hear me out before you blow a gasket and accuse me of trying to ruin the game. Save that stuff for AFTER you’ve read this post. That’s how this works. Give it the old college effort, and if you still don’t like it, then you can tell me to kindly get off your lawn.
For my argument to make any sense, the first thing you need to be able to believe is that the game of lacrosse has changed over time, as all sports do, and that it will continue to change. That much should be obvious to everyone, and if it is, then you’re good to continue reading. If it’s not, stop reading now, and begin ranting via an egg profile on Twitter. I’ll respond, promise.
Rules have been updated and continue to change, strategies evolve, new teams, players, and coaches enter the fray with new styles… and that only begins to explain how a sport can be modified. Remember when helmets were invented? What about when you could have as many as 9 longsticks on the field per team? Or what about the dive rule? Wooden sticks, anyone? ‘Member how box lacrosse didn’t exist until the mid 1900s? I ‘member. It’s all crazy, I know, but games change. Lacrosse changes.
Now, some of these are big changes, and others are not. While many people might argue that allowing crosschecking into field lacrosse would be a big change, I would venture that it would not be a big change at all, because it is already here en masse, and has been for a while, at almost every level of the collegiate game, for both men and women.
Crosschecking Should Be Legal
Crosschecking is currently used all over the field in both the modern men’s AND women’s game, and to have a rule on the books that is rarely or arbitrarily called makes very little sense to me. Defenders, middies, and attackers (usually on the ride) all use it. In fact, crosschecking is so prevalent, TV announcers have come up with the phrase “crosscheck hold” to describe really good defense.
No, really that’s true. Listen to a game and see if at least one of the announcers doesn’t describe a lot of crosschecking on the O guy’s hip by the defender as “really good defense” or a “great crosscheck hold”… but do you know WHY they say the crosscheck hold is “good defense”?
Because it IS good defense!
Crosschecking is a great way to play defense in lacrosse, assuming it’s legal or you can get away with it. Now, I want to be clear that I am NOT talking about a high hit, or a HARD crosscheck to the hip. I’m talking about a reasonable crosscheck, the kind we see during every game right now.
This type of crosscheck allows a defensive player to push an offensive player into an area or direction, it is NOT a slash, it stays away from the head (usually), and it values speed and good footwork over fancy but risky stick checks for the defensive player. This is so true that a lot of long poles in the men’s game barely throw many checks anymore. They really just have a big push directional slap check, then go straight into a crosscheck hold, using the six foot pole as a longer tool to push and prod their offensive opponent while maintaining contact.
Are you starting to see my point?
Watch most really good NCAA D1 defenders and they throw half as many slap or poke checks as they throw crosschecks. Why? BECAUSE IT IS EFFECTIVE, CONSERVATIVE, AND (again) A GREAT WAY TO PLAY DEFENSE! I wish I played D like in college instead of trying to poke check my way to glory. Of course crosschecking was actually still called back then, at least once in a while, and I got more than enough penalties already.
On D, any time you draw your stick back to throw a check, you “open the door” for a dodge. Any time you take your stick off your offensive mark, they gets their “hands free”… with modern sticks, pocket materials, and the stringing of pockets being so highly developed, throwing traditional checks is often a losing proposition, especially with a short stick, or in the women’s game. So what do most players do? They go for the crosscheck. It truly solves all of these problems, and currently, refs rarely call it, if ever. So why not use it all the time?
Do you remember Will Haus at Duke? Every single pundit and announcer called him a great defensive middie, and he certainly was, but the man also had his hands 2 feet apart on his stick at all times, and used to crosscheck the living daylights out of anyone with the ball. Personally, I thought it was a good example of hard-nosed defense. At the same time, according to the rule book, it was illegal and should have been called 4-5 times per game. I want to be clear, I’m not ragging on Haus here. He’s great, and he did what the refs allowed him to do to gain an advantage. That’s what smart competitors do. But he did do this quite often, and it was NOT called very often:
That was, by the rule book definition, two crosschecks in under 12 seconds. No flags were thrown. And you see this happen in every single college game every single weekend.
Now I’m not saying that type of defense should be illegal. What I am saying here is that if crosschecking is on the rule books (it currently is), then one of two things needs to happen:
- Call the rule as it’s written, or
- Change/remove the rule
Curious how the current reading of the rule looks? Probably should have gotten to this earlier. Here it is in the men’s book:
Section 11. A player may not check his opponent with his crosse in a cross-check position – that is, check him with that part of his crosse that is between his hands, either by thrusting it away from his body or by holding it extended from his body.
So what we saw in the video above WAS a cross-check, according to the rules. And the below IS a crosscheck, according to the rules.
What about this?
Are you tired of these photos yet? One more.
These photos really show the problem with the current rule as it’s written…
Except for the first photo, the other 3 all look like pretty good defense, and NOT penalties. It all looks pretty good to me. So did the Haus video. So why, according to the current rules the way they are currently written, is this illegal, but not called? EACH and every one of those photos shows a player with his hands apart, either thrusting with their arms, or holding their arms extended.
By the rules, these are penalties. By common sense standards, they are not (except maybe that first one). The cross-check needs to be redefined somehow. As it stands right now, it’s a non-functional rule, meaning it’s illegal, but everyone still does it.
I don’t think that the NCAA needs to adopt a box lacrosse rule where everyone can crosscheck anyone all the time. That seems completely unnecessary for the field game. And I would not advocate for players to be able to hit one another with a hard crosscheck, or knock them off their feet by extending their arms hard on a big hit, but when it comes to using your stick in a cross-checking motion to push someone out, I think something needs to be done by the Rules Committee. If it’s considered good defense in the modern game, it should probably be legal.
Did you think I had forgotten about the women’s game? No way!
Look at how many examples of crosschecking they pulled for this video. Then look at all the other crosschecks in the video that are NOT called. There are plenty. As I said, crosschecking is RAMPANT in both the men’s and women’s games. It’s so rampant, officials had to make this video to emphasize how to call it correctly.
While that video was from 2014, watch a 2017 game, and tell me you notice a big difference. I honestly don’t. Crosschecking hasn’t gone anywhere but up.
College Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse simply should not have a rule on the books that is not enforced consistently. Create an exemption for the cross check hold, where equal pressure is applied is allowed, or come up with some other creative solution, but do SOMETHING.
Right now crosschecking is technically illegal, but it’s the least enforced rule in the game. Let’s clean this rule up, throw it out, or call it correctly. Three better options than “leave it as is”. If we want the game to continue to grow and improve, this is the kind of stuff we have to deal with. Just letting it go is what we’ve been doing, and while it’s not really hurting our game, it’s certainly not helping it.
AGAIN, I want to be very clear, I’m not making this about the players, or even the coaches here. Not one bit. They are all simply doing what the refs/rules allow them to do to gain an advantage. That’s what all smart competitors do.
Years ago I advocated for getting rid of ALL crosschecking in the game. At the time, the main concern was speeding up the game, and I believed (and still believe) that actually calling crosschecking as it’s written in the rules would do just that. Goals per game would explode.
However, we have seen absolutely little to no movement towards effectively eradicating crosschecking so I’m kind of giving up on the idea altogether. If it’s not going anywhere, let’s do something about it in another way. Maybe make it legal? If anything, we see even more of it now (and possibly less of it called) as it is coached/taught better and refs become more and more used to seeing it used safely in so many instances.
Would this mean that more men’s lacrosse players will start wearing more bicep pads and kidney pads? Maybe. The Navy guys barely even wear arm pads, so probably not. Would women start wearing McDavid helix padding all over their bodies? NBA players do, so why not? But again, they probably wouldn’t. But they might. At least one top college player already wears this type of padding all over her arms. And all of that is legal as far as I can tell, whereas crosschecking is still not.
At a certain point, padding, coaching, refs, fans, and players will adjust to keep up with crosschecking being rampant in the game. Whether the rules will catch up, well, that’s another question entirely.
So what should we do about crosschecking? Make it legal? Call it tighter? Leave it as is and hope for the best? Sound off, this issue is far from settled. I WANT to hear your opinion!