The allowance for free movement by players on a whistle or stoppage of play is the most significant girls HS rule change in 2020, and one of 12 rules changes approved for high school girls’ lacrosse, effective January 1, 2020.
The girls HS rule changes were recommended by the joint National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and US Lacrosse (USL) Girls’ Lacrosse Rules Committee, and subsequently approved by both the NFHS and USL boards of directors.
Free movement allows players to move around the playing field, instead of being required to hold their positions on stoppages. The primary intent of the rule change is to improve the pace of play, and allows for a less restrictive experience for the athletes.
“This will be an exciting rule change for the high school game, one which we believe will enhance the athlete experience on the field and ease the workload on officials to monitor players off the ball,” said Caitlin Kelley, women’s lacrosse director at US Lacrosse and USL liaison to the girls’ lacrosse rules committee. “We want athletes to have opportunities to use their athleticism on the field and free movement will increase this important component of the women’s game.”
Lindsey Atkinson, the NFHS’s director of sports/communications associate and liaison to the girls’ lacrosse rules committee, commended the group on its efforts.
“The committee addressed topics with intention and extraordinary attention to detail,” Atkinson said. “The commitment of the joint NFHS/USL committee to do what is best for high school girls’ lacrosse was evident in both the content of their discussion and the outcomes of their hard work.”
Other rule changes and adjustments addressed player substitutions, self-starts on boundary restarts, checking penalties, and some equipment clarifications.
“The remainder of the rule changes were relatively minor as the committee was mindful of striking a balance between consistency and innovation in the women’s game,” Kelley said. “The rules committee prioritizes safety, integrity of the game, pace of play, and growth.”
To limit potentially dangerous play in the critical scoring area and allow for consistent administration of the free position, a major foul between the 12 and the 8 will now be administered as a free position taken on the 12-meter fan closest to the spot of the foul.
Among the equipment-related rule adjustments and clarifications, the most significant change now specifies that during stick checks, game officials will ensure that the ball rolls out of the back of the pocket when placed in the upper third of the head at its widest point and the stick and head are tilted 90 degrees. This rule helps limit the on field check requirements for the back of the pocket to those issues only related to performance.
For eyewear, the SEI (Safety Equipment Institute) mark for certification must be on the equipment by January 1, 2025. Eyewear must still be SEI certified for the 2020 season, but the requirement for a physical mark on the eyewear does not take effect until 2025. All approved eyewear is listed on the SEI website at www.seinet.org
“The delay in the implementation of having the SEI mark on the equipment is intended to reduce the burden on consumers to purchase new eyewear before 2025 when they already have equipment that meets the standard,” Kelley said.
In general, the committee added language clarifying that all equipment cannot be modified from its original manufactured state. All equipment must be worn in the manner the manufacturer intended.
The 2020 rules will be published in book form later this fall.
“The collaborative process between all the members of the committee was outstanding,” Kelley said. “US Lacrosse is grateful for the leadership of this group in casting a vision for the ongoing evolution of the sport.”
According to the 2017-18 NFHS High School Athletics Participation Survey, there are 96,904 girls participating in lacrosse at 2,781 high schools across the country.
About US Lacrosse
US Lacrosse, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, is the national governing body of lacrosse and the home of the nation’s fastest-growing team sport. US Lacrosse, which coordinates all activities of the U.S. National Teams Program, has nearly 450,000 members across the country. Through responsive and effective leadership, US Lacrosse provides programs and services to inspire participation while protecting the integrity of the sport.