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The One-Sided Visible Shot Clock Debate

I love a good counterpoint, and the conversation surrounding a Visible Shot Clock is in dire need of one, so here goes…

When one watches a college game on TV these days, the subject of the new rules inevitably comes up, as it should, but there is hardly a diversity of opinion on many of the rule changes coming from the broadcast booth. The best example of this one-sided view on an issue is the Visible Shot Clock Debate, and how offensive players need to see a 30 second shot clock.

Nobody else seems to be in favor of an invisible shot clock. Here is my reasoning for why it’s a good thing.

The first argument against a Visible Shot Clock is no different from the one I made when a permanent shot clock was being debated: The cost of installing new clocks could be prohibitive, especially at smaller (non-D1 schools) and neutral sites. This added cost holds back growth by increasing inherent costs, and it limits venues for neutral site games to those that have lacrosse shot clocks.

Sure, teams could buy portable shot clocks, but will they be wired to a central clock? What if the field doesn’t have power? Use solar powered shot clocks and what do you do if it rains, or it’s a night game? These questions can be answered, but until they have been, the visible shot clock debate can not be as simple an argument as “players need to see it“.

The second argument against a shot clock is that it is not a permanent feature of the game. There isn’t always a shot clock going in the game, so who manages the clocks? Do they go off the ref’s whistle? Do refs now need remotes for clocks? Can a smaller game crew handle the added responsibility? If there is a reset, does the ref have to confer with the clock manager each time? That all seems like it would also slow the game down, and again, that is something the new rules are trying to avoid. Basically, a visible shot clock requires a lot of work, time, and money for something that will only be used a couple of times per game.

A third argument against the VSC is that lacrosse is not basketball, and it is not football. We don’t have a shot clock at all times, like in basketball, or in the NLL. There is no constant play clock, like in football. It is a small part of the game for us at this point. Lacrosse needs to be looked at as lacrosse, and not something else. We don’t have free throws in lacrosse, should we add those in because basketball has them? Exactly. “Basketball does it” is a very weak argument.

The fourth argument against a Visible Shot Clock has to do with the WHOLE POINT of the rule changes. Teams that stall, and slow it down, will be penalized. A visible shot clock seems like much less of a penalty, doesn’t it? It makes it easier on the offense, and this lessens the impact of the call. Do we really want to encourage more stalling by making the stall period easier to deal with for the offense? That seems incredibly backwards.

The final argument against shot clocks is that lacrosse players are smart. When the ref puts the stall warning on, every player on offense should look up at the clock and subtract 30 second from the time remaining in the quarter. Now EACH player has their own shot clock. Bad at math? Study your subtraction tables more.You are in college, right? Shouldn’t be too tough. It’s simple, it’s manageable, and it doesn’t require any additional clocks or excellent hearing. That just blew your mind, didn’t it?

Commentators have said many times how players need to be able to see a shot clock, but the fact is that they already have a clock to use. It can also be argued that the added costs are prohibitive, but the strongest point is that the shot clock is a penalty, and not just another part of the game. To lessen the punishment is to reward “bad” behavior, and that is exactly what the new rules were trying to get away from. As the Stall and Shot Clock rules stand now, and for many other reasons, a Visible Shot Clock actually makes no sense.