Last week, we finally got our first glimpse of the new Sixes format of lacrosse on the international stage at The World Games in Birmingham, Alabama. The games were fast, fun, and quite often tight, coming down to the wire. Sixes showcased a ton of the talent and skill presented in other versions of lacrosse.
It was hard not to fall in love with the Japanese men’s team on their surprise run to the bronze medal. Or feel vicarious joy for Dana Dobbie as she won the gold medal against the U.S. barely a week after losing the World Championship to the same opponent.
But when watching the games, I couldn’t help but feel like some of the rules were holding us back from something truly special.
When I put the question out on Twitter, lots of people have suggested that World Lacrosse should submit box lacrosse for Olympic play, or make major changes to Sixes like adding d-poles. Both of those ideas have their pros and their cons, but that’s for another article all together.
Considering sixes is a way to get lacrosse into the Olympics, I think World Lacrosse would be hesitant to make any drastic changes to the format. So I wanted to focus on relatively minor tweaks to the current format of the game. These could be implemented with little to no effort on the part of World Lacrosse, the IOC, or the member nations while drastically improving the quality of the game.
1. Take the Ball Out From the End Line After a Goal
Anyone who watched The World Games will tell you, the game has to slow down, both for the fans watching and the broadcasts. Not massively, just a few seconds here and there to let the game breathe and to let those watching catch up. Sixes is, at times, fast for the sake of being fast.
So many times during this tournament, important parts of the game were missed due to awkward cuts and replays cutting in without showing the play on the field. Sure, this is a new format of the game so some of that will get better as broadcasts learn the game and when they can and can’t break in. But that will only go so far when announcers literally don’t have the ability to describe what just took place because of the action currently taking place.
Additionally, a huge amount of emotion is taken out of the game with the goalie restart.
Jeff Teat scored one of the goals of the tournament in the men’s gold medal game and by the time fans processed what had happened, the ball was at the other end of the field. There was no celebration. There wasn’t even a replay. In fact, it was almost a full day before everyone realized what looked like an incredible BTB goal, was actually a mind-bending, one-handed behind-the-back goal while falling down.
Sixes is easily the coldest version of lax. Slow it down, just a tad, and let the people enjoy it.
2. Add a Two-Point Line
Lacrosse is a game known best for its runs. The history of this game is littered with huge comebacks. No lead is ever truly safe. Unless you are playing Sixes and the lead is 4.
The nature of Sixes means that even a 4-goal lead makes you damn near untouchable. In fact, over the course of The World Games, only one team in the men’s or women’s tournament lost a game after going up by 4 goals. Japan lost in arguably the game of the tournament, to Israel 21-20 in OT.
A 2-point line would go a long way towards giving a team a way back in. It would also provide another point of strategy for the game. Given how wide open the game is and how a missed shot is a turnover, how many two-point shooters do you bring and how often do you give the green light to go for it?
3. Change Penalty Times to 25 and 45 Seconds, and Make them Release After a Goal
World Lacrosse took a game of four 15-minute quarters and cut that almost in half, giving Sixes four 8-minute quarters while leaving penalty times the same. They then compounded the issue by removing the fact that a goal releases a penalty. All penalties in Sixes are full-time.
I understand the ruleset is trying to discourage the physical play from the other versions, but this is crazy. A team could essentially take 1 penalty in a game, get scored on a couple times in a minute and because of how difficult it is to make up ground in these games, never get back into it.
Not adjusting penalty times to suit the length of the game AND making the offending team serve full-time penalties, regardless of the opposing team scoring, unnecessarily double penalizes teams.
I enjoyed the games. I really did. I think these 3 tweaks would go a long way to making the game better for fans, both old and new, as well as making it easier on the broadcast crew.