December 29, 2012

Hey, Ump: How to be a smarter player by mastering the rules

By Jenny Miriam

Knowing the rules and understanding legal skills can help a player make better, smarter choices. Unfortunately, umpires all too often see mistakes that are easily avoided, cases where a smarter player would work the situation in a way that they make the play and we don’t have to blow the whistle. 

Jenny Miriam is a youth, high school and collegiate umpire in Western Massachusetts.

With that in mind, in the next two issues, I am looking at ways that the average player could be smarter, improving their game just with better knowledge of rules and game play.

Here are the first five items on my list of ways to be a smarter player:

1. Have more patience for stick checks. Checking legally and effectively is a difficult skill in women’s lacrosse, requiring concentration, precision and timing.

Many defenders rush their checks, failing to get into proper body position or to realize the rhythm of the attacker’s cradle so that they have the right moment to inject their own stick.

In addition, the attack’s illegal cradle — a common practice of the offensive player keeping their stick inside the sphere — will be called as a foul only when the defender loses the check that would have been possible if the stick was outside the sphere.

Thus, if the defender does not make sufficient effort to show she’s in position and had the opportunity to check, the attack’s in-the-sphere cradle does not generate an “advantage” and should not draw a whistle.

Hold the check until the timing is better and the illegal-call could work in your favor.

2. Have more patience on boundary play. Defenders who successfully box an attacker along the sidelines seldom refrain from extending their sticks into the opponent’s body to help push her out of bounds.

If the box just keeps getting smaller without the stick-to-body contact, the attack eventually would step on the line or try to charge through the defense; either way, the turnover would be achieved.

3. When you foul, listen carefully to the umpire’s instruction. There are two types of fouls, major and minor. The physical major fouls will result in you being sent directly behind the ball handler as she faces goal. If the umpire says “four meters away,” however, it’s a minor foul and players only need to step further from the attacker; they get to stay on the same line they had to the person they fouled.

Don’t give up good goal-side positioning when your foul was minor.

4. When you foul, listen carefully to the umpire’s description of the offense. I try hard to give details of what part of the play I found objectionable, and I teach others to do the same. We are in the business of making illegal play disappear from the game.

So when I call you for the stick-to-body push that came right before your legal check, I hate hearing you, your teammates, your coach and your parent’s all tell me it was a good check.

If you listen to my identification of “stick on the body” as the foul, you can make the next check without the push and not be called for a foul.

5. Question the umpires politely, rather than yelling at them. Most of us work pretty hard on doing a good job out there, but there is a lot to keep track of. When you politely ask us to pay attention to something, it typically prompts us to focus on something different that we might not have seen as relevant to that game.

Or you might remind us of a rule variation that was relevant to our game yesterday but is not today.

Don’t expect to get the call just because you engage us in a friendly way but — if you are friendly — expect to get our attention in a positive way, one that might get you the call you were looking for if the same action occurs later in the game.

This article originally appeared in the November-December 2012 issue of New England Lacrosse Journal.