Lacrosse continues tradition of evolution

From its Native American roots to the modern day, lacrosse has made numerous changes to its rules over time.
Unlike Virginia high school sports, lacrosse makes annual edits to its rulebook.
“When I played in high school, there was technically no out of bounds,” varsity girls lacrosse head coach Valerie Gibbons said. “You could run for as long as you wanted to until the [referees] blew the whistle.”
Nowadays, the rules are increasingly explicit. In fact, with the additions of minor crease regulations and the floating hash, a new change to the field, the sport has changed significantly since it first started.
“Typically, before COVID-19 started, I would take the entire coaching staff to the National U.S. Lacrosse Convention to [continue] education as coaches so that we can stay updated on all the news,” Gibbons said.
Lacrosse’s rules have even seen changes since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In past years, it was illegal for players to rake the ball into their stick. These days, it’s a bit more complicated.
“Nowadays, you’re allowed to do it, but only when there’s not another player in reach of the ball,” Gibbons said. “If there’s some chance someone else might be able to get it, it’s considered illegal. That’s kind of inconsistent.”
Girls varsity team player and senior Laura Crone had her own conflict with a different rule change related to obstructing opposing defenders.
“Usually you can stack defenders on a hash mark on the eighth,” Crone said. “One person can push their teammate to help them get a faster first step. This year, me and [junior Addie Soucek] tried that and they said we weren’t allowed to do it anymore.”
Crone said the free movement rule is significant to gameplay because players are no longer required to start on a whistle.
“When I first started playing, [it was hard to get used to],” Crone said. “It was like a shot [or] the chase, whoever’s closest to it gets the ball rather than it being an automatic turn.”
The rules concerning faceoffs, which are how play begins, have also seen changes in recent years.
“Last year when I played, I did not have to go for the ball,” boys JV player and sophomore Jack Zabrowski said. “I could stand up and hit the guy across from me and then turn around and pick up the ball.”
Zabrowski said the rule was changed in the past year.
“This year you actually have to make a play for the ball before you can actually get physical,” Zabrowski said. “I have to attempt to clamp the ball and get it out or something like that, before I can have any contact with the guy I’m going up against.”
Zabrowski said there has also been a significant difference in the enforcement of physical contact penalties between years.
“It’s mainly concerning the way you can hit people,” he said in reference to the slash, a type of penalty. “Last year, one or two hits they [considered] a slash. But this year, I’ve had times where I’ve been smacked. It’s been a slash and they just haven’t called anything.”
As the sport of lacrosse evolves, the rules are likely to continue evoking mixed reactions among its players and coaches.