1. The changes only affect leagues playing under NCAA rules. This includes the MCLA and a few high school leagues, like the MIAA , which has played under NCAA rules in the past. It does not, however, include the MLL, NLL or FIL, nor does it include most high school and youth leagues, which play under NFHS rules and will not change stick head dimensions.
2. For NCAA-legal heads, the throat must be no narrower than three inches, and the scoop must be no narrower than six inches. Under the old rules, the scoop had to be at least 6.5 inches wide.
3. There will be three styles of heads manufactured — heads legal for NCAA rules, heads legal for NFHS rules and heads legal for both.
4. The rule change goes into effect Jan. 1, 2010, meaning old heads will be legal for fallball, but illegal once the spring season starts. Most NCAA Division I players have already had the chance to get their hands on a new head, and most DI coaches say they expect their players to use them in the fall.
• On record saying they hope the stick head specification changes will make it easier for defensemen to check the ball away from offensive players, the NCAA Rules Committee’s goal was to reduce the 1-on-1 nature of the modern game and limit injuries caused by slashing.
• The wider throat of the stickhead is also supposed to diminish the effectiveness of pocket-doctoring, especially depth-making pull strings, making it more difficult for players to play with illegal pockets.
• Whether narrowing the scoop of the stick by a half inch was a compromise or an unintended byproduct of the rule changes, the narrower pocket will almost certainly improve shooting and passing accuracy.
• The sum impact of these changes would be returning the game to the look and form of the mid-1980s, when many in the lacrosse community feel the game was at its best.
• Some observers argue that the ball rarely comes out the throat of the stick, and that centrifugal force pushes the ball out the top of the stick. Since the top of the new stick will be narrower, the intended impact of making the ball easier to dislodge is heavily in doubt.
• The biggest change to the game is expected to come on face-offs, where the pinch-and-pop maneuver, one of the most popular ways to win a draw forward, will be severely affected and potentially impossible.
• Most DI offensive players that have used new heads say they’ve felt essentially no difference between the hold in the old heads versus the new ones.
• As subsequent lawsuits and other less formal squabbling has followed the rule change, it’s clear stick manufacturers disapprove of the rule changes. As a result, expect them to heavily market the NCAA-only narrower scoops, which many in the industry have said “amount to baking and pinching players’ heads for them.”
What They’re Saying
The new head specs are a lot different, and I spent lots of time working on shooting strings with my father so it would have a similar hold to my old sticks. He’s worked on my sticks for years.
Although I do not agree with the rule change, I will have to adjust my game to get used to it. After playing in several games over the summer, I noticed the ball coming out easier when defensemen throw checks. The ball moves around a bit more in the wider heads and increased pocket area, as well. It will benefit the catching and groundball aspects of the game, which is nice.
—UNC attackman Billy Bitter
It’s been interesting trying to get used to using a new stick and will take some time considering I’ve been using the same head and style of string job for the past several years. I feel that the face-off game will be affected the most considering a lot of guys like the narrow stick to pinch the ball in the throat of the head. I feel overall game play will not change that much because players will be able to adjust and adapt to using the new wider heads.
—UMBC midfielder Kyle Wimer
I think the rule change is definitely going to change the face-off game. It has to. Everyone uses the pinch-and-pop, so I expect to see a lot less fastbreaks, and wingplay is going to be more skilled.
From a defensive standpoint, being someone who usually guards a scorer more than a feeder, it’s going to be different. Instead of having to throw four checks without the ball coming out, the ball might come out in three. For guys that cover feeders, I think you’ll see defensemen look at the three heads [that will be manufactured] and choose the one that will make them most successful on groundballs since it’s the stat for d-men.
I know we have the resources at Michigan with a coaching staff that’s on top of everything, but I don’t think a lot of teams in our league that don’t have those resources are going to either know they need to get new sticks, or care to get them. I expect a lot of illegal stick penalties from kids that can’t, or don’t know they have to, get new sticks.
—Michigan defender junior Harry Freid
To be honest, I don’t really notice the new rule. The biggest difference is obviously the bottom of the head being three inches wide. I’m used to playing with an old head, but feel completely comfortable with the new rule. I don’t think it’s going to have much of an impact. If you want to bring the game back to its roots, or make it easier to get the ball out of players’ sticks, the rules are going to have to alter the head even more. You can still string these heads and make them hold the ball just like the old heads, or at least very similarly in my opinion. I’m interested in trying out some of the heads that are six inches at the top instead.
This rule may actually have a negative impact. With such little change to the bottom and allowing more pinch at the top, I think I will be able to hold the ball just as well.
—Notre Dame attackman Nick Beattie