Lacrosse to test changes at experimental exhibition

© Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2023
Savanna Collins
Nov 15, 2023

Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse plans to put new rules and scoring system changes to the test at the upcoming exhibition game presented by Nike. The league will display its talents at the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) Presidents Cup, one of the largest youth tournaments on the east coast.

As the two teams compete, AU Lacrosse will use the game as an opportunity for an experimental exhibition to explore achieving league goals of emphasizing safety, cleaning up the game visually, prioritizing elite skills and quality of play, and improving the flow of the game.

Abi Jackson, the Director of Sport for AU Lacrosse, explained how these potential changes aim to better fit the players’ level of expertise and also challenge the athletes to play the most competitive pro women’s lacrosse possible.

“You have players that have a skill set that are pushing the boundaries of traditional women’s lacrosse,” Jackson said.

League leaders, athletes, and officials were all involved in the discussion process to address proposed changes. Meetings began in September with a panel of athletes including the Player Executive Committee.

“This I think is a real example of how the AU model is just so innovative and allows the players to really have that hands-on effect of the game,” Jackson said. “Who better to ask whether the rules are effective than the people who are playing under their structure?”

Fouls and prioritizing safety

Some of the proposed changes have the biggest impact on foul calling and player safety.

This includes clarifying what constitutes a foul, cross-check, and dangerous check. The potential for added language within the AU Lacrosse rulebook would give clearer boundaries for players in regard to physicality but also equip officials with the knowledge of what is allowed.

“Our game allows for physical contact. It’s the official’s job to determine whether that contact is legal or illegal. So I do expect it to still be physical… but these changes are to ensure that we have a consistent level of safety from game to game,” Jackson said.

Crosschecks and dangerous checks are being evaluated around intent and control.

The league is also looking to make adjustments to walling/shooting space. At the exhibition game, they will test removing the ability to double-team someone who does not have the ball and indicating a restricted area where a defender cannot linger when the ball is up top. The only exception is if the defender is marking a ball carrier who is below the goal line extended.

“We might find that the size is inadequate, maybe it’s too big, maybe it’s too small. So this will be just the first sort of test for that,” Jackson said.

The restricted area prevents defenders from slowing down or stopping in the area prone to being hit with the ball and allows shooters to take safer shots. Jackson hopes it will create a visual queue for the players and officials.

Experimental scoring system changes

Proposed changes to the scoring system include increasing the points awarded for assists, draw controls, and shot violations drawn. On the other hand, saves and caused turnovers would be awarded fewer points. Adjustments to penalizing actions such as turnovers and shot violations would be reduced. A penalty of -2 will be tested for fouls.

“We wanted to be sure that we are assigning value to different statistical categories that coincide with the actual statistical importance of that stat.”

For example, increasing the value awarded for draw controls from +2 to +4 will be tested in hopes that it equates to the value of possession time within a game.

The stat point values can also influence the types of play the league would like to encourage or discourage. Jackson explained that increasing the value of an assist and dropping the penalty for a turnover will hopefully encourage more team play.

Turnovers result in a -10 value and assists are worth +4. The league will test dropping the turnover penalty to -5 while increasing the reward for an assist to +6.

“If you try to feed the ball and the person you’re feeding doesn’t catch it or it gets intercepted you’re going to be deterred, particularly if the positive potential reward you get is only worth four points. We’re really encouraging the players to take advantage of their creativity and their teamwork.”

A high number of points for caused turnovers was previously implemented to create more scoring opportunities for defenders. The unintended consequence was athletes taking bigger physical risks to get the +14 points, leading to less regard for traditional play of the game.

Overall, Jackson hopes the scoring system changes will create equal opportunity for any position to be at the top of the leaderboard.

“We’re all coming together and understanding from the start, we don’t have to get this right in one go,” Jackson added. “We are the best minds and we’re taking advice and tips from the best players and the best officials. So let’s see what we come up with.”

Exhibition Game Info

The exhibition game will take place on Nov. 18 at 7 p.m. ET, at the Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. Abby Bosco and Ally Mastroianni will serve as captains of the two teams.

Attendance is free to all fans. No ticket is required.


Savanna Collins is the Digital Media Reporter at Athletes Unlimited. You can follow her on Twitter @savannaecollins.

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