Stick-end checking comes with risks

April 06, 2008

Straight Shooters answers your youth lacrosse questions with the help of US Lacrosse experts. This week's "Straight Shooter" is Lindsey Biles of Annapolis. Biles was an All-American and Tewaaraton Trophy finalist during her college career at Princeton and a member of the 2006-07 U.S. women's national team. Biles also works as a sideline analyst for ESPNU.

Q: Is butt-checking (checking the end of the stick) legal in the girls game? I know it's a big part of the boys game but haven't heard it addressed for girls. Some players like to choke way up on the stick, especially in a set offense, and being able to take a shot at the part below their bottom hand is tempting. What is legal?

Corinne Wood, Phoenix, Md. A: Checking the butt of a player's stick can be legal in certain instances, but because it's difficult to execute legally, it doesn't play a big role in the women's game. First, you can check the bottom of the stick only if the player chokes up to leave the bottom end exposed. You cannot check the player's hand. Second, the check must be executed away from the body and in such a way that the checked stick or ball does not endanger your opponent's face or body. "Hooking," or using the webbed area of your stick head to hook the bottom end of an opponent's stick, is illegal.

When you check the butt of the stick away from the body, the stick head tends to angle back toward your opponent's face, which is illegal and dangerous. You don't want to take that kind of risk in the 8-meter arc, because your opponent might receive a free position shot. If you cause her stick head or the ball to hit her in the head in any way, you will most likely receive a yellow card. For these reasons, this check is risky. While I have seen it executed in college play, it is used infrequently because there are more effective defensive moves.

If you're determined to add this skill to your defensive play, practice first on a "volunteer" opponent and make smart decisions during the game. But keep in mind, a quick, decisive check to the stick head that dislodges the ball is less risky, more useful and easier to perform.

It's important to note that under US Lacrosse rules, checking is not permitted in under-13 (sixth grade and below) girls play. Fundamentals of the game should be the focus - catching, passing, footwork and proper defensive positioning. Modified checking (checking the stick if it's below shoulder level) can be introduced in seventh and eighth grade. After that, you should have a clear understanding of proper, legal and safe checking of the stick head before even attempting to check the lower part of your opponent's stick.

Straight Shooters runs every Sunday in The Sun and on baltimoresun.com. E-mail your youth lacrosse questions to sports@baltsun.com and include a phone number for e-mail verification. The series can also be found on Lacrosse Magazine Online at www.laxmagazine.com. US Lacrosse, headquartered in Baltimore, is the national governing body of men's and women's lacrosse. Learn more about playing, coaching and officiating lacrosse at www.uslacrosse.org.

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