By Brian Logue
BALTIMORE — US Lacrosse, the national governing body for men’s and women’s lacrosse, has adopted a new player segmentation policy to help ensure player safety, competitive fairness and a consistent experience for youth lacrosse. The policy was approved by the US Lacrosse Board of Directors in January.
In order to allow leagues, programs and events to adjust, the policy will go into effect on September 1, 2017, but groups are encouraged to begin following the policy sooner if logistics permit.
“We want this to happen as soon as possible, but we know it will take some time for people to adapt to these changes,” said Kristen Murray, vice chair of the US Lacrosse Board of Directors and chair of the task force that recommended the policy. “We need to keep driving it forward, because this is what’s best for the kids.”
Among the notable items in the player segmentation policy:
- An emphasis on grouping players by single-age years (12-month span).
- Age is based on player’s age as of September 1 in an attempt to align with the majority of school systems nationwide to allow players to play with people in their own grade level.
- Firmly defined playing season that begins its 12-month cycle on September 1.
- Standardized nomenclature that lists age first, i.e., 12U.
In order to help leagues and events monitor the age of participants, US Lacrosse has developed an online age verification system, which includes a review of a birth certificate or other legal document to confirm a player’s birth date.
“All of these things — player segmentation, age verification, athlete development — improve the quality of competition, play and overall experience,” said George Leveille, a task force member who also serves as organizer of the popular Summit Lacrosse Tournament in Lake Placid, N.Y. “The new player segmentation policy was designed to increase participation by making it a more enjoyable and safer playing experience.”
Rules for each age group will be determined by the US Lacrosse rules subcommittees. The rules subcommittees meet each spring and summer to propose rules, which are voted on by the US Lacrosse Board of Directors in September. The rules for each age group will be in sync with the Lacrosse Athlete Development Model, a new initiative for US Lacrosse launched this year.
US Lacrosse recognizes that many leagues and programs are currently grouped in age spans beyond 12 months. For local league and community-based play, organizations may form teams with up to a 24-month age variance if necessary to ensure participation. If two age groups are combined, the even year age should be the maximum age for the paired segment (i.e., 7U/8U) and teams with a greater than 12-month variance must play by the rules for the youngest age group of the team. Local organizations that choose to form teams with a 24-month variance should have appropriate risk management policies and planning in place to ensure that player safety is not compromised.
A chart with the player segmentations for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons is available here.
A task force that included US Lacrosse staff, volunteers, and lacrosse leaders from around the country developed the player segmentation policy. A complete copy of the policy is available on the US Lacrosse web site. Helping to guide the decision making process was a research-based position paper on recommendations for youth lacrosse participation published in 2011.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why did the US Lacrosse Board of Directors adopt this policy?
The US Lacrosse Board of Directors adopted the player segmentation policy for three primary reasons: Player safety, competitive fairness and consistent experience for participants.
Why was age chosen to segment players?
Age is the best indicator for determining how to group children due to physical and cognitive development. It is also the most easily verified method to segment players. The new US Lacrosse age verification system will assist leagues and events in ensuring that players are segmented properly. However, the age groupings were designed to align as closely as possible with students’ grade level in school so that they can participate with their classmates.
What happens if there are not enough players to field a team using the new segmentations?
The task force recognized that some programs will not have enough players to segment by single-aged years. Provisions are included to allow 24-month age segmentations for local league and community-based play, if necessary, to ensure participation. The aim of the policy is to improve the experience for everyone in order increase participation, not discourage it.
Why was September 1 chosen as the start date of the season?
The playing season was firmly defined as September 1 through August 31 of each year to help ensure consistency. The fall date was chosen as the start date for the new season, as the majority of teams use the fall to begin their preparation for the upcoming spring and summer seasons.
Why is the age listed first on the groupings?
The nomenclature for age groupings was changed to have the age listed first for clarity and to allow for a clear break between youth (14U and younger) and scholastic (15U to 18U) lacrosse. Previously, the U15 level was considered youth, but often included age-eligible high school players. Those situations will be limited in the new structure.