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Women’s Lacrosse Rules Committee honored with coaches association award

Accepting the President’s Cup Award were Rachel Seewald of the NCAA national office staff; Alicia Groveston, former coach at Grand Valley State; Jen Adams, coach at Loyola Maryland; Stefanie Sparks Smith, NCAA secretary-rules editor for women’s lacrosse; and Ann Elliott, coach at Colorado. Submitted by Rachel Seewald

Accolades rarely come when coaches and athletics administrators volunteer to serve on NCAA playing rules committees. Their goal is to improve a sport by modifying the rules — and change often goes hand in hand with criticism.

But the NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Rules Committee received the opposite in November when the group was honored with the President’s Cup Award at the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association’s annual meetings.

The award is presented to a member of the lacrosse community who has exhibited distinguished contributions to the collegiate women’s lacrosse scene during the previous academic year.

This year, the award honors each individual who was serving on the rules committee in summer 2017, when the changes were adopted. Honorees include then-committee chair and Loyola Maryland coach Jen Adams; Colorado coach Ann Elliott; then-Grand Valley State coach Alicia Groveston; Union (New York) coach Abigail Jackson; New Hampshire Associate Athletics Director Kate McAfee; Shenandoah Assistant Athletics Director Scott Musa; Sacred Heart Senior Associate Athletics Director Chris O’Connor; Arcadia coach April Pollock; NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Secretary-Rules Editor Stefanie Sparks Smith; and NCAA National Coordinator of Women’s Lacrosse Officials Melissa Coyne.

Smith recalls the committee’s annual meeting, where the changes were recommended.

“I remember there being a lot of excitement, and I felt the committee was confident,” says Smith, who is in her fifth year as secretary-rules editor. “Still there was a lot of change, and change can be tough sometimes. So some natural anxiety existed in terms of what would be the reaction from the women’s lacrosse community.”

After thorough deliberations, the committee proposed changes designed to allow more freedom of movement in women’s lacrosse. The changes improved the pace and flow of the game by allowing players to continue moving after the official blows the whistle. Previously, all players had to stop on the whistle.

Members of the rules committee never expected to receive an award for their work, but they view it as confirmation that they improved women’s lacrosse.

“I felt the award celebrated the evolution of the game,” says Smith, who is a former player at Duke and now a practicing attorney who lives in Alexandria, Virginia. “For me, it is a pay-it-forward feeling. The game has provided so much for me, and it was a good feeling to play a role in the game progressing. The committee was excited by the potential of the evolution that the rules changes could have on the sport. The work was well worth it.”

Refreshing Women’s Lacrosse

Among the rule changes recommended by the NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Rules Committee and approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel in 2017:

  • Players can keep moving after a foul or violation while the player possessing the ball restarts play. A 2-meter nonengagement area is established around the player awarded possession of the ball.
  • After a change of possession, if the defensive team commits three fouls before the offensive team crosses the restraining line into its attacking end, the defending team will be assessed a one-minute penalty.
  • All shooting-space fouls and three-second violations, as well as all other fouls committed in the 8-meter arc, will result in an 8-meter free position for the offensive team.
  • For fouls that occur in the critical scoring area above the goal line extended, possession will be awarded to the offense at the 12-meter arc. The offending player will go behind the offensive player, and there will be a nonengagement area.
  • For fouls that occur in the critical scoring area below goal line extended, possession will be awarded to the offense at the dot — located below the goal-line-extended area. The offending player will go behind the offensive player, and there will be a nonengagement area.
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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.