Whenever you heard someone say “blackout” in a room full of high school lacrosse coaches everyone cringes just a little. Blackout is a very touchy subject and a little obscure if you are new to high school lacrosse. I think it is important to try to explain the reasoning behind blackout and hopefully clarify the rule for those who were not able to attend the coaches meeting at the ULA Convention. This is intended to be only an overview and my perception of the rule. For further clarification you can read section 5.2.3 in the Boys HS Policy Handbook on the ULA website or contact your representative on the coaches council.
Blackout was created several years ago when the league started aiming for becoming a sanctioned high school sport. To be sanctioned the league must adhere to the rules laid out by the Utah High School Activities Association. UHSAA rule 2.2.1: ACTIVITY SEASONS, describes that each sport must have established starting dates and the season will end with the last state meet. Section D of rule 2.2.1 explains the purposes for establishing these starting dates and a few of those purposes I will talk about later.
Simply put, blackout is a period of time, scheduled by the Coaches Council, when high school players cannot be organized to be coached by ANY high school coach. This includes assistant, JV, and projected future coaches at the high school level. The word “coached” also involves watching high school players with the intent to scout your players or other players on the field. Also, coaches cannot communicate X’s and O’s or team schemes with any player during the blackout period. Coaches may observe their children or relatives as long as they are purely spectators and don’t take notes or coach in any capacity.
During the convention a question was asked about the players getting together for scheduled workouts. My understanding is that this is acceptable as long as no coaches, team parents or team volunteers are involved in organizing the workouts. Also, attendance of these workouts shall have no bearing on the players standing during the upcoming season.
This year the dates were changed to allow travel teams more freedom to attend tournaments in November, which seems to be a popular month for tournaments. However, with the growth of Adrenaline and other tournament sponsors it seems like there is a tournament every month. I know that people think that if you want to be recruited from Utah you have to go to every tournament and be seen at every chance but the truth is that college coaches are looking for more of a multi-sport athlete now.
During the blackout periods it would be more productive to have your kids try basketball or track or martial arts or something that will keep them in shape and may also teach them something new. It is UNBELIEVABLE to me how poorly some of our lacrosse player shoot and move on a basketball court. During Brad Lavoie’s talk at the ULA Convention he said everything he knows on the lacrosse field he learned on a basketball court. Think about the spacing, the motion and the defense, it is all very similar.
Also, believe it or not, players and coaches get burnt out. Allowing your players to take a month or two off to focus on something else actually will help them re-energize for the upcoming season. I do understand the question about what to do if a new player asks to play during blackout. Unfortunately, the best response I can think of is to have the kid talk to another player on the team, call the ULA office, and sign up for the various camps that are run during blackout. It is not the ideal solution but that just means that coaches really need to use fall practices to encourage new players to come out and try the sport. Also, the new player can hit the wall or throw with friends at any time, there just can’t be organized practice during blackout and no sticks at practice during the conditioning period.
What are your feelings on the blackout period?