Crease Dive Redux

Is there any sport other than lacrosse that has had a play banned and then brought back?

All sports have regular rule changes and adjustments, but I cannot think of an instance in another sport like that of the return of the crease dive to college lacrosse. It was deemed too dangerous for the college game back in 1998 and it has returned to mixed reviews as players all over the country are once again taking flight.

Much has been written about the beauty of sports: the elegance of a figure skater, the control of a baseball pitcher, or the orchestration of a perfect touchdown. For lacrosse junkies like myself, a player diving through the crease to score a goal is one of the most beautiful moments of raw athleticism in all of sports. It is a player wanting to score so badly that they have the creativity and guts to put the ball in the net while leaping fearlessly through the air.

In a past Field Exploration post, Mike Powell described what it was like when he and his brothers first learned about Gary Gait scoring his famous “Air Gait” goal. Mike explained that “lacrosse had seemed like a pretty straight forward sport. Big strong guys running around, hitting each other and scoring goals. But when I saw this element of innovation and self expression it showed me something – it showed me what lacrosse was all about…creativity.”

The shot clock and more importantly the dive have reignited the creative spirit of the game at the college level. Plays once reserved for the MLL and NLL are being pulled off by college kids across the country were a regular on Sportscenter’s Top 10 plays in February.

A month of the 2019 college lacrosse season has gone by and we are seeing some of the most exciting and competitive lacrosse in years. Every game players are passing and shooting behind the back or one handed, throwing takeaway checks, and flying up and down the field at an insane pace. Moves once belonging to the Thompson Brothers, a handful of Canadians, or a creative few are now being pulled off by anybody and everybody. Most college teams are starting to resemble the 2016 Brown University team that flipped the lacrosse world on its head with its free flowing high risk high reward go go go style of play. Can you imagine the highlight reel if that Brown team had been allowed to crease dive?

The people most affected by the return of the dive will be the goalies. Not only does the goalie have to try and stop the shot, but when players dive at them they have to either brace for the hit or come out and hit the diving player themselves. Goalies already heroically face 90 MPH shots without batting an eye and now they have opponents diving full speed right at them. The dive shot is extremely hard to stop, but I think coaches and goalies will eventually find a way to make a few saves or draw a penalty on dives.

Diving goals will be scored, diving goals will be waved off, and there is no doubt in my mind that a playoff game or even the National Championship will be decided by a diving goal this season. There will be a steep learning curve for players and especially coaches who will love when players score on a dive, but be livid when players instead get a penalty for running into the goalie or diving directly at the goal. Some coaches may need to try and stop their players from diving in important games to avoid getting penalties in the crucial final moments.

The players know they are putting themselves and the goalie at risk when they try a crease dive, but will still do it if it means scoring a goal for their team. Plays like the dive are what make the game of lacrosse so unique and at the end of the day it is good for the sport that such an exciting move is back at the college level. It will captivate kids and help inspire a new generation of innovative lacrosse players.

Some people are still against it, but the crease dive has returned to college lacrosse in 2019 and players will once again be free to fly through the air hoping to land as goal scorers.

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