UNITED STATES — If you’re confused by the “new rules,” you aren’t alone. Some sports group youth athletes by age or birth year. Lacrosse has long grouped players by high school graduation year. All grouping systems have challenges.
The National Lacrosse Federation, in cooperation with USA Lacrosse, are moving the fastest sport on two feet from a grad-year grouping to an age-class-hybrid grouping.
Announced in 2022, the new “Age Verification” system in youth lacrosse became effective in September, 2023. The new system aims to “improve the integrity of competition, the quality of experience for all participants and player safety.”
Under the new system, players in what has been known as the “29 class,” and below, will be grouped by birth-month-year, beginning with September 1 dating. The September jumpoff attempts to align with most US school systems, so kids can play with their friends.
Should you expect this new system to solve the age-old problem of level playing field? No. Even friends in the same class will mature differently. But the new system should make things more level.
In September, 2023, the NLF began grouping its own teams and events under the new Age Verification system, but “are expected to continue using graduation years as the team names.” This doesn’t mean everyone will follow suit. While the NLF is already subjecting its own players, and clubs entering its tournaments, to age verification, other Directors may not. Youth rec programs are more likely to get in line early, private clubs more likely to drag feet. And once you hit high school, the rules change again.
In a November ’23 phone call, a representative of USA Lacrosse said, “expect the rollout to be slow and bumpy. We’re already getting pushback.”
For now, the way to keep tabs on the rollout, is to bookmark the USA LACROSSE AGE & ELIGIBILITY GUIDELINES PAGE