Lacrosse’s Title IX rules cause roster restraints


Photo Staff File Photo

Lacrosse team gathers into a huddle at the start of a past game.

Leana Pustam, Perspectives Editor

For the boys lacrosse team, having a full roster on the girls team is just as important as having one of their own, thanks to county regulations.

Since 2014, all Hillsborough County lacrosse teams have been managed by HALAX, a 501(c)(3) tasked with supervising lacrosse’s transition to becoming a full-fledged FHSAA sport. HALAX’s Title IX requires that the number of boys lacrosse players cannot exceed the number of girls players.

“The rule for lacrosse in Hillsborough County is you can only dress 25 kids per game and you always have to match,” boys lacrosse coach Eric Smithers said. “I think it’s a positive thing in the end because I think the perception across the country is you should focus on boys sports… so this is a way for girls to have equal representation.”

The requirement has presented problems in the past. During their first season, the girls had 19 players, limiting the boys to 19 as well. Another issue arises if a girl quits in the middle of the season; the boys have to get rid of a player.

Carolina Cassedy (’18), one of the girl’s captain, remembers the problems the rule presented during her older sister Katie’s season.

“They had their 25th girl but then that girl dropped out, and Coach Eric didn’t want to have to bump a boy. The season was already two weeks in and they had to find a person,” Cassedy said. “Katie was good friends with Caroline Gilhool at the time so she told her sister Anna to play… now Anna’s a star player and captain of the team.”

Lauren Fontes (’17), a former lacrosse player and current team manager, has experience with the problems the rule can cause. Before the 2017 season, Fontes was approached by a boy lacrosse player who begged her to get more girls to tryout so the boys didn’t have to cut as many players.

“Our coach gets frustrated because she’s letting all these people onto the team because she feels bad for the boys since it’s that smaller chance of them having a winning season,” Fontes said.

Fontes said she doesn’t agree with the rule, since, after all, boys and girls lacrosse are different teams.

“I don’t really think it’s fair for lacrosse because girls just have a lot less interest in lacrosse, it’s not really an issue of opportunity… it’s not fair to them if we don’t have enough people,” she said. “Whoever is interested should be allowed to play and as long as they both have the opportunity to have 25 people it should be fine.”

Boys lacrosse captain Ryan Zesiger (’17) agreed with Fontes.

“I understand why these rules are in place,” Zesiger said. “But I feel like it’s not fair for the boys if we have some good kids out for once… if the girls have 19 we’d be cutting a lot more kids than we usually do and some of those kids want to play and they put in a lot of effort but they’re not able to because the girls don’t have enough.”

Although there are problems with this lacrosse-specific rule, the game’s popularity increases each season. Even though it may be at the expense of the boys team, there are benefits for the girls team as more players try the sport.

“It makes it tricky, but it’s the growing pains of our program; there’s only 12 public schools in Hillsborough County that have varsity lacrosse,” Smithers said. “We’re still pay-to-play [and] we’re operated under a separate commission from the Hillsborough County School District… Once we start to get more kids we’ll be able to find some way to keep them playing because the goal is to get a stick in everyone’s hand.”