Get Your Head in the Game: At least it will be protected

 Girls’ Lacrosse Team Starts Wearing Helmets, Differing Opinions Emerge                                                                        By: Julian Brenman ’20, Co-Editor-In-Chief

In recent days, hundreds of student athletes at Friends’ Central have concluded their winter seasons and returned to their respective spring sports. While nearly each spring sport has resumed operations in almost the same fashion in which they were conducted in previous years, girls on the lacrosse team faced a striking change when they first showed up for tryouts. Two weeks ago, all female lacrosse players were informed that they are now required to wear helmets while practicing or competing in their game. This new development has sparked controversy and disagreement within the athletic community.

Kelly Romano, coach of the upper school girls’ lacrosse team, explains the reason for the decision: “No matter how well you play defense, no matter how great your refs are, there’s always that risk of getting hurt. I like to follow the rules, and my number one thing is safety. These kids nowadays are getting so many concussions, and the question is ‘what’s going to work to keep the kids safe?’ As a community here at Friends’ Central, we believe in safety-first.”

Though this move toward mandating helmets is still a lot for some players to wrap their heads around, the global lacrosse community has been instituting changes for years with the goal of protecting the players on the field. Coach Romano attests, “In my senior year of college, which was in ‘04, a new law came in [mandating] goggles. A girl up in New York got hit in the face with a ball, and it did a lot of damage. That brought up a huge, heated controversy, and they added the eyewear in ‘04. When [the goggles] first came out, they were not like the goggles the players use now. Fast forward a decade, helmets got introduced a few years ago by word-of-talk through the NCAA, and U.S. Lacrosse. In Florida, you have to wear a helmet to play girls’ lacrosse. It’s a rough sport. Things happen, and we’re trying to protect our youth. The game evolves, and so does the uniform.”

Coach Romano recalls the response she received on the day she informed her team of the change: “[The players] weren’t too happy. But, they also were very ‘on-board.’ They didn’t complain. This is something Michelle [Crowley] and I have discussed for a while. We had our first game yesterday. [The players] practiced in ‘em, and the girls are comfortable in ‘em. I don’t see any issue.”

Player Jessica Horenstein is among the players who was at first shocked by the decision. Her views now, however, are a little more lax.  She shares, “At first, I was completely opposed to even the idea of the helmet. Specifically, I was concerned about vision and comfort. As a defensive midfielder, it is important that I am able to completely see the field. Despite my initial worries, my vision is not impaired in any way, and the comfort is fine. Another thing I am a little worried about is that teams may feel entitled to be more aggressive (with checking towards our heads). I don’t entirely believe that they are a complete necessity, but I don’t mind using them.”

Team member Grace Lundberg ‘20 expresses, “I was nervous because I thought it would affect my playing and give me migraines. There was a general feeling among the team that no one was happy with the decision. Now, I actually like them. They make me feel very safe. I know that some of my teammates are still experiencing migraines, though. It’s a little frustrating that they’re forcing this. The weight of the helmet on my head can bother me.”

Player Maddie Anderson ‘20 is a stickler about this issue and is against the move entirely. She proclaims, “Girls’ lacrosse is turning into guys’ lacrosse. I think this is going to lead our team to get targeted more.  The refs won’t be able to call as much, and the game is going to become a lot more aggressive.”

Mrs. Beth Tedesco, who coaches middle school lacrosse, feels that “it’s one thing if kids are wearing them because they are predisposed to concussions, but having a whole team helmeted is different. This concerns me that the game’s heading in a direction that wasn’t how women’s lacrosse was initially played.” Middle School lacrosse coach Lisa Mansure questions, “Is this going to help prevent injuries, or not? What’s the basis for this decision? We need to see the data.”

Although Friends’ Centralites are still acquainting themselves with this recent development, nearby schools such as Harriton and Lower Merion High Schools have equipped their female lacrosse players with helmets for many seasons now. Perhaps our Director of Athletics and Wellness, Mrs. Michelle Crowley, sums it up best.  She says, “While there’s not enough conclusive data yet to suggest that this will lessen or prevent concussions, for me, it’s about being proactive.”

Player Jessica Horenstein ’19 has fun with her teammates putting on her new helmet.
Danielle Schweitzer ’20 points to the convenient ponytail holder her new helmet provides.

 

Lacrosse Players Danielle Schweitzer ’18 and Jessica Horenstein ’19 pose for the camera with their spiffy new helmets.

 


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