It was 2002 when Cascade Lacrosse first introduced the first pair of lacrosse-specific goggles, the Iris. At that point, the only goggles on the market were plastic lens goggles which would scratch and fog, although here in the UK you could count how many players wore the plastic eye protection on one hand.
I was working for Hattersleys Lacrosse at the time the Iris released and remember having a discussion with a co-worker that these women's eye guards would be the future of the game. Well, I was only partly right because although they should became mandatory in the USA, the rest of the lacrosse playing World pushed back.
The argument against mandating goggles was and still is that the game will be rougher, more dangerous. Crazy right? A product designed to protect players from serious injury and people thought it was a bad idea. As soon as my daughter is old enough to join a club and start practicing I'll be making her wearing goggles, she's 5 right now and already owns 6 lacrosse sticks. Want to hear something equally crazy? I can think of at least 20 occasions in the 13 years history of Northern Soul where we have been vending at a tournament and a parent will bring their daughter in the tent, often holding an ice pack on their face. Talk about closing the gate after the horse has bolted.
So what happened in the USA when goggles became mandatory in the 2004/2005 season? Did the game become rougher? No, it became safer. Athletes are bigger, stronger, faster. The sticks have developed to give greater ball retention, sharper passes and faster shots then ever before. Surely it's more important than ever to protect players.
Goggles have definitely moved forward in terms of materials making them lighter and the sightlines are much improved but essentially the overall design has not changed too much. In fact take a look at the eye masks that some men wore prior to lacrosse helmets.
It's no secret that there are two women's helmets on the US market but they are illegal to use here in UK lacrosse leagues and most if not all other lacrosse playing countries, although I know of one young lady here who's father providing our governing body with a doctors note so she could use the Cascade LX helmet due to a history of concussions.
Something you may also not be aware of is that the Cascade LX women's which incorporates goggles within the helmet can be worn over prescription glasses. There is currently no wire goggles that fit over goggles leaving the a limited option such as these over the glasses goggles, sadly they remind me of a pair of science safety glasses from my school days.
The following statement is taken from the England Lacrosse website:Based on recent survey results, and the need to safeguard both individual players and England Lacrosse, eye protection is strongly recommended to be worn for all forms of women's lacrosse including training and recreational play. World Lacrosse also recommend the wearing of approved eye protection for all forms of women's lacrosse. Lacrosse remains a relatively safe game, but it is clear that the growing adoption of eye protection in other parts of the lacrosse world is leading to a reduction in serious injury, therefore England Lacrosse feels that it is now appropriate to make the above recommendation in order to minimise risk, 28th November 2012. Mandatory wearing of women's eye protection applies in many national leagues and associations outside of the United Kingdom.
Now do you, or don't you have to wear goggles? Just make the call and make them mandatory. Because what happens when a player does get seriously hurt? I wonder how our governing bodies insurance would hold up in the event of a life changing injury to a players eyes?
There is another reason that most countries pushed back against mandatory use of goggles in the women's game when voted upon in 2019. Cost. Making players wear goggles might slow the rate of growth within the game. I'm sorry but the damage on your wallet does not compare to the damage a stick check or stray ball can do to your eyesight.
Here at Northern Soul we offer Europe's widest range of women's lacrosse goggles. Should you ever need some help selecting a pair for yourself our a family member then please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org