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Special Teams

Chet Koneczny | May 28, 2020

“Special Teams” are a group of players designated to perform certain duties during certain situations in the game. Power-play and short-handed are two of the most notable “special teams” used during the game due to their frequency, but other special teams include:  “Face-Off/Loose Ball Team,”  “Last Minute Defense/Offense units, and the Ball Back/Rag Teams.

Most special teams have two units, otherwise it usually depends on how tired one group is versus the other, or the situation, with the first unit being the most relied upon. If the 2nd unit is playing better than the 1st unit during a game, or over a stretch of games, it should be considered whether to make them “starters,” or to change the line-up entirely. 

“Special Teams” are usually made up of players who specialize in certain skills or aspects of lacrosse.  Beginners should have equal opportunity to play in special situations.  

All positions on the different special team units usually have a starter and back-up.  Sometimes players that are playing exceptionally well during the game might also be added to a unit late in a game, while players having a bad night might be removed. All players should know exactly where they are on the line-up sheet prior to a game or practice, and are held accountable if their unit is called and they aren’t on the floor. If players who are called to be on the floor are too tired to go out, they should let the coach know as soon as possible, ideally before or after the unit is called.

Power-Play:

A “powerplay” is a numerical advantage on the floor as a result of a player on either team taking a penalty.  A power-play is the result of 2-minute minor and/or 5-minute major penalties, taken by one team or the other.  During a “5-on-4,” teams will usually set-up in a 2-2-1 formation (standard offensive positions), but a 2-1-2 ("dice") formation is also used, and sometimes a player behind the net (1-2-2).  There is generally less interchange between positions during a power-play, with players instead having assigned roles in set-positions.               

When a 4-on-3 situation arises, offensive players generally set-up in a square formation (offensive version of the "box"), occupying the two shooter and crease positions.  A 5-on-3 power-play traditionally still sets up in a "box" offensive formation (4-on-3), with the 5th player standing near centre-floor acting as a "rover" on any loose balls, or opportunities the defense may have to breakout.  Double-teaming the ball after losing it ensures the deadly 4-on-3 time gets maximized.  A 5-on-4 power-play should strive to score 50%; whereas a 4-on-3 power-play is expected to score 75% of the time; both percentages can be skewed by actual power-play lengths (see coincidental penalties).

Powerplay Execution:  Click Here For Video

Usually before any set-play or shot is initiated, a team’s most skilled players will begin by first passing the ball once “around the horn,” unless trying to catch the other team off guard ("quick hitter").  Early diagonal passes are usually avoided, as well as early shots with relatively little or no ball motion and/or "ball movement," which are essential in creating quality shots.  When less than 10 seconds are left in a penalty, no shots are usually taken until just before the penalized player returns to the play; for fear of a turnover resulting in a breakaway (unless this player is an egg & spooner or the team is down a few goals late in the game).        

Usually a team’s best shooters are up “high” at the point and shooter positions during a power-play.

Aside from these general team rules, teams will either freelance or execute a set-play within each power-play possession (re-set), with the goal of getting an open shot in the prime scoring area. Freelancing doesn’t mean to stand and shoot whenever a player feels like it. Ball movement should be quick and players should still be moving, cutting when the ball is low at the crease position, dragging, and always filling. As a general rule, the opposite-side (off-ball) shooter should cut the middle every time the ball-side crease player gets the ball (with all players "filling" accordingly); the strong-side shooter should seal their check whenever the point player starts dragging towards them (both are considered automatic triggers).

Most set-plays on the power-play involve some sort of overload, via a pick/seal or multiple picks/seals, combined with some sort of ball/player movement; all at specific times (established during practice). 

Below are a few basic set-plays that can be used at any level of lacrosse, within a standard 2-2-1 Formation: 

Set Play #1:  “Drag & Seal” - Click Here For Video

A “drag” play (top) is when the point player back-pedals toward the same-handed shooter, who seals their check as the point player shoots around the screen. A “fake drag” (bottom) is when the on-ball shooter instead seals the off-ball shooter, who gets a pass for a shot.

 Set Play #2:  “Pick The Shooter” (Roll Option) - Click Here For Video

When the point player passes to the weak-side shooter and picks for the strong-side shooter, this player can either come around the pick receiving a pass for a shot (top), or the ball can be passed to the point player who rolls to the middle (bottom). 

Following a shot, players need to be ready to react immediately (this should always be re-enforced during practice - offensive players must also be taught how to double-team properly). Defensive coverage against reverse transition is the first responsibility, but more often than not there is an opportunity to Ride and double-team. Teams should do their best to apply pressure once general coverage has been established, in order to create a 10 second call or a turnover. If they are tired or unsuccessful, the back-up (Power Play #2) unit usually then gets the next opportunity on offense.

“Dice” Formation:

When playing the "dice" formation (2-1-2), set-plays and freelance may also be used; usually with a team's best picker/finisher in the middle. The added advantage of this formation is in causing miscommunication amongst defenders as to who is responsible to cover the middle player, and in what situations (requires high lacrosse IQ on the defenders' behalf).  During freelance, the middle player can pick anywhere and also try to find soft spots for quick catch and shoot scenarios; primarily staying on their proper floor side.  All other players should utilize the picks being set for them (otherwise presenting a decoy), while being careful not to force passes into the middle player (60-40 passes only). 

In the “dice” formation, the middle player can in theory pick for either shooter for a shot, but picking on their proper floor-side allows them to become an option as a”roller.”

Short-Handed:  - Click Here For Video

Being “short-handed” or on the “penalty kill” is a numerical disadvantage created by one or more players taking a penalty.  Teams will usually set-up in a "box" or "diamond" zone defense while short-handed with 4 defenders, or a "triangle" with 3 defenders; with different "rotations" available for each, if desired.

A “box” zone defense is the system that the majority of teams will use when in the defensive zone during a “penalty kill” situation.

Box: 

The box is structured to defend both crease offenders and both shooters, with the two high defenders' also splitting the point player (or the player in the middle if the powerplay is in a 2-1-2).  Should the point player attempt to shoot, both defenders should “pinch” tight together, trying to block the shot.

When one of the shooters cuts through the middle, it is also the off-ball “high” defenders’ responsibility to follow the "cutter," eventually “passing them off” to the on-ball low defender. The “low” defenders’ major responsibility is to lock-off the creases, with all defenders keeping their sticks and bodies in the shooting and passing lanes.

Generally, the “high” defenders’ sticks are towards the middle, and the low defenders’ sticks are towards the boards, in order to best defend these lanes. Although, if either "shooter" on the power-play is a significant playmaker, it may warrant the high defenders' stick being on the outside (board-side).

Diamond:   

The diamond is structured to directly cover the point and both shooter positions, with one defender splitting both crease players down low, playing “cat & mouse.”    

This defense is designed to invite shots from the crease players and take away the shots of the offenders up high. Defenders must be careful not to get over-extended, leaving too much space in the middle.

The goalie usually plays back closer to the goal-line (“deep” in the net) to eliminate the angles for quick stick opportunities at the crease. The two defenders at the side of the diamond should also have their sticks toward the middle, in order to better defend the passing lanes to the crease players.

Triangle:

The triangle is used to kill a 4-on-3 powerplay. It can be played with two defenders high and one defender low (2 up, 1 back), vice-versa, or a mixture of both (Inverted Triangle).  Playing two defenders up high invites the crease players to shoot and vice-versa (1 up, 2 back) invites the shooters to shoot.

In the latter case, the “low” defenders need to lock off the “crease players,” allowing the goalies to come out and challenge the shooters. With two defenders high, the low defender must be able to deter quick sticks from one crease player to the other (“crease-to-crease”), while also playing “cat & mouse” and communicating with the goalie.

Short-Handed Execution:

It is important that all players know the situation and which zone defense is to be played, prior to getting on the floor; also any “assignments,” if required.  If the other team is consistently successful against a certain zone (i.e. box vs. diamond), it is also important that coaches are ready to make adjustments.  Teams may further switch up the zone being played simply to disrupt the other team’s offensive flow.             

Players should always have their sticks up with their bodies in the shooting lanes, also aware of what is happening off-ball (head on a swivel). Defensive players need to recognize picks/seals, drags, cutters, fillers and players behind the net; communicating amongst one another. As a general team rule, players should not move more than “three shuffle steps” at a time, depending on the zone being played and the ball movement of the opposing team. If one player slides out of desperation, every player should slide in that same direction ("go"), effectively changing which part of the zone they are defending.

The Goaltender is essentially the biggest difference maker while short-handed, as they are the cornerstone of any defense. Loose balls are amply important, with the goaltender playing the most significant role via rebound control. Defenders also have a huge responsibility in this aspect as well, being sure to box-out after all shots (especially the low defenders). Instead of battling for rebounds in front of the net, it is usually better to just take a minor interference call, rather than allow the opposing team to pick-up a loose ball and potentially score.

Defenders need to make split-second decisions as to whether or not to pursue loose balls, some of which could potentially leave them out of position if they don’t get there first (50-50 balls). If a teammate does happen to obtain possession of the ball, defenders should run the ball up the floor “in two’s,” with all others running hard to the bench for a line change (a full change would be ideal; thus sparing the energy of the premiere penalty killers).

Concluding Thoughts:

Games are very often won and lost on special teams.  It is one of the 4 major aspects of lacrosse which all teams strive to win in terms of differentials, when compared to the opponent.  The other 3 aspects are transition goal differential, 5-on-5 goals for and against, and lastly loose ball totals.

Staying out of the penalty box is the easiest way to win the special teams battle.  It takes special attention every practice to make sure your triggers, timing and positioning are flawless within your special teams. If they are, your team will never be out of a lacrosse game.  

In the end, back-ups are just as important as the starters, as you never know who will be injured, tired, in the penalty box, alongside a host of other variables and scenarios that your special teams may be faced with.

Beginner Drills - Goaltending

Chet Koneczny | May 21, 2020

The King of the Hill - The Protector of the Nest - Halifax Thunderbirds Goaltender Warren Hill

Introduction:

Goaltending is a crucial element to any lacrosse team and is by far and away the most unique position in lacrosse. Goaltenders are the last line of defence and depending on the outcome of the game, can be hailed as heroes or scapegoats. As such, It is important for a coach to understand, teach and reinforce the fundamentals of goaltending and incorporate them into drills in practice, at all times. Solid goaltending incorporates a certain mixture of fearlessness, sound technique and athleticism, to help prevent opposing teams from scoring. The goaltender does not necessarily have to be the fastest athlete, but what they lack in speed they must make up for in terms of body control and game awareness.

Goaltenders are constantly reacting once the ball enters the defensive zone, with subtle or aggressive movements, based on a variety of ball positions and situations. 

With this in mind we will introduce some key fundamental concepts related to developing a goaltender, while also reviewing the Goaltending Save Cycle – the process a goaltender goes through when protecting the net.  This cycle includes tracking the ball, getting into position, maintaining a proper stance & good angles, selecting the appropriate save technique and controlling the rebound. In this blog we will give you 3 complimentary drills for each of the fundamentals, which we feel offer a quick and efficient means to improving your goaltending skills.

Tracking the Ball:

Information processing moves from perceiving, through decision making, to action; especially in “tracking rebounds,” which is all about finding the ball as soon as possible. 

The number one priority of a goaltender is to always track the ball when it enters the defensive zone. As with “finishing a check” for a player, finishing the play if you’re a goalie means to track the ball until it is in your pads, otherwise “tracking rebounds” and always repositioning to the proper angle (all of which are the most important habits related to the position of a goaltender). As a player gets "in tight" with the ball, the goalie should be staring at the player’s stick, magnifying their focus and reading the body language of the shooter. The odd time teams will attempt to challenge a goalie’s mental focus in this regard when they perform a “hidden ball trick.”

Movement:

With east-west ball movement, goalie’s must be able to take an explosive lateral step in each direction, squaring up to the shooter as quickly and precisely as possible.

In order for goalies to be sure that they have the proper “angle” of the ball carrier covered they must know exactly where to stand, constantly repositioning, getting “ready” and “square” depending on where the ball is located.  It can take upwards of 20 seconds for an opposing teams’ offense to generate a quality shot, and with only 30-40 shots per game on average this means goalies spend the majority of the time “repositioning” without actually making a save. 

The Goalie Triangle

For the most part, they should never venture out of a tight triangle spanning from left crease ball position (feeling for posts), up to top centre (point) ball position (“1½ steps” off of the goal-line) and over to right crease ball position.

With offensive ball movement, goalies need to effectively move through their “goalie triangle” as the ball moves through the standard offensive positions, also adjusting to the corresponding release point of a potential threat. Occasionally, acrobatic saves are necessary to defend against quick ball movement, so goalies need to be able to recover quickly to the ready position, while still keeping their eye (tracking) on the ball and playing the angle. With rebounds and quick passing, goalies need to be able to reposition quickly and efficiently, in order to be successful.

Positioning:

Goalies should keep their stick “flush” to the ground, “dragging” it as they step from side-to-side.

A goalie’s ready stance is very individualized to the goaltender and will evolve as a goalie develops with regards to stick position, off-hand location and other intricacies of the position. In general, a goalie should be standing in the “athletic position” with feet hip width apart (on the balls of their feet, with feet pointed slightly outward), the goalie’s upper body should be upright with a slight forward bend and lower body should have knees slightly bent; the large majority of the time. Goalies should strive to stay on their feet (for maximum net coverage) while keeping their eyes on the ball and repositioning to square up (align) with potential threats, as best as possible.

The goalie should hold their stick in their dominant hand, holding the shaft firm, halfway down the goalie’s thigh, tight to their body and they should be leaning on the stick slightly (positioned 3 to 6 inches in front of one’s feet); "dragging the stick" whenever moving. The “shaft” of the stick should pass between one’s elbow and body, with the arm-pit becoming a lever in aiding with the movement of the stick; the rest of the shaft comes out behind the goalie’s shoulder. The glove hand should then be placed beside the hip with one’s elbow slightly bent creating an "arm triangle" that covers up the “six-hole,” otherwise used to reach to save low perimeter shots.

Save Selection:

A goaltender should generally try to “stand up” for as long as possible, only “going down” if they are 90% sure the player is shooting low

It is important for goaltenders to work on and use proper save selection. Proper save selection is important for goaltenders to work on and understand. The location of the shot determines the appropriate save technique a goalie should use. Many times, goaltenders tend to rely on one save technique for all shots (i.e. going down in a butterfly position on low shots).  Using incorrect save selection will limit net coverage, rebound control and second-chance save ability. Using an inappropriate save technique based on the shot situation will limit net coverage and affect rebound control, as well as the goalie’s ability to make second-chance saves. Lastly, it’s important for goalies to exercise patience and track the ball with their eyes to increase their chances of making the correct save selection.

Fundamental Save Techniques:

Kick (Leg) Saves: When a goalie is standing big in the ready position and thinks a shooter is going to shoot to the low corners of the net, he/she can kick their foot out as a basic manoeuvre, making sure to also keep their stick “between their legs” (low to the ground). While making this manoeuvre the goalie’s foot should not be raised off of the ground and it should be kicked out and towards the ball. The other option on a low shot would be to drop into a butterfly/half-butterfly, although a stand-up style is generally preferred.

Glove (Arm) Saves: The “glove hand” is the hand of the goalie that is not holding the goalie stick, used to orient goalies in the net (see feeling for posts) and to help stop the ball from going in the net.  The back of the goalie’s hand should always face the ball; goalies should never attempt to catch the ball with their bare hand, which could result in significant injury. Glove hand location is a personal preference, depending on the situation, something that beginner goalies will become more aware of as they develop. Goalies must learn to be active with this hand, keeping it loose and “ready” to react in anticipation of perimeter shots towards the “low corner” on the “glove-side.” The other option is to position this arm against their waist, forming an “arm triangle” (upper arm -> elbow -> lower arm).

Stick Saves/Stick Swipe: The stick hand is the hand that holds the goalie stick.  Goalies must learn to be active with this hand, keeping it loose and “ready” to react in anticipation to shots coming from both inside and out, left and right.  The majority of “stick saves,” however, come from goalie’s not moving their stick at all, keeping it low to the ground and in between one’s legs (five-hole) at all times (habits). Whether stepping (moving laterally) to the “stick-side” or “glove-side,” depending on the direction of the shot, the stick/leg/body should move together (as a unit). Another stick manoeuvre when the goalie feels a rebound bouncing at their feet is the behind-the-back sweep, or "swipe," whereby the goalie takes a step forward and swipes their stick behind their back with one hand, sweeping any stray balls away from the goal-line.

Shoulder Blocks (Left & Right)/Fake Shoulder Blocks:  When a goalie thinks that they have the angle covered, perhaps tipped off by their teammates defensive positioning (i.e. defensive player forces the player to their wrong side), they can use a variety of explosive lateral (east-west) movements, such as “shoulder blocks,” to ensure that there is no net for the opponent to shoot at.  Done quickly and decisively when players “telegraph” their shots, goalies should step laterally, keeping their stick between their legs and in one smooth motion exploding their lead shoulder out to the side (relaxed shoulders -> scapular set), covering the “top corners” of the net (see goalie “ready” position). Goalies can also entice players to shoot far-side or short side by “faking a shoulder block” to one side of the net and then exploding in the opposite direction at the last second, depending on the reaction of the shooter (give & take). Whatever way they might be "leaning" toward, goalies should be sure to move their entire body and commit to their final movement. Be wary of beginner goalies being tempted to jump on high shots, which should be discouraged by the coach.

Butterfly/Half Butterfly:  A “butterfly” save is when a goalie drops to both knees in anticipation of a shot to the lower half of the net (often on underhand shots), keeping their “shoulders-set” (upright posture) and flaring their legs out to the side. A “half-butterfly” is a large side “lunge” step, either towards the “short-side” or “far-side” of the net, where the goalie will slide onto their lead leg while keeping their shoulders up to cover the top of the net. Goalies should beware that the half-butterfly may open up the five-hole for a brief moment, so it should be used sparingly. Goalies need to be able to recover quickly if they commit to a half-butterfly, which can be risky if the offense is able to quick stick the ball from side-to-side.

Rebound Control:

If a goalie goes down during a save they need to be able to get back up and into position, collecting any rebounds in & around the crease (without putting themselves out of position).

Rebounds and “rebound control” are a big part of a goalie’s job. Goalies should “battle” just as hard as anyone else around the crease and be aggressive (especially while short-handed) in order to obtain any sort of loose ball.  Any loose balls around the crease should be scooped with 2 hands or picked up with the goalies’ hand.  For loose balls outside of the crease, the goalie must be sure to have at least one foot in the crease while scooping, in order to avoid a "back in" call against.

Quality goaltender equipment and a goalie’s ability to cushion (corral) the ball after it hits their body or stick (similar to a player having “soft hands”), goes a long way in terms of rebound control. With a shot that hits the goalie’s stick, the goalie should twist the stick slightly in the opposite direction of where it hits the stick in order to avoid the stick “spinning," also in an attempt to corral the rebound. The action of “cupping” is the preferred method of controlling a high shot that is undoubtedly about to hit one’s “chest protector,” whereby a goalie drops their arms forward and absorbs the ball as it hits the chest protector, creating a sort of concave that effectively keeps the ball close by (instead of ricocheting into the corner or out of bounds).

When a rebound cannot be controlled, the next course of action is for the goalie to immediately "track the ball" and reposition. “Communication” with defenders is also a big part of this responsibility, and to the goaltender position as a whole.

Reacting To The Ball:

“Reacting” and being ready to react is a crucial aspect at all stages of the save cycle.  Situational goalie motor programming becomes automated over time via long term memory.

Lastly, it is important to mention that as the last line of defence, goalies should be “ready” to react at all times, especially when the ball enters the defensive zone. Shots from the opposing team can come from anyone at any time, thus a goaltender should always be prepared in a ready stance to react quickly to the action in front of them. In order to consider all of these different factors in a matter of seconds, a goalie’s mental focus must be one of their best qualities (“always alert”), alongside having a thorough understanding of how lacrosse is played and the personnel being defended against.

Drill #1: Warmup Shooting

https://www.demo.laxlife.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Goaltending-Drill-1-Goalie-Rebound-Control-01.png

It is important to hit the goalie with the first couple shots, telling beginners where you are going to shoot in order for them to get comfortable and spatially aware in the net.

Warm up shooting drills are a great way to help a goaltender develop their tracking skills, while also working on their positioning and save selection. These drills should be done during the beginning of practice, which allows the goalie to prepare mentally while also training their eyes to track the ball; especially for new goaltenders, getting comfortable with having a hard lacrosse ball thrown at them. The goalies focus should be on watching the ball as it leaves the players stick and training their eyes to follow the ball all the way up until it hits and see where the rebound goes after making a save.

Have the coach start off shooting to specific corners of the net indicating to the goaltender which corner they will be shooting at (5-10 shots per corner) prior to starting the drill and when switching between chosen corners. This takes the guessing out of where the shot will go and allows the goaltender to choose the appropriate save based off the location of the shot; tracking the shot out of the coaches stick. 

As the goaltender becomes more comfortable the coach can then begin to shoot from different angles around the perimeter, switching to inside shots after shooting a few shots from each of the 5 different angles. 

You can also increase the difficulty of the drill by instructing the goalie to trap and scoop any rebounds close by the front of the crease. This forces the goaltender to not only track the ball as a shot is coming towards them but also to follow the ball after making a save and either corralling the rebound or repositioning themselves for another shot. Missing the net on purpose every now and then, hitting the ball off the glass, or rolling the ball somewhere near the crease, are also effective teaching techniques. Have the goalie reach for loose balls outside of the crease (in front of and/or behind the net), being sure to keep at least one foot in the crease while trying to obtain the ball.

To further increase the difficulty, add a second shooter to the drill and pass the ball east-west prior to shooting on the goalie. In this variation coaches can switch up their release points to allow the goalie to track the ball leaving the players stick from different angles, while first having to reposition off of swing pass from the other coach.

Drill #2: Goalie Numbers Drill

Coaches are able to recreate passing patterns commonly seen in games, numbering the 5 standard offensive positions and calling out different sequences for the goalie

Goalies can be faced with movement between several of these positions in a variety of sequences, during any given situation.  Central ball position is the most threatening, with inside shots being relatively more threatening overall as compared to perimeter shots. A great way to work on footwork and movement around the crease is have the goaltender move through the 5 standard angles. Have between 1 and 5 players or coaches (often just 1-2 coaches) standing at one or more of the standard offensive positions.

If less than 5 players/coaches are in the drill, a coach or player may call out the number (see drill diagram) of the position where the player is missing, and the goalie must re-position ("square up") to that number as if there was an imaginary player there.

Instruct the goalie to move through the 5 standard angles, repositioning back to the goal line and feeling for their posts in between each angle. The coach calls out a variety of numbers and the goalie repositions to those numbers, or otherwise follows the ball (if multiple players/coaches), ultimately finishing with an adjacent shot (1-2 & 5-4) or finishing at the crease (2-1 & 4-5). Start off slowly and advance the drill to move as quickly as possible as the goaltender becomes more comfortable. Have the goalie move from left to right, right to left, or alternate from side to side. 

Drill #3: Quick Reaction Rebounds

In this rebound drill players pass/roll the ball off of the side boards or end boards, scooping it up for a quick shot, simulating rebounds both north-south and east-west in orientation.

Begin with a line of left-handed and a line of right-handed players on their proper floor sides, at the shooter positions.

The goalie starts facing the coach (or player), who will be sending in the first pass to either the same-side or opposite side shooter (pre-determined), whose turn it is. The goalie must reposition to challenge the shooter, who takes an outside shot.

After the shot, the shooter continues toward the net as if attacking the rebound on the same-side. This player then receives a pass (or loose ball) from the other coach (or player), who is standing at the crease position or behind the net, feeding them on the door-step.  Players can also become passers after they shoot, before rejoining their original line (depending on the calibre of players).

This drill alternates from side-to-side in orientation, with the next player not taking their turn until the player in front of them is out of the drill.

You can also start with balls in one shooter line or the other (switching halfway through the drill).  The players run toward the net and can make as many passes as they want, with one player eventually shooting.

Whoever doesn't shoot, the coach (or player) on the same-side or opposite to them (pre-determined) feeds them a pass for another shot on the door-step.  Coaches should mix it up sometimes, and throw a second pass to the original shooter, in order to keep the goalies honest.

Concluding Thoughts:

Goaltending is a special and unique position that requires specific attention and focus by coaches to help hone and develop a goaltenders’ skills and abilities. Don’t just fire balls at a goaltender at practice and hope that their skills will improve over time. Instead set aside specific time to work with your goaltender(s) during practice and incorporate goaltending skill development into regular drills using the Goaltending Save Cycle as a guide to building the foundations of solid goaltending.  

This blog was written in partnership with former New Brunswick Mavericks Head Coach & General Manager, Evan Richtsfeld.  For further information and more goaltending related drills subscribe to www.laxlife.ca and take a look at the goaltending section of the website; otherwise keep an eye on this blog for more goaltending information in the future..

 

Contributor: Evan Richtsfeld

Beginner Drills - Motion Offense

Chet Koneczny | May 17, 2020

The fundamentals of lacrosse include: basic defense, scooping (loose balls), cradling/ball protection, basic transition, passing, catching, shooting & basic offense (appearing hypothetically in that order). You play good defense, knock the ball loose, pick it up, protect it and/or cradle it forward, pass the ball to any open players ahead of you, catch the pass and then shoot it if you are undefended and in the middle of the defense; otherwise creating a shot with basic offensive maneuvers.

As such, in this series of articles we will give you 3-5 complimentary drills for each of the fundamentals, which we feel offer a quick and efficient means to improving your lacrosse skills.

Upon transitioning the ball from defense to offense teams will get into the phase of the game known as their set-offense, otherwise known as their offensive system.  For beginners (8-16 year olds), this is a very simple set of goals/objectives on offense (different for each age group), usually taught within the framework of the “motion offense,” which is the most basic offensive system and ultimately the focus of this blog.

A team’s set-offense should not start until all 5 players are generally in their set positions, which for our purposes are the 5 standard offensive positions.  This is a big problem at the grassroots level where often two players have not even entered the offensive zone and individual players are going one-on-one against 5 defenders, trying to set up “their shot.”  The concept of “team offense” refers to working together as a group, in unison.

Mike Burke & Austin Shanks executing a give & go.

The first look in any offensive system is fundamentally the give-and-go. The ball gets passed to a certain area of the floor and then you move (“cut”), and if in that process you are “wide open,” the ball should in theory be passed back to you.  Heck, if somebody is wide open at any point you should be giving them the ball, which is an offensive fundamental that has to do with players having their head up and seeing the floor whenever they are in the offensive zone. 

The “motion offense” is a system that relies on getting the ball low (to the “crease position”) and then sending a series of cutters in a particular order (timing), with the ball carrier carrying the ball high and shooting, if no options present themselves.

The principles of the motion offense in box lacrosse & how to teach it most effectively has been a difficult task that has taken years to organize, amidst much of the scattered misinformation that surrounds it, never seeming to be fully or adequately explained.  

Here is my best attempt…

Drill #1 - Motion Offense (Walk Through)

There are 6 areas of the offensive zone, 5 standard offensive positions + the middle, all positions which can be landmarked during a walk through for the players, prior to initiating related drills.  For beginners, a basketball instead of a lacrosse ball & some hula-hoops are great teaching aids.

The most basic motion (Look #1) happens after the point player (strong-side) passes to either shooter and then cuts the middle, eventually filling into the strong-side crease position (perhaps running around the net first).  If this player is wide open they could in theory receive a “give-and-go,” but that is rarely the case.

Next, the crease player should pop-out and the ball should then be passed low (deep), triggering Motion/Look #2 which is an off-ball "cut" from the far-side shooter position; this is the first read/look for the new ball carrier.  After the off-ball shooter cuts they will either receive a pass, or if not fill into the crease position on the far-side, with the crease player filling up into the shooter position on that side of the floor.  

If no pass is made, Motion/Look #3 is the next decision for the ball carrier to read, which is a cutter from the player at ball-side (same-side) shooter position, who looks for a give-and-go return pass; otherwise to seal the shooter position, or down-pick the crease position (these are the “age dependant” variables).  

If none of those "looks" are open for the ball carrier they should fill/cycle up into the shooter position and take a shot (if it's there) or swing the ball to the far-side shooter/point (Motion/Look #4), repeating the process (if advanced); otherwise being free to go one-on-one. Throughout this process it is the ball carrier’s responsibility to have their head up, always being a threat.

Drill #2 - Point To Shooter (Give & Go)

The chances of the first “look” being open in a game are slim, the only way it would work is if it were very well disguised, against a defense that starts cheating or getting lazy with their habits.

I like to do my first walk through, and teach the principles of the motion offense, by “triggering” it with a pass from the point player to the weak-side shooter.  A pass to the strong-side is a harder give-and-go return pass to catch (cross body), yet both are practiced in this first drill, with players encouraged to switch who they pass to each time through the line at point.  Both of these passes (weak-side & strong-side) are also important in subsequent drills, and this is great practice for beginners in popping out to receive the pass, while also working on soft hands and disguising their passes.

Drill #3 - Off-Ball Cutter

Getting the ball low is the first objective of the motion offense, with the off ball cutter becoming the first legitimate threat and instigator of the “cycle,” which commences later on the on-ball side.

The first legitimate threat in the motion offense happens after the ball gets passed (or run) low, to the crease position; at which point the off-ball shooter needs to cut through the middle. It’s important to reiterate that the ball doesn’t necessarily have to be passed low in a game/practice, as once the defense catches on they may start locking off this pass.  It is also important to note that the off-ball cutter usually takes some sort of physical beating while cutting, and a good defender won’t just let you do whatever you want.  In this drill and the one to follow, the “next step” is to add a coach or volunteer defender that you must cut past, either overtop or underneath.

Drill #3 - On-Ball Cutter (Give & Go)

The on-ball give-and-go is a cross-body catch in a tight space, which can be difficult for beginners.  The window of space is small, as the more “flat” the pass becomes while the cutter advances, the more likely it can also turn into a “suicide pass.”

After the ball gets passed low, the on-ball cutter must learn to “delay” for a half second, which allows for the off-ball cutter to get through the middle, in theory.  This speaks to the timing of the motion offense, the off-ball cutter needs to leave as soon as the ball is low, and the on-ball cutter should leave as soon as the off-ball cutter is beginning to exit the middle.  The on-ball cutter then attempts to cut overtop, or underneath their check (imaginary or voluntary), and if they were open they should in theory receive the ball.

On-ball is where the magic happens!  Again, it’s always going to be a fight to the middle when you are cutting.  If I pass it low and then need to get around Graeme Hossack for a give-go-pass, which is the premise of the drill above, that’s likely not going to happen.  That said, there are two other options “on-ball” within the motion offense:  set a down pick at the crease position (most common), or set a screen at the shooter position (least common).  For advanced players, they would read the situation and choose the best option.  For first-timers, the extent of your set offense is usually a simple down pick on the weak-side, but not until that off-ball cutter is through, which takes a lot of practice...  

Drill #4 - On-Ball Down-Pick (Crease)

A simple down-pick that is well executed will generate a lot of quality scoring opportunities for beginners and should be the “bread and butter” of their team offense.

I’m not about to walk you through how to properly execute the pick & roll, which will be the focus of a future blog.  I will tell you however, that I’ve done a lot of exploring on best practice for team offense in minor lacrosse.  

Two summers ago I was at my former teammate’s wedding, he also happens to be my business partner’s brother, Nathan Sanderson.  I got chatting with uncle Shane when I was there; Shane is one of the 4 infamous Sanderson brothers from Orangeville in the 70’s/80’s.  He is also a long-standing coach in Orangeville minor lacrosse, including the head coach of their 12U rep team that has only lost one game in the last three seasons at the top level in Ontario.  So I took the opportunity to ask him about how he went about running his offense?  He got telling me a story about “The Peterborough Pick” and how they were always pushing the ball for fast breaks in transition, and that if no opportunity presented itself that they would run the ball deep to the far-side and immediately send a down-pick  As that was happening the off-ball players would be cutting and cycling (perhaps coming from the bench on a line change).  That was the whole offense!  Down picks, with off ball cutters...Sound familiar?

Drill #5 - On-Ball Seal/Screen (Shooter)

The universal sign that you are about to seal your check is to extend your arms in front of you, which tips off the ball carrier what’s about to happen; they should then attempt to run their check into the seal (aka “post”), taking a shot around/overtop of the screen. 

People can generally only remember 2-3 things in their working memory at at any given time, so “sealing at the shooter position” is something I wouldn’t normally discuss until players have demonstrated some sort of mastery with give & go’s and down-picks; otherwise if these actions are no longer working against regular opponents.  

Again, I am not going to discuss proper sealing technique, only to say that as players get more familiar with the skills and concepts within the motion offense, eventually this on-ball cutter situation becomes a “read” by the ball carrier at the crease position, as opposed coaching players to seal the shooter every single time they pass it low on offense, which is the object of the drill above.  Start with an imaginary defender and then advance to a volunteer defender, which give player a better “feel” for the situation.

Drill #6 - Six Nations Shuffle

Coaches can ask players to perform any series of actions:  cycling, picking and/or sealing, both on-ball and off-ball; finishing with a quality shot on net.  

If none of the above options were open the ball carrier would carry high and shoot (which is another drill in our Shooting Series), otherwise swing it to the far side or perhaps pass to somebody who got open off of an off-ball pick after their cut (another advanced concept).  At this point, players on both sides (on-ball/off-ball) would have done a full cycle/exchange of relative positions. 

This “Six Nations Shuffle” is a great drill in that it allows you, as the coach, to ask for different patterns of the above mentioned drills; both on ball and off-ball working together in unison (getting a feel for the timing).  There are so many variations you could do off of this drill set-up and it involves everyone in the offense (except the hypothetical point player who is the first to cut through the middle). 

You could ask for the same pattern every time, or, if they are really good, you can change it up every time.  Players both on ball and off-ball could either cycle (cut) through, seal or pick; the ball carrier has the option to pass to whoever they want, or to a specified person for beginners.  Advanced players can get creative with how they finish after several passes.  

Shout out to Scott Martin, a Mohawk man from Six Nations, who used this drill as a way to teach the concepts of team offense to one of our groups when he was out here in Nova Scotia helping coach, back in 2015.  

Conclusion:

There’s no point in trying to teach this stuff if people can’t pass and catch, which is why all of the blogs in this series have been on the fundamentals of lacrosse up until now.  This is really the first time players are asked to “think and play” while on offense, instead of just playing “jungle ball.”   

The motion offense should be used as a framework to teach the basic skills and concepts of offense, which always apply regardless of which system is being played.  With the motion offense in particular, the rules should be slowly relinquished throughout the course of the players development, with the end goal of being able to play within a Freelance Offense by the time you finish your minor lacrosse experience.  It is a give & take relationship between the coach and the players, and sometimes if players continually go too far off-script, they will need to be held accountable.

Although to freelance literally means “to work for yourself, with no allegiance to anyone,” a successful freelance offensive system actually still has set team rules to provide structure and balance on the floor (developed based on team personnel + individual skill-sets).

Freelance is the style of offense that is used most often in Junior & Senior “box” lacrosse, promoting swinging the ball, plenty of motion, pick-and-roll game; and limited in its use of set-plays (except where trying to utilize the best attributes of the teams most skilled players). In other words “pass, pick, pop/roll, replace, cut, shoot” as Casey Powell describes it.  Spread the defense by staying wide, while also adjusting your position to help create open passing lanes and seizing opportunities to be a threat; both on ball and off-ball.  Avoid the temptation to creep towards the ball, and do not allow the off-ball defenders to sag and stand in help positions; keep them engaged with hard work and tenacity.

From there, offensive players should be watching the positioning of their offensive teammates in order to help with the timing of the “cycle” or set-play, being mindful of proper spacing.  They should also be watching the positioning/personnel of the defensive players, exploiting weaknesses and watching for opportunities to get open for a high percentage shot on goal (i.e. following slides, back-cutting defenders, etc.).  All players on the floor need to be involved/engaged in order for there to be any sort of continuity or "flow" to high level team offense.  If you are not moving your feet you are not involved. Furthermore, an offense that doesn't get open in the middle, will not be successful in the long run.

For further interest in offensive systems which still apply the same rules and concepts of the motion offense, please also see the Dingo’s Mid-Board Cycle & Linds’ Drive Down Cycle.

 

Beginner Lacrosse Drills - Shooting

Chet Koneczny | May 7, 2020

The fundamentals of lacrosse include:  basic defense, scooping (loose balls), cradling/ball protection, basic transition, passing, catching, shooting & basic offense (appearing hypothetically in that order).  You play good defense, knock the ball loose, pick it up, protect it and/or cradle it forward, pass the ball to any open players ahead of you, catch the pass and then shoot it if you are undefended and in the middle of the defense; otherwise creating a shot with basic offensive maneuvers.  

In this series of blogs we will give you 3-5 complimentary drills for each of the fundamentals, which we feel offer a quick and efficient means to improving your lacrosse skills.

There are 2 styles of shot in lacrosse:  shooting-on-the-run (which is the most frequent) & set-shooting (which is the focus of this article).  Using a basketball analogy, for a set-shot think Steph Curry with his feet set, perfect balance, dropping a bomb from long range with perfect form.  For a shot-on-the-run, picture Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant slashing to the net and pulling up for an off-balance jump shot.

Set-Shooting sees the shooter start perpendicular to the net, taking a “crow hop” for extra power if “time & space is available

In lacrosse, when offenders get “time & space” in the prime scoring area, usually their first option is to take a “set-shot.” A good set-shot starts with a player standing perpendicular to the net, taking a baseball-like “crow-hop” if they have time, and then transferring their weight from their back foot forward onto their front foot; rotating their hips/shoulders (torso) and following through (shooting around the pipes).  When set-shooting, remember the BEEF principles: Balanced (stance), Eyes (on target), Elbows (reaching back, tight to the body), and Follow Through (towards the target).

The following is a list of drill progressions we use at Laxlife.ca to teach set-shooting, all of which could also be used to teach shooting-on-the-run...

Drill #1:  SEMI-CIRCLE (HORSESHOE) DRILL

For extra reps, or if no goalie is present, having everyone shoot at the same time can be fun and coaches can keep track of how many balls hit the net (or posts).  Having players “react” to their rebound is another good habit to be promoted.

The horseshoe drill is a great starting point for teaching set-shooting to a large group. Although, if boards or a wall are available, doing a demo and then having players practice (warm-up) there for a couple of minutes before shooting on the net is generally preferred.

Using the net as a reference point helps teach players where they should be shooting from.  In box lacrosse, players should always practice shots from inside of the "prime scoring area," on their "proper floor side."  

The prime scoring area is defined as two imaginary diagonal lines going from each goal post outward on a 45° angle towards the side-boards.  Just outside of the shooter position, another imaginary semicircle (10 metres out from the top of the crease) connects to just outside the other shooter position on the opposite side of the floor, forming an arc that ultimately connects to the diagonals (45°).  Shots from this area are considered to be “high percentage,” as a higher percentage of goals are proven to go in from this area than anywhere else.

Players should also be sure to take shots from their proper floor side, defined as a lengthwise “imaginary division” of the floor, stretching from the middle of one net to the other; players’ sticks should be facing this imaginary midline for the large majority of the time while on the floor.  Likewise, players’ bodies should rarely, if ever, cross this imaginary midline while shooting. Any shot on the “wrong floor-side” of this imaginary line is considered a bad shot, and one that the goalie should save.

Prime Scoring Area

Legend Half 4-01.png

The prime scoring area is where the  majority of goals are scored in box lacrosse.

If there's no goalie in the "horseshoe drill," coaches can ask that players shoot "all at once," which gives beginners a chance to get lots of repetitions.  Some common errors we tend to see in beginning players are:  not reaching their arms back in their preliminary movements, not releasing the ball properly (too far in front or behind their body), taking their eyes off of the target, not shooting overhand, and/or not following through to the target (stopping short; abrupt follow through).

If there is a goalie, players can take turns shooting, working their way from one side to the other (left to right or right to left), with one second in-between shots.  Another advanced variation is to incorporate side-to-side shooting, switching from a left-handed to a right-handed shooter on each shot, which forces the goalies to have to reset on each shot and ultimately opens up more holes for shooters to try and expose.  

Once players have developed sound shot mechanics, coaches can ask that players “react back” after shooting, sprinting the length of the floor (collecting a loose ball along the way if possible), and then lining up in the same formation in the opposite end of the floor; or just sprinting to the rag-line (lining up again in the same end).

Drill #2:  STEP & SHOOT

As players begin to stabilize their shot, footwork patterns should then be added before the set-shot takes place.  The first footwork pattern, and generally the most common is the "L-Shot."  The player takes a jab-step ("juke") toward the board-side, planting off of their outside leg and cutting toward the middle (2-3 steps max), "setting" their feet ("perpendicular" to the net) for an outside shot.  For beginners, it helps to put pylons on the floor to give a visual representation of the pattern.  See the top half of the diagram below…

The “L-Shot” and the “Drag Shot” are two of the most common footwork patterns used before shooting

If per se, the L-shot didn't open up a lane for a shot, the next option in a game would to either pass to someone, or drag (back-pedal) back towards their proper floor side.  In the "drag shot" variation (see the bottom half of the diagram above), the player takes a jab-step toward the top-side (opposite of L-shot), planting off of their inside leg and pivoting into a back-pedal ("drag") toward the "board-side."  At this point the player should re-establish their momentum towards the net (north-south) and take a shot while still in the prime scoring area.  

Drill #3:  CAROUSEL & SHOOT

To simply pass the ball across the top of the defense is generally an ineffective strategy for creating a quality shot in a set-offense.  Most offensive systems in box lacrosse see the ball get passed low first, and then carried high.  During this process the ball carrier should "be a threat" to shoot.  To replicate this, the next drill variation sees the first player on one side of the floor carry the ball from low to high, from the crease position up to the shooter position, and then step into a set-shot.  

For beginners, pylons may be used for players to curl around, being sure that they have their "head up" looking at the middle while "carrying high" (as opposed to looking at the pylon they are running towards).  This forces players to have to work on changing their body momentum from one direction to the other, in a north-south orientation.  In a game, players would be reading the defense and taking whatever ground they could towards the middle of the prime scoring area.  Thus, the pylon is just a visual cue for beginners.

Pylons may also be used as landmarks (not shown in diagrams) for beginners. 

Drill #4:  CATCH & SHOOT (STATIONARY)

The next progression after learning how to shoot with the ball already in your stick is effectively catching and shooting the ball as seamlessly as possible.  The ideal catch and shoot scenario sees the ball in the air with the player about to receive it already "crow-hopping" towards the net, receiving the ball with arms fully extended behind their body, catching and shooting all in one motion (otherwise known as a "quick stick").

For beginners, coaches can underhand flip the ball to the player (with their hands), with the player attempting to catch and shoot the ball without cradling (or twirling) their stick.  If players are competent enough, they can pass lefties to righties & vice versa (see diagrams below), working on the same mechanics as described above. 

This drill is the first time players are asked to catch the ball before shooting, which can be a problem for beginners. Any time 2 tasks are combined into 1, it is inherently more difficult 

Drill #5:  CATCH & SHOOT (DYNAMIC)

The most advanced variation of shooting is for players to catch a lead pass in stride (gradually building up their running speed), shifting their momentum downhill (north-south) and taking a set-shot as quickly as possible upon receiving the pass (ideally all in one motion if it’s a good pass).  This is the most game-specific shot and the model for what players should try to be able to execute consistently.  See the diagram below…

Passing to where a player is going, not where they are, is what is referred to as “lead passing.” It is a skill that must be perfected in order to create shots in advanced lacrosse.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

The final piece of the puzzle is knowing when to, and when not to shoot; otherwise known as shot selection:  Shot selection is a mental process of either taking a shot or passing a shot up (not taking a shot).  Being ready to shoot and in the “triple threat position,” is half of the equation.  The other half depends on game-specific context variables, most notably:  whether there is an open “shooting lane” toward the net and whether the shooter has "time & space."  Too often, beginning lacrosse players will take the first shot available, and not necessarily the best available shot (shot clock dependent). 

Players must use good judgment before taking low percentage shots outside, or on the cusp of, the prime scoring area.  It is usually better to “curl” out and look for a teammate who is in a better position, rather than take a low-percentage shot.

Shot accuracy and knowing where to shoot on a goalie is the final x-factor, and is usually the responsibility of coaches and “scouts,” although input from players and goaltenders are equally as important.

Blog 7: Beginner Lacrosse Drills: Dodges (Ball Protection)

Chet Koneczny | May 1, 2020

The fundamentals of lacrosse include: basic defense, scooping (loose balls), cradling/ball protection, basic transition, passing, catching, shooting & basic offense (appearing hypothetically in that order).  You play good defense, knock the ball loose, pick it up, protect it and/or cradle it forward, pass the ball to any open players ahead of you, catch the pass and then shoot it if you are undefended and in the middle of the defense; otherwise creating a shot with basic offensive maneuvers.  

In this series of articles we will give you 3-5 complimentary drills for each of the fundamentals, which we feel offer a quick and efficient means to improving your lacrosse skills.

Assuming basic ball protection has been covered off in both static and dynamic fashion (as seen in our Basic Practice Plans, the next step is to “make moves” to get around defenders, learning how to change directions and change speeds while manipulating the lacrosse stick.

The way to protect the ball in lacrosse, as in most other sports, is to keep your body between the ball and the checker.

A dodge is a quick movement (or fake movement), usually toward the opponents net, with or without the ball, using quick foot and sometimes arm/hand/head movements.  There are many different styles of dodges, described primarily by the action taken toward the net, usually beginning just beyond a sticks length away from a defender. 

Whether it’s box (indoor) lacrosse or field (outdoor) lacrosse, the following dodges will allow players to get more quality scoring opportunities, which for most new players translates to "fun" while playing the game of lacrosse.

Skill # 1:  THE JUKE

If this juke were in the offensive zone it would be important to keep two hands on the stick (“triple threat position”) while executing the movement.  A juke is the most basic dodge in lacrosse.

A "juke" is a fake cut one way (“jab-step”), then planting hard off of a stiff outside leg while the inside leg is bent and parallel, eventually extending explosively in the opposite direction.  Off-ball, quick “side step” in one direction and then moving in the opposite direction is often enough to engage one’s check and keep them off balance.  It is also very common for offensive ball carriers to “jab-step” then try to beat their check overtop for a sweep shot. 

Otherwise known as a “counter-step” or “hitch step,” these “steps” can be utilized to deceptively mask a ball-carrier’s true intention, and later be combined with other dodges, like the face dodge or roll dodge.   

Drill #1:  “Dodging Around Cones”

Dodging around cones is a great starting point drill where players can practice individual dodges or a series of dodges around cones and/or coaches, finishing with a shot-on-the-run.

Skill #2:  THE ROLL DODGE

A roll dodge can be either clockwise or counter clockwise, exploding in the opposite direction while pushing of the outside leg.

A “roll dodge” is a 180° or full 360° rotation of the body while engaging a defender, which can also help protect the ball as a player carries it toward the net.  The roll dodge is usually accompanied by some sort of change in direction, and is sometimes used by players to free their hands for a shot on goal. It could be a drop step "underneath" or spin "overtop" of the defender.

Where the opportunity presents itself, offensive players should roll dodge toward the butt-end of the defender’s stick ("away from their stick"), initiate contact with their lead shoulder from approximately a sticks length from the defender, and accelerate out of the dodge. 

Drill #2: “Open Floor Dodging & Checking” 

Practicing dodges against a defender in the open floor, gradually building up speed, is a a great progression from the previous drill where players dodged around cones

Skill #3:  THE FACE DODGE

A face-dodge is when you bring your stick across your body while attacking the defender towards the outside lane (“underneath”).

The "face dodge" is one of the most common dodges you will see in lacrosse whereby a ball carrier brings the ball across their body (their "face"), rotating their hips and accelerating out of the dodge, all while keeping the ball “tucked in” and tight to their body; it is a classic move when set-up with a fake shot (“crow hop”). This move and others are utilized to get around aggressive defenders, or to free up time & space for a quality shot. Where the opportunity presents itself, offensive players should attack the butt-end of the defender’s stick ("away from their stick") at roughly a stick's length away; accelerating out of the dodge.  

Drill #3:  “Dodging In Traffic” Shuttle

The “Traffic Shuttle” is a great culminating activity where two players run at each other at steadily increasing speeds, making a “move’ on the opposite player as they approach.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS:

The ideal scenario where all three of these dodges can be incorporated into one series of dodges would see the defender catching a pass, attacking their defender with a quick juke, face dodging underneath, and then when the defender is trying to catch up with them, roll dodging back overtop for a screen shot; or in a perfect world, leaving them naked in front of the net with the goalie.  The timing of the dodge cannot be understated, and the art of dodging lies in knowing exactly when and where to dodge.  If the beginning lacrosse player incorporates these dodges into their game, they are going to have much more success (fun).

Blog 6: Beginner Lacrosse Drills: Loose Balls

Chet Koneczny | April 23, 2020

The fundamentals of lacrosse include:  basic defense, scooping (loose balls), cradling/ball protection, basic transition, passing, catching, shooting & basic offense (appearing hypothetically in that order).  You play good defense, knock the ball loose, pick it up, protect it and/or cradle it forward, pass the ball to any open players ahead of you, catch the pass and then shoot it if you are undefended and in the middle of the defense; otherwise creating a shot with basic offensive maneuvers.  

In this series of articles we will give you 3-5 complimentary drills for each of the fundamentals, which we feel offer a quick and efficient means to improving your lacrosse skills. 

Assuming the basics of scooping through the ball, trapping & scooping, “scoop-tuck & turn,” and “scoop to triple-threat” have been covered off in both static and dynamic fashion (as seen in our “Basic Practice Plans,” the next step is to start preparing players to get loose balls in traffic (against an opponent).  Little nuances such as boxing out, “keeping it alive” for a teammate to come in and scoop it, other times poking at, kicking or batting the ball to gain an advantage, all come into play; all of which are worthy of drills in and of themselves!

Being “two hand tough” on loose balls means keeping two hands on the stick when you know you are about to take a slash across the forearms

Drill #1:  “Stationary/Dynamic Loose Balls”

As a Warm-Up prior to all out competing with an opponent, players can practice several variations of stationary (Variation #1 - Top Diagram Below) and dynamic loose balls, depending on their skill level.  To recreate the feel for “scooping through” a loose ball in traffic, players can eventually pair up, with one partner putting their stick flush behind the ball as the other partner comes in and scoops through the ball/stick (Variation #2 - Bottom Diagram Below).  After picking it up they can practice tucking it in and running to open space; afterwards setting the same situation up for their partner to practice.  Players could also practice knocking the stick out of the way and boxing-out, then trap & scooping the ball and getting their hands up into the triple threat position. There are many combinations of loose ball skills and situations you could practice.  Another more advanced variation is having one player ready to scoop a loose ball while the other tries to poke at their bottom hand, in an effort to interrupt their rhythm.

Players practice various types of loose balls as a warm-up (alone and in pairs)

Drill #2:  “LB - Sans Pressure”

We have thus far started our drill series on a continuum building up from stationary up to now pursuing loose balls with no pressure, eventually getting to the speed and pressure of a real live 50/50 loose ball battle. This drill below could be skipped for more skilled players, but for beginners it is perfect for practicing Attacking Loose Balls with speed as they are coming off of the boards, and protecting it once you’ve got it.  After the player corrals the loose ball they should run in back towards the middle of the floor and put it into the pile in front of the coach, which represents what you would do after collecting a loose ball in the defensive end of the floor (Variation #1 - Top Diagram).  The goal of the drill is to get lots of reps of full intensity loose balls, reacting to them upon first sight (coach is standing behind players).  

Beginners practice dynamic loose balls that are rebounding off of the side and end-boards

Variation #2 (Bottom Diagram) is similar in orientation but represents a loose ball near the offensive end of the floor.  Players get the loose ball off of the side-boards instead of the corner, collecting the loose ball and running quickly to the net for a shot (representing a broken play in the neutral zone).  It also adds a bit of a fatigue element to the subsequent loose balls (and shots), which will be harder to execute successfully as the drill goes on.

Drill #3:  “LB with Pressure”

Next consider adding a real live element of pressure (Variation #1 - Top Diagram), whereby two players go into the corner for the loose ball, with one player having a head start over the other.  The player trailing the play should stay close enough where if the player ahead of them misses the ball they can attempt to get it, but otherwise applying pressure on the player as they attempt to clear it out of the “defensive zone.”  Players should explore different match-ups so they get to go against players with the same and different measures of the size, speed and strength.

One player has a head start to the loose ball & has to clear the zone (top diagram); the player who wins the LB has to pass back to the line they started in (bottom diagram) 

Variation #2 (Bottom Diagram) changes the location of the loose ball to an area of the floor that requires less spatial awareness (i.e. no crease), but also adds the element of having to pass the ball back to the next person in line behind you in line, mimicking a support pass while Breaking Out up the floor (scoop-to-triple threat).  Players also begin side-by-side, with one of the players behind them rolling the loose ball into play.

Drill #4:  “Loose Ball Battle”

Lastly have players compete for 50/50 balls, which means players are starting side-by-side on each side of the coach, with the coach behind the players who are facing the corners.  Upon first sight of the ball, players run into the corner and “battle” for the ball.  Whoever comes up with it can either run it out of the drill, otherwise they may be given a chance to explore playing some one-on-one for 5 seconds, before sending a ball into the opposite corner.  

Advance to 2 vs. 2, which requires players to work in tandem, and utilizes a lot more finicky maneuvers, which should be the focus in drills moving forward.  The Box-Out Drill for instance, is especially important for players in these types of tight quarters, helping differentiate from what may otherwise be called as minor interference if performed incorrectly.  Loose ball battles should frequently be re-hashed upon throughout the course of a season, ensuring that effort and physicality on loose balls is always high in any drill performed moving forward.

During loose ball battles players go 1-on-1 and 2-on-2, having to revert into defensive positioning if they are unsuccessful in obtaining the loose ball

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS:

Loose ball possession comes down to “who wants it more” in the end

At the end of the day, the team that wins the most loose ball battles usually ends up winning the game.  More loose balls (also known as “ground balls” in field lacrosse) translates into more possession, which usually effects other variables such as:  momentum, multiple re-sets, shot totals and fatigue.  The biggest determining factor in getting a loose ball is hard/effort, which generally comes from developing your anaerobic capacity off the floor; and having the will to compete.  Battling to keep the ball alive for a teammate is sometimes just as important as picking the ball up for oneself.  The best loose ball players have a 6th gear they can kick it into, and somehow come out of a corner with the ball against two opponents; they simply want it more.

Beginner Lacrosse Drills: Basic Individual Defense

The fundamentals of lacrosse include:  basic defense, scooping (loose balls), cradling/ball protection, basic transition, passing, catching, shooting & basic offense (appearing hypothetically in that order).  You play good defense, knock the ball loose, pick it up, protect it and/or cradle it forward, pass the ball to any open players ahead of you, catch the pass and then shoot it if you are undefended and in the middle of the defense; otherwise creating a shot with basic offensive maneuvers.  

In this series of blogs we will give you 3-5 complimentary drills for each of the fundamentals, which we feel offers a quick and efficient means to improving your lacrosse skills.  Also see our “Individual Defense Basics” Practice Plan.

Denying underneath while playing “top-side” defense at the 2007 World Indoor Lacrosse Championships in Halifax

Drill #1:  "On-Ball Shadowing”

Outside of the fundamental footwork described in our FREE "Basic Lacrosse Practices," landmarking the top-shoulder of your check (the person you are covering defensively) while in a "closed stance," is the proper defensive technique when checking a player on the ball-side of the defense.  

Otherwise known as "top-side defense," the drill below gives players a chance to "shadow" the movements of the offensive player for the first 5 seconds, before a second whistle signals that the they may now take it to the net (1-on-1), instead of having to stay between the two pylons (which are set up at the crease and shooter positions).  The offensive player then gets another 5 seconds to get a quality shot, perhaps using some basic dodges learned in a previous practice.  The defenders job then becomes not to get beat over-top, nor to get beat underneath, and otherwise contest any shot taken from the offensive player’s proper-floor-side.

Defenders must stay square to the top shoulder of the ball carrier as they make moves between the pylons, the coach blows the whistle for a 1-on-1 after approximately 5 seconds

Drill #2:  "Recover Top-Side”

Inevitably defenders will find themself trailing the offender, having been beaten top-side.  However, the play is never over and it is possible to reclaim the top-side by taking the right angle when recovering.  The last resort is a trail check scenario, which is a more advanced concept.  Beginners should just concentrate on realigning with the offensive player’s top shoulder and they will be successful.  

This drill starts with the defender underneath the offensive player, hip-to-hip (shoulder-to-shoulder), at the crease and shooter positions on both sides of the floor.   The defenders job is to reclaim the top side and avoid giving up a quality shot.

Inevitably a defender will get beaten top-side and needs to know how to “recover,” which is the focus of our second staple drill, from both the crease & shooter positions

Drill #3:  "4 Corner Checking"

This drill incorporates all of the concepts of the previous drills in terms of playing "top-side," except it allows for more reps for more players, in a shorter amount of time.

Variation #1 sees the player play offense, then defense, at either the crease or shooter position on their proper-floor-side, switching lines after playing defense.  Variation #2 is more consolitory in nature, meaning that after players have shown good "top-side" technique while relatively fresh, players are now forced to play defense against all 4 corners consecutively, which adds an element of fatigue to the equation.

Final 1-on-1 skill/drill consolidation can happen by checking an individual corner at a time and then rotating, or for more advanced players, checking all 4 corners consecutively

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS:

This sequence of drills is a great foundation for better defense at the beginner level.  It is limited in that it has no elements of off-ball defense and team defense as a whole.  Likewise, for a group of beginners, this might be the extent of the defense that gets taught (perhaps over several practices instead of all in one) over the course of the season.  The other fundamentals of loose balls, ball protection, basic transition, passing, catching, shooting, and basic offense, are equally as worthy.

The next step is playing good team defense and helping each other out where possible 

We’re Different: & A Tribute To Women’s Lacrosse

Chet Koneczny | April 10, 2020

To say that women are different than men is a broad and generally accepted statement that doesn’t always apply when referencing things like family, values, or passions, but does it hold up when applied to sport?  

When I began my role as technical director of lacrosse Nova Scotia in 2014, I had relatively little experience coaching females, other than a few participants in our Laxlife camps from years past.  I came to realize over the years how different coaching competitive girls’ lacrosse was from the competitive boys’ lacrosse environment that I had been so accustomed to as a player.  

We are talking box lacrosse here, and I’m not talking about differences from a toughness or competitiveness perspective, that’s for sure.  I already knew how competitive and tough girls could be with sports, my sister was not someone you wanted to play road hockey against. To this day she is the hardest working person I know. The differences were more cultural and social ones, which I learned through my experience and further research…

The History 

“The earliest historical mention of women playing lacrosse was in 1765 with mixed games played between and within mid-western native american tribes.”  

Ancient lacrosse games could go on for days and have hundreds of players on a miles-long field, including women (depending on the tribe). 

During this same time period, physical activity for females was generally “frowned upon” in the north american colonies and european societies, as was formal education and the right to vote.  

This all started to change in 1792 shortly after a pioneering political thinker by the name of Mary Wollstonecraft wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which was “a significant milestone in the arguments around women’s rights and has since become a feminist classic.” 

Often referred to as the first great feminist writer - Mary Wollstonecraft - believed it was a “double standard of excellence for male and female (that has) relegated women to inferior status (Wollstonecraft, 1792, p. xxxi)

The doctrine contains several statements that remain of consequence today regarding the importance of exercise and playful sports for females.”  

“Let us then, by being allowed to take the same exercise as boys, not only during infancy, but youth, arrive at a perfection of body, that we may know how far the natural superiority of man extends,” Mary professed further in her Vindication.  Wollstonecraft also believed that moral character was developed through hard work.  

Tragically Mary passed away during childbirth 5 years after her book's publication.  However, her legacy has lived on.

Mary Wollstonecraft favoured co-educational day schools, lessons given by informal conversational methods, with lots of physical exercise both free and organised.  “In order for any notions of equality to actualize, (the) double standard must be repressed,” she wrote.  

“In proposing the same type of education for girls as they proposed for boys, Mary Wollstonecraft also went a step further and proposed that they be educated together which was even more radical than anything proposed before. The idea of co-educational schooling was simply regarded as nonsense by many educational thinkers of the time.”

So, had Wollstonecraft not laid the foundation for structured physical activity for females, the first non-native women’s lacrosse game may have never been played in 1890 at St. Leonards School, in Scotland.  The “women’s game” was introduced by Louisa Lumsden and Jane Dove, who had “brought the game to Scotland after watching a men’s lacrosse game between the Kahnawake Indians and the Montreal Lacrosse Club.” The first recognized women’s international game took place between Scotland and Wales in 1913.

“To play like gentlemen and behave like ladies” - St. Leonards Lacrosse Team Motto

Women’s field lacrosse is a non-contact game played truest to the way the original sport was played: a game of ball control and passing skills.  In recent decades it has gotten very popular in North America, due largely in response to legislation in the USA referred to as Title 9, which “prohibits discrimination based on sex in any federally funded education program or entity.”  This change to the education act happened in 1972 when women only represented 7% of participants in NCAA sports. Since the institution of this legislation, that number is currently sitting at around 44%.

As of 2014, women’s lacrosse in all NCAA divisions notably outpaced all other sports, a 109% increase to 470 teams in 2014, from 225 in 2000 (five thousand players in 2000 to over eleven thousand in 2014).  

Lacrosse has been a great tool, as of late, in helping to even out the imbalance in athletic scholarships available to women.  With more traditional women’s sports (track, basketball, volleyball, hockey, etc.) already being fairly saturated, women’s lacrosse programs are filling the void and translating into lots of opportunities for scholarships for young women who are academically inclined and able to wield a lacrosse stick.  Box lacrosse players are especially sought after!

So, what does all of this mean for lacrosse coaches?  How can we coach females so they are able to seize the opportunities available to them in lacrosse?

The Research 

Female athletes need a training/learning environment that creates a climate of acceptance and social connections. This is the cornerstone for a rewarding and lasting female sporting environment.

Theme #1:  Acceptance In Your Program (Social Connections)

Putting females in a social setting is priority number one in a team sport setting, in contrast to males who should be put in an effort based setting first.  This means that from the very first get together you should be running lots of ice breakers and fun activities, in a low pressure environment conducive to creating inclusive and positive team dynamics.  Positive team dynamics and chemistry are a must, as team “issues” can destroy performance.

The camaraderie and leadership demonstrated by the girls at our Laxlife camps is second to none.

Create external sources of fun throughout your season plans:  pre-season activities, team meals, movie nights, bowling, overnight trips, non-traditional practices.  On a day to day basis you need to build in more social time: longer water breaks, longer coffee breaks, more free time.  Make sure girls exchange phone numbers with each other and add each other on instagram. 

The “social side” of managing the team environment is critical.  Team “unity and identity” (eg. t-shirts, traditions, cheers, etc.) will go a long way in terms of latter effort & performance.

Acknowledging teammates, supporting teammates, being supported by teammates, warming up and cooling down as a team, all of these “little  things” translate into girls teams playing well together. Any team, for that matter...

Positive team dynamics starts with positive coaching.  Coaches must be positive role models, with strong morals and values.  They need to treat ALL players fairly, with respect and dignity, while further being mindful to use girl-friendly language, and eliminate gender stereotypes. 

A lot of young women grow up with male role models.  “You can’t be what you can’t see.” We need to make a conscious effort to develop female coaches in our sport.  If you are a male coaching a female team, or otherwise a female coach new to the sport, bring in lots of female guest instructors.  Find female role models in the community. Start an alumni program. 

Zoey Kruger has coached at the Laxlife Lacrosse Camp in Orangeville the last 2 summers and is a fantastic female coach role model in the community, with a bright future in lacrosse.

Women’s lacrosse coaches need to develop a connective leadership style.  Show personal interest in each individual athlete, make connections with them, and then have an on-going personal conversation with each of them throughout the season.  Joke around with the players. Take time to learn why the female athlete is participating. Don’t assume they are there for the same reason as you, like I did. Being with her friends may be her primary reason for being there.  

“You basically have to drive men, but you can lead women.  Women relate to the interconnected web of personal connections, as opposed to a more traditional male hierarchical style” 

- Anson Dorrance, UNC Women’s Soccer Coach

Profile your girls as much as possible with questionnaires about who they are, physically, mentally, and spiritually; also how happy they are from week to week and how content they are with the climate and social cohesion of the team.  Be a coach who listens and considers players' opinions, while also being known as a nice, friendly coach that is “easy to talk to.”  

The beauty of it is that as coaches we are in complete control and able to intentionally create this atmosphere and training environment, one which should be felt as “accepting” from the onset of the season.  Throughout the season you will need to pay critical attention to the social web of the team and the players’ feelings of belonging. Further, being mindful not to allow cliques to form.

Theme 2:  Effort

It takes a lot of work to build the type of environment I am describing above.  Your program needs to have a lot of people working hard behind the scenes to build it; some sort of Board structure is ideal.  If your players see you putting in the effort, and feel comfortable in their athletic environment, they will start to match and exceed your effort, speaking from the top down. 

That’s all you ask for as a coach, is that your players work hard at improving themselves.   Implement goal setting (SMART - short, medium, long term season goals), within the team and as individuals, so athletes take control and ownership of targets.  

Tell the girls you expect hard work, but don’t tell them this at the beginning of the season before everyone is socially acclimated, as it will likely not get the desired effect, nor the same effect as it would have for boys.  You need to normalize and foster the competitive environment gradually, creating a competitive mentality over time, while not accepting mediocrity! Celebrate hard work, girls trying their best, making a good play, and the achievement of collective & individual goals!

Your expectations should be gender neutral.  Excellence is a habit.  

Theme 3:  Performance

Part of being a positive coach is also allowing mistakes to happen - encourage safe risk taking.  Tell them that making mistakes is expected, and okay. Make it okay to fail. Create intentional opportunities to fail, and allow mistakes to happen.  Reward sensible risk taking while emphasizing effort, persistence and improvement. Glorify failure, “if you’re going to make a mistake make it big,” have an award for it.

When things go wrong, encourage them to use an external attribution versus an internal one  (i.e. “this is hard” vs. “I suck at this.” ). The majority of men overestimate their abilities, whereas women tend to under-estimate abilities (when performances were relatively the same).  Remind them of this if they are still in the skill acquisition phase. Beware of perfectionism (i.e. not answering or trying things unless it’s perfect). The natural result of low confidence is inaction.  “When women hesitate because they aren’t sure they are holding themselves back. Girls lose confidence, so they quit sports, thereby depriving themselves of one of the best ways to regain it.”  

Girls generally receive feedback better than boys from our experience.  No better advice than from Steph LeBlanc, who lives in Halifax and plays for the New England Black Wolves of the NLL.

You will need to be prepared with supportive instructions and feedback appropriate to their skill level (for both new and returning athletes), as there is often a wide range of skill levels (especially in the smaller provinces/states). 

You will need to be able to create the appropriate magnitude of challenge and risk for the varying levels of skill on your team; gauging players’ levels of confidence with each new skill, and having regressions/progressions ready for the outliers.  Don’t be discouraged by initial performance flaws, as the weaker performers will catch on quickly once they are “accepted” and begin to put in the extra effort required.  

High performing females expect to be told when they are doing something wrong, just like anyone else.  They do prefer a positive coaching style, yes, but they also expect and appreciate constructive feedback.  Many of the girls that end up excelling in lacrosse, come to the sport as late entry participants from other sports such as hockey, ringette, basketball or soccer, so you as their coach cannot rush them through the developmental steps necessary to catch up to the majority of the team. There will often need to be a small group that requires extra fundamental work on the side.  Give them information in advance of practice, containing introductory materials that will be forthcoming. Explain things as clearly and concisely as possible; answering all questions.  

Team Canada Midfielder Erica Evans at the World Championships in Wroclaw, Poland, 2017.

When building your program from the onset, explain your communication philosophy and feedback style, so players know exactly what to expect.  Communication builds trust between coaches and athletes. Create a performance based tone to your formal conversations and feedback, one which is consistent for all team members.  Be specific and direct, providing positive informational feedback. Female athletes love pictures and metaphors. Encourage them, spend time getting to know them, don’t always give them the “the bottom of the barrel...”

Further Considerations

To be truly successful at coaching female athletes, not only do you need to know yourself, your athletes and your sport, you must also know sport in general.

As coaches it is also of vital importance have a general understanding of the growth and development characteristics of children. This is a cornerstone of long term participant development models..  Talent development is a long term process, and we need to be aware of what stage of adolescents our athletes are in to best support them.

Long Term Athletic Development (LTAD) is a national sport development model used across north american sporting culture

It is suggested that there are windows of optimal trainability we need to start understanding and considering as coaches.  Early adolescents (8U), for instance, would be well served to work on “suppleness” (flexibility) and speed training, as is identifiable in the graphs above.  Kids who establish a broader range of motion while the joints are still developing, tend to have larger ranges later in life. As for speed, which is another window trainable during this time, I can tell you from experience that fixing the running technique of young children is one of the most beneficial series of exercises they can be led through.  Establishing these habits early in life can save you a whole host of problems later in your athletic career, when your body starts to break down as a result of the neglect. Although there needs ongoing research in further understanding these windows of opportunity, they nonetheless offer useful guidance in program design.

I’m often asked my thoughts on girls playing against boys in rep level lacrosse.  My response is literally what is described in the graph below:

Unbeknownst to many male coaches who begin coaching females, you can expect a dip in performance during a females menstruation cycle.

Other than some basic anatomical differences, females and males are physically the same until around the time peak height velocity (puberty) starts to set in, which is generally a year or two earlier for females, so they are actually at an advantage physically over males for a period of time.  But, my answer to the question of “how long should females compete with males”, is usually at the U16 age bracket. This is about the time when all of the early developing males have caught up to the late developing females. Of course, there are always exceptions.

Two other notable items to be aware of is making sure your female athletes are meeting their caloric requirements as competitive athletes, and that they are strengthening the muscles that surround their knee joint (ACL tears are an epidemic in running and jumping activities).  There is also a lot of body image propaganda out there, so it is important to have open discussions about this type of false idealism your athletes may be having. The fact is 30-70% of high performance athletes under eat.  

Concluding Thoughts

Coaching female athletes is largely similar to coaching males; however, be mindful of unique differences.  It was certainly an eye opening experience for me during my time as technical director for Lacrosse Nova Scotia.  I never felt I got to serve them as well as I could now.  I wish I knew back then what I know now. I wasn’t as equipped to know the important differences.

The first year we started our high performance program in 2015 (“Flight”), we had 15 males  (One of whom was Alex Pace of the Philadelphia Wings) and 10 females.  Over time the female participation out paced the males almost 2 to 1.  We were getting girls from all kinds of other sports, join our program because they were getting quality programming and learning skills that were relevant not just to lacrosse, but athletics and life in general.  The feedback from parents was that their daughter was now independant in the gym, with a skill-set and knowledge base that could carry them to lead an active life; which also happens to be the end goal of the long term participant models mentioned earlier.
When Cody Jamieson told the story of the four legged animals playing the winged birds in an ancient game of lacrosse, it was the flying squirrel who scored the game winning goal after being rejected by the animals.  The moral of the story was that there is a place for everybody in lacrosse, with no discrimination. The female lacrosse player is just another animal or bird, out there playing the game they love.

Beginner Lacrosse Drills: Don't Start With Passing & Catching!

Chet Koneczny | April 2, 2020

The fundamentals of lacrosse include:  basic defense, scooping (loose balls), cradling/ball protection, basic transition, passing, catching, shooting & basic offense (appearing hypothetically in that order).  You play good defense, knock the ball loose, pick it up, protect it and/or cradle it forward, pass the ball to any open players ahead of you, catch the pass and then shoot it if you are undefended and in the middle of the defense; otherwise creating a shot with basic offensive maneuvers.  

This is the order of operations in lacrosse, and this is the order we introduce the fundamentals in our first 3 (free) one-hour practices for beginners, requiring only helmets & gloves, nets & balls.  One of the beauties of our game is in it’s accessibility!  I always ask people new to the game, have you ever played defense in any other sport?  Yes? You’ve shadowed a check?  Yes?  Okay, so we will teach you how to pick up a loose ball, protect it, make a short outlet pass, and we will turn you into a pro.  Really? 

The most relevant example of this (outside of my own) is that of NLL Ironman Paul Dawson.  He was drafted as a goaltender in the first round of the 2006 NLL Draft, and wasn’t content with his role as a 3rd string goaltender after his first season.  So, he decides, I’m going to step out and play defense and go win multiple Mann Cups with the Brampton Excelsiors and multiple NLL Championships with the Rochester Knighthawks…...  

Of course, not everyone is 6’4” 220 lbs, and the point of these blogs doesn't have to do with winning in lacrosse, it has more to do with winning in life.  It has to do with engaging people new to the sport and showing them all of the fun and experience that comes along with participating in indigenous culture, team sports and having fun with your friends.  

Games-Pic-2.jpg

The most important part of teaching fundamentals to kids is keeping it fun. This is accomplished via games & positive interactions.

In the series of articles to come we will give you 3-5 complimentary drills for each of the fundamentals, which we feel offers a beginner lacrosse player the quickest and most efficient means to improving their lacrosse skills. It is also assumed that players have already gone through our progressions in our first 3 Basic Fundamental Practices.  

We are actually going to start where, in our opinion, most coaches go wrong in teaching first-timers, and that’s passing and catching!  Usually we would start with defense, loose balls, then cradling/ball protection.  

However!!!  Given the Covid-19 situation, which inhibits the close contact that is required when playing defense against an opponent, instead we will look at passing & catching, which will hopefully be useful for parents who are keen to work with their kids in the backyard.

Read the rest of this blog post at laxlife.ca

Non-Coach Led Practice

Chet Koneczny | March 26, 2020

Nothing I’m about to tell you has any substantial value unless you put it into action. Whether a player or a coach, practicing “by doing” or practicing by “teaching others,” will often translate to more skill acquisition than just reading, watching and/or discussing lacrosse.

Screen Shot 2020-03-26 at 2.49.32 PM.png

John Wooden, one of the most renowned coaches of all time, explained how coaches are essentially teachers at the core.  Coaching is not lecturing, it is moreso showing players how. 

Almost all of Wooden’s early practice sessions in a season would be devoted to fundamental skill & drill development, conditioning, as well as imparting the team philosophy.  These are the pillars that we will use as the essence of this LAX 101 blog I’ll be writing over the next couple of months, in an effort to strengthen our Thunderbirds grassroot lacrosse culture.

Speaking to philosophy.  This game has such a rich history, and I’ve been told by my First Nations brethren that we should always start with the history when we teach the game.  One of the teachings that I’ve chosen to live my life by is that “lacrosse is a metaphor for life,” and holds the answer for every situation in life (including the present one).  The current situation (Covid19), calls for self isolation for example.  This is, in fact, an opportunity to spend quality time with family, with nature, with your thoughts, and also with your stick.  In some of the lowest points of my life it was my stick that gave me the medicine that I needed to carry on.  At times, it felt like it was all I had.  I have followed the stick ever since...  

Fundamentals 101

Skill, as it pertains to lacrosse, is the knowledge and the ability to quickly and properly execute the fundamentals.  They must be done quickly and precisely, at the right time.  Skilled performers develop more flexible and precise memory representations than do less skilled individuals; which is the main point I will try to get across in this article. 

Skill development in itself is non-linear, and there is a tremendous natural range both in short and long term success. For example, people can be 2-3x better or worse, bigger or smaller in any human measure at any given time.  Regardless, you will only get better at things that you consciously work on.  

Consciously working on something usually starts with doing some sort of research first:  reading, watching some videos, and perhaps discussing the topic with a local expert.  You learn best when you have some idea of what you are trying to accomplish.  Both peer and expert models (or videos thereof) can be effective for demonstrations, but in the end, it is the right combination of explanations and demonstrations, visuals and videos, that enables you to learn or correct skills - you need to be engaged in your learning!

In a relatively short period of time, it is possible to see some great improvements relative to your initial physical literacy upon entering the sport (accumulated via one's multi-sport experience & genetics).  

In just 10 weeks players new to the game could, in theory, improve their lacrosse competency by 80%.

Eventually you will move through the 4 stages of learning:  unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence and unconscious competence (aka “habits”).  Advancing from stage-to-stage requires action and it will likely take thousands of consciously competent reps to get to unconscious competence. 

One of the strongest differentiators among young athletes who later went on to become professionals versus those who did not achieve that level, was simply the number of hours spent playing pick up games.

Top musicians started taking SYSTEMATIC lessons around age 8 and decided to become musicians around age 15.  “Professionals” differed in time spent practicing on their own, 25 hours per week, versus the “best experts” who practiced 10 hours per week.  As a professional lacrosse player myself now, it’s ironic because I used to tell people before I knew these facts, that I used to play “wall ball” 5 hours/day, 5 days/week during my summers.

Where I went wrong, at times, which is probably the most important differentiating factor in the studies on the topic of accumulated hours of practice, was in terms of DELIBERATE PRACTICE; I used to just do what I thought was best, at random.

Deliberate practice is the kind of error focused, hard, effortful work that only those who are supremely motivated to excel will do.  It requires high focus, concentration and attention to inputs, with behavioural flexibility of outputs.  It is often more of a solitary activity.  It has to be at an appropriate but challenging level, providing opportunity for repetition of new skills and the correction of errors as skills are being learned.  Deliberate practice involves the constant transitioning from one skill state to a higher, more proficient one.

A central feature is the constant evaluation of one’s current skill state against that of a more skilled model.  Experts continue deliberate practice for a much longer time, possibly indefinitely, in order to advance skill.  The late Kobe Bryant was well known for his efforts in this capacity.  Continued deliberate practice enables top performers to maintain skills that would otherwise decline with age.  

For the record, 4-5 hours a day is the upper limit of “deliberate practice” (with sessions lasting 60-90 mins).  You can push players to this volume of practice, as long as it’s done methodically, and as long as they can count on basic human comforts like eating and sleeping well.

The average person usually drops deliberate practice for a less rigorous, more repetitious form of practice once an acceptable level of competence is achieved.  This was me, in my early wall ball days; I was kind of just doing whatever, whenever.  Was I relying on repetition too much?  

Constant/Blocked vs. Variable/Random Practice

A very important question for coaches is when do performers need stability of movement vs. variability of movement?  The task for a good coach is finding an appropriate balance between stability & variability.  Stability provides structure to the players’ performance; while variability allows them to deal with the uncertainty of situational-specific task demands, created by specific opposition & performance conditions (situational awareness).

With “Constant” practice, conditions don’t change, you always use:  same balls, same surface, same time of day, same footwork, same stickwork, etc.

In the early stages of skill acquisition one typically focuses on emulating the model and the process of properly executing the mental and physical strategies necessary for competent performance.  Eventually focus shifts from process monitoring to outcome monitoring (desired result).  During this acquisition phase, mental or cognitive resources are limited because the individual must continuously process the activity requirements in their working memory.  Drills should be repeated until good habits/instincts are established; players must go through the physical act of making adjustments until repetition is replaced by instincts.

During the acquisition stage there is a clear advantage for players who practised under “blocked” conditions.  By definition, these are simple drills based on repetitions for a set period of time.  Blocked practice facilitates early performance but is not as effective as random practice during later retention and transfer to game situations.  One exception is that at minimal levels of practice, blocked practice produces better retention than does random practice, but this effect is reversed with additional levels of practice.  There is actually a strong advantage for retention with players who practice under random conditions in the acquisition phase.  

Retention by nature, requires random conditions.  Most real-world behaviours are not produced in blocked contexts.  Manipulations that degrade the speed of acquisition can better support the long-term goals of training.  As sports scientists we often say “specificity of practice comes first.”  Well, variability of practice comes next…

Variable practice adds a layer of “Contextual Interference” to the fundamental skill development process, creating better long term retention of skills.

Increasing the amount of task variability required during practice depresses performance during training, yet facilitates performance on later tests of the ability to generalize training to altered conditions.  “Variable practice” alters the practice context to force a change in behaviour from trial to trial.  During this “Motor Complication Phase,” subtle changes in timing, tempo or situation may result in significant disruptions in performance.  Skills should be performed from various distances, directions, and speeds.  

It can be useful to progressively build up the speed (using constant practice conditions) at which a fundamental skill is being executed, helping establish generalized motor patterns (muscle ordering). 

Intermediate players should practice all varieties of a skill in a more unpredictable way (as opposed to block repetition).  Variable practice by definition is practicing many variations of a single class of actions instead of simple repetition of the same skill and can also include environmental factors such as:  heat, noise, fatigue, anxiety, pressure, ball type, bad calls, etc.  During truly random practice, tasks from several classes of skills are experienced in random order and randomized so that a given task is never practiced on successive trials.

One Last Practice Consideration

If the final retention interval is short, massed reps can yield better performance than spaced reps.

The focus of this article thus far, has primarily been on the variability side of the practice equation.  The point of this last infographic (seen above) is to show you that the distribution of drills/reps is equally important.  

Minor box lacrosse is played at a 1:2 work:rest ratio, meaning that for every 1 minute shift, you get a 2 minute break on the bench.  How often do you consider that as a coach?  Do you do it when you are arranging drills in one end versus both ends?  Do you do it when you are developing the cardio capacity of your players?  

The fact is that new concepts are best learned at a 1:7 work-to-rest ratio.  Of course, we do want a lot of repetition early in the acquisition stages, so we gradually consolidate the skill to a game-like distribution of 1:2.  Do you account for this in your training? 

Concluding Thoughts

So imagine yourself at the sacred wall.  The one you’ve been scoping out for, everywhere, since you moved to town.  The one with a fence at the back of it, so if you miss the ball you don’t have to run a mile to get it.  The one with a level playing surface, similar to a box (maybe you are lucky enough to have an outdoor box closeby!).  I used to play my “wall ball” behind a grocery store.  We would chalk small targets onto the wall and play games to see who could hit it the most, using some specified technique.  My business partner Looney B, said him and his brother Flip used to chalk out and measure a 4 x 4 net against the school wall, and his Dad would make them hit the top corner 10 times in a row before they could leave.

This is how you get to the unconscious competence, or automatic expertise.  In the autonomous phase cognitive processing requirements are low, thereby freeing up mental resources for other activities.  This gives you more time to notice other things that matter.  If you become extraordinarily good at noticing and then acting to deal with what you notice, you may eventually move into the realm of unconscious competence, or automatic expertise.  There are days when Tiger Woods stands over the ball and everything is automatic.  But most of the time he has to be consciously competent, fully aware of what he is doing and making small adjustments.  This level of automacy spawned from thousands of hours of deliberate practice, among many of the character traits required, including the discipline.

The “Chedda B” Wall Ball Routine

See developmentally appropriate instructions at the bottom

Stationary Passing Routine (15m Away):

10x Overhand Pass (Lob Option)

10x Side-Arm Pass

10x Underhand Pass

10x Behind-The-Back Pass

10x Off-Hand (Overhand Pass)

Stationary Shooting Routine (15m Away):

10x Overhand Shot

10x Side-Arm Shot

10x Underhand Shot

10x Behind-The-Back Shot

10x Off-Hand (Overhand Shot)

*Dynamic Passing Routine (Various Distances/Angles):

10x Overhand Pass (Lob Option)

10x Side-Arm Pass

10x Underhand Pass

10x Behind-The-Back Pass

10x Off-Hand (Overhand Pass)

*perform all variations with a short run forward (north-south), east-west across the net, east-west dragging across the net, short back-pedal (north south)

*Dynamic Shooting Routine (Various Distances/Angles):

10x Overhand Shot

10x Side-Arm Shot

10x Underhand Shot

10x Behind-The-Back Shot

10x Off-Hand (Overhand Shot)

*perform all variations with a short run forward (north-south), east-west across the net, east-west dragging across the net, short back-pedal (north south)

General Instructions:

Beginners = Blocked Practice (AAA = Stationary Overhand, Dynamic Overhand - Run Forward, Dynamic Overhand - Across Net, Dynamic Overhand - Dragging, Dynamic Overhand - Back-pedal)

Progress to Intermediate (at 70% Mastery)

Intermediate = Serial Practice (ABC = Stationary Overhand, Stationary Sidearm, Stationary Underhand, Stationary Behind-The-Back, Stationary Off-Hand → Dynamic Overhand, Dynamic Sidearm, etc.)   

Progress to Advanced (at 90% Mastery)

**Advanced = Random Practice (ACB = Dynamic Overhand → Dynamic Lob → Stationary Underhand → Dynamic Underhand → Dynamic Sidearm → Dynamic Behind-The-Back → Dynamic Off-Hand, etc.)

**Mix up passing/shooting/footwork pattern each rep depending on what part of your game needs fine tuning

**Use a 1:1 (Offense) or 1:2 (Defense) work:rest ratio (i.e. hard effort for 30 seconds - 1 min active recovery)

What is Box Lacrosse?

OVERVIEW

Indoor lacrosse is played inside the confines of an ice hockey rink, with glass and rink boards intact. The playing surface consists of a green dieter turf carpet that is laid down over the hockey ice. The two teams combine to score a total of 25 goals on average during an NLL game.

Each team has five runners (forwards, transition players and defensemen) and a goaltender on the floor during the game. Each team dresses 18 players (16 runners and two goaltenders) per game, and the players rotate on and off the floor in shifts, similar to ice hockey. The game consists of four quarters, each fifteen minutes in length. A game that is tied at the end of regulation is decided in a sudden-death overtime. There are no tie games in professional indoor lacrosse.

NLL RULES

Rosters: 20-man roster, each team dresses 19 players for games (17 runners and two goalies). A team shall be composed of six (6) players on the floor, 5 runners and one goalie.

Time Format: Four 15-minute quarters; two minutes between quarters; 12 minute halftime.

Timeouts: Each team may take one 45-second timeout per half. A TV game has two timeouts per quarter.

Sudden Death Overtime: Games ending regulation play with a tie score are decided by a sudden death overtime period. Play continues until a goal is scored. More than one overtime period is played if necessary.

8-Second Violation: Occurs when team on offense fails to advance the ball past midfield within 8 seconds after taking possession at their end.

Face-Offs: To determine possessions at the start of each quarter and after every goal, two players face their sticks at midfield with a referee placing the ball between the heads of the sticks.

Shot Clock: A 30-second clock begins (counting down) when a team assumes possession of the ball. The offensive team must put a shot on goal during that time or they will lose possession. If they do shoot on goal (without scoring) and recover possession of the ball (via rebound/loose ball recovery), the clock is reset for a new 30 seconds.

TERMS OF THE TURF

Body Check: Used to slow an opponent who has the ball; must be above the waist and below the neck.

Breakaway: One-on-one (shooter on goalie) scoring opportunity.

Cradle: Method used to keep the ball inside the pocket of the stick by rocking it back and forth.

Crease: Only the goalie can stand in this nine-foot radius with the ball. Shooters or their teammates can not stand on (or inside) the line or their goals won't count. Any violation of this rule will disallow the goal.

Crosscheck: An defensive strategy using the shaft of the stick to push on an opponent to force a missed or bad shot.

Hidden Ball Play: A player without the ball cradles his stick, drawing the attention of the defense, while a teammate who has the ball passes or shoots on net.

Loose Ball: Occurs when there is no possession and the ball is bouncing, rolling, or rebounding off the boards or goaltender.

Major Penalty: Five minutes in the penalty box for infractions such as high sticking, boarding, face masking, fighting and spearing.

Man Down: When a team has one less player on the floor than their opponent.

Minor Penalty: Two minute penalty for infractions such as delay of game, elbowing, holding, illegal crosschecking, slashing, and tripping, for example.

Offensive Pick: The legal interference by an offensive player from a set position on a defensive player who is trying to defend the ball carrier.

Outlet Pass: The first pass from the goaltender or defender that begins the transition from defense to offense.

Penalty Box: Where a player goes to sit while serving a two and/or five minute penalty.

Power Play: When a team has an extra man advantage because the other team has at least one player in the penalty box

Screen Shot: When the goaltender can't see a shot because someone is in the way.

Shorthanded: When a team has one or more players in the penalty box and the opponent is at full-strength, or has more players on the floor.

Loss of Possession: Illegal screens, 30 second shot clock violation, 8 second half court violation, loose ball push, and illegal procedure during faceoffs are among the acts that can cause a team to lose possession of the ball.

PLAY OF THE GAME

Minor Penalties: On two minute personal fouls, the penalized player is released from the penalty box if a goal is scored before the expiration of the two minutes.

Major Penalties: On five minute major personal fouls, the penalized player stays in the box for the duration of the penalty, though the offending team returns to full strength if two goals are scored against them during the five minutes. When a second major penalty is imposed on the same player in a game, an automatic game misconduct penalty shall be imposed.

Use of Penalty Shot: Since a team cannot be more than two men down at a time, if a third penalty is called, the official will award a penalty shot to the non-offending team.

Ejection from Game: Players can be ejected from a game for several reasons including being the third man participating in a fight or accumulating two major penalties in one game.

Slow Whistle (Delayed Penalty): If a defending player commits a minor or major penalty against an opponent in possession of the ball, the 30-second shot clock expires, or a goal is scored or possession is gained by the non-offending team.

Coincidental Penalties: When each team is given the same amount of penalty time arising out of the same incident, the offending players shall not be released until the expiration of the penalty. Teams do not lose floor strength, and the ball is awarded to the team who was in possession prior to the fouls.

Field and Goals: Indoor lacrosse is played on a hockey rink covered by an artificial turf playing surface, which is usually referred to as the floor or the carpet (as opposed to the field). There must be boards around the sides of a minimum height of 3' high. Dimensions are 200' x 85' but may be altered.

Goals: are 4' (high) x 4'9" (wide). The circle around the goal known as the crease is 9'3" in diameter. An offensive player is not allowed to step into the crease area.

Blog #1 | Non-Coach Led Practice

Non-Coach Led Practice

Chet Koneczny | March 26, 2020

Nothing I’m about to tell you has any substantial value unless you put it into action. Whether a player or a coach, practicing “by doing” or practicing by “teaching others,” will often translate to more skill acquisition than just reading, watching and/or discussing lacrosse.

Screen Shot 2020-03-26 at 2.49.32 PM.png

John Wooden, one of the most renowned coaches of all time, explained how coaches are essentially teachers at the core.  Coaching is not lecturing, it is moreso showing players how. 

Almost all of Wooden’s early practice sessions in a season would be devoted to fundamental skill & drill development, conditioning, as well as imparting the team philosophy.  These are the pillars that we will use as the essence of this LAX 101 blog I’ll be writing over the next couple of months, in an effort to strengthen our Thunderbirds grassroot lacrosse culture.

Speaking to philosophy.  This game has such a rich history, and I’ve been told by my First Nations brethren that we should always start with the history when we teach the game.  One of the teachings that I’ve chosen to live my life by is that “lacrosse is a metaphor for life,” and holds the answer for every situation in life (including the present one).  The current situation (Covid19), calls for self isolation for example.  This is, in fact, an opportunity to spend quality time with family, with nature, with your thoughts, and also with your stick.  In some of the lowest points of my life it was my stick that gave me the medicine that I needed to carry on.  At times, it felt like it was all I had.  I have followed the stick ever since...  

Fundamentals 101

Skill, as it pertains to lacrosse, is the knowledge and the ability to quickly and properly execute the fundamentals.  They must be done quickly and precisely, at the right time.  Skilled performers develop more flexible and precise memory representations than do less skilled individuals; which is the main point I will try to get across in this article. 

Skill development in itself is non-linear, and there is a tremendous natural range both in short and long term success. For example, people can be 2-3x better or worse, bigger or smaller in any human measure at any given time.  Regardless, you will only get better at things that you consciously work on.  

Consciously working on something usually starts with doing some sort of research first:  reading, watching some videos, and perhaps discussing the topic with a local expert.  You learn best when you have some idea of what you are trying to accomplish.  Both peer and expert models (or videos thereof) can be effective for demonstrations, but in the end, it is the right combination of explanations and demonstrations, visuals and videos, that enables you to learn or correct skills - you need to be engaged in your learning!

In a relatively short period of time, it is possible to see some great improvements relative to your initial physical literacy upon entering the sport (accumulated via one's multi-sport experience & genetics).  

In just 10 weeks players new to the game could, in theory, improve their lacrosse competency by 80%.

Eventually you will move through the 4 stages of learning:  unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence and unconscious competence (aka “habits”).  Advancing from stage-to-stage requires action and it will likely take thousands of consciously competent reps to get to unconscious competence. 

One of the strongest differentiators among young athletes who later went on to become professionals versus those who did not achieve that level, was simply the number of hours spent playing pick up games.

Top musicians started taking SYSTEMATIC lessons around age 8 and decided to become musicians around age 15.  “Professionals” differed in time spent practicing on their own, 25 hours per week, versus the “best experts” who practiced 10 hours per week.  As a professional lacrosse player myself now, it’s ironic because I used to tell people before I knew these facts, that I used to play “wall ball” 5 hours/day, 5 days/week during my summers.

Where I went wrong, at times, which is probably the most important differentiating factor in the studies on the topic of accumulated hours of practice, was in terms of DELIBERATE PRACTICE; I used to just do what I thought was best, at random.

Deliberate practice is the kind of error focused, hard, effortful work that only those who are supremely motivated to excel will do.  It requires high focus, concentration and attention to inputs, with behavioural flexibility of outputs.  It is often more of a solitary activity.  It has to be at an appropriate but challenging level, providing opportunity for repetition of new skills and the correction of errors as skills are being learned.  Deliberate practice involves the constant transitioning from one skill state to a higher, more proficient one.

A central feature is the constant evaluation of one’s current skill state against that of a more skilled model.  Experts continue deliberate practice for a much longer time, possibly indefinitely, in order to advance skill.  The late Kobe Bryant was well known for his efforts in this capacity.  Continued deliberate practice enables top performers to maintain skills that would otherwise decline with age.  

For the record, 4-5 hours a day is the upper limit of “deliberate practice” (with sessions lasting 60-90 mins).  You can push players to this volume of practice, as long as it’s done methodically, and as long as they can count on basic human comforts like eating and sleeping well.

The average person usually drops deliberate practice for a less rigorous, more repetitious form of practice once an acceptable level of competence is achieved.  This was me, in my early wall ball days; I was kind of just doing whatever, whenever.  Was I relying on repetition too much?  

Constant/Blocked vs. Variable/Random Practice

A very important question for coaches is when do performers need stability of movement vs. variability of movement?  The task for a good coach is finding an appropriate balance between stability & variability.  Stability provides structure to the players’ performance; while variability allows them to deal with the uncertainty of situational-specific task demands, created by specific opposition & performance conditions (situational awareness).

With “Constant” practice, conditions don’t change, you always use:  same balls, same surface, same time of day, same footwork, same stickwork, etc.

In the early stages of skill acquisition one typically focuses on emulating the model and the process of properly executing the mental and physical strategies necessary for competent performance.  Eventually focus shifts from process monitoring to outcome monitoring (desired result).  During this acquisition phase, mental or cognitive resources are limited because the individual must continuously process the activity requirements in their working memory.  Drills should be repeated until good habits/instincts are established; players must go through the physical act of making adjustments until repetition is replaced by instincts.

During the acquisition stage there is a clear advantage for players who practised under “blocked” conditions.  By definition, these are simple drills based on repetitions for a set period of time.  Blocked practice facilitates early performance but is not as effective as random practice during later retention and transfer to game situations.  One exception is that at minimal levels of practice, blocked practice produces better retention than does random practice, but this effect is reversed with additional levels of practice.  There is actually a strong advantage for retention with players who practice under random conditions in the acquisition phase.  

Retention by nature, requires random conditions.  Most real-world behaviours are not produced in blocked contexts.  Manipulations that degrade the speed of acquisition can better support the long-term goals of training.  As sports scientists we often say “specificity of practice comes first.”  Well, variability of practice comes next…

Variable practice adds a layer of “Contextual Interference” to the fundamental skill development process, creating better long term retention of skills.

Increasing the amount of task variability required during practice depresses performance during training, yet facilitates performance on later tests of the ability to generalize training to altered conditions.  “Variable practice” alters the practice context to force a change in behaviour from trial to trial.  During this “Motor Complication Phase,” subtle changes in timing, tempo or situation may result in significant disruptions in performance.  Skills should be performed from various distances, directions, and speeds.  

It can be useful to progressively build up the speed (using constant practice conditions) at which a fundamental skill is being executed, helping establish generalized motor patterns (muscle ordering). 

Intermediate players should practice all varieties of a skill in a more unpredictable way (as opposed to block repetition).  Variable practice by definition is practicing many variations of a single class of actions instead of simple repetition of the same skill and can also include environmental factors such as:  heat, noise, fatigue, anxiety, pressure, ball type, bad calls, etc.  During truly random practice, tasks from several classes of skills are experienced in random order and randomized so that a given task is never practiced on successive trials.

One Last Practice Consideration

If the final retention interval is short, massed reps can yield better performance than spaced reps.

The focus of this article thus far, has primarily been on the variability side of the practice equation.  The point of this last infographic (seen above) is to show you that the distribution of drills/reps is equally important.  

Minor box lacrosse is played at a 1:2 work:rest ratio, meaning that for every 1 minute shift, you get a 2 minute break on the bench.  How often do you consider that as a coach?  Do you do it when you are arranging drills in one end versus both ends?  Do you do it when you are developing the cardio capacity of your players?  

The fact is that new concepts are best learned at a 1:7 work-to-rest ratio.  Of course, we do want a lot of repetition early in the acquisition stages, so we gradually consolidate the skill to a game-like distribution of 1:2.  Do you account for this in your training? 

Concluding Thoughts

So imagine yourself at the sacred wall.  The one you’ve been scoping out for, everywhere, since you moved to town.  The one with a fence at the back of it, so if you miss the ball you don’t have to run a mile to get it.  The one with a level playing surface, similar to a box (maybe you are lucky enough to have an outdoor box closeby!).  I used to play my “wall ball” behind a grocery store.  We would chalk small targets onto the wall and play games to see who could hit it the most, using some specified technique.  My business partner Looney B, said him and his brother Flip used to chalk out and measure a 4 x 4 net against the school wall, and his Dad would make them hit the top corner 10 times in a row before they could leave.

This is how you get to the unconscious competence, or automatic expertise.  In the autonomous phase cognitive processing requirements are low, thereby freeing up mental resources for other activities.  This gives you more time to notice other things that matter.  If you become extraordinarily good at noticing and then acting to deal with what you notice, you may eventually move into the realm of unconscious competence, or automatic expertise.  There are days when Tiger Woods stands over the ball and everything is automatic.  But most of the time he has to be consciously competent, fully aware of what he is doing and making small adjustments.  This level of automacy spawned from thousands of hours of deliberate practice, among many of the character traits required, including the discipline.

The “Chedda B” Wall Ball Routine

See developmentally appropriate instructions at the bottom

Stationary Passing Routine (15m Away):

10x Overhand Pass (Lob Option)

10x Side-Arm Pass

10x Underhand Pass

10x Behind-The-Back Pass

10x Off-Hand (Overhand Pass)

Stationary Shooting Routine (15m Away):

10x Overhand Shot

10x Side-Arm Shot

10x Underhand Shot

10x Behind-The-Back Shot

10x Off-Hand (Overhand Shot)

*Dynamic Passing Routine (Various Distances/Angles):

10x Overhand Pass (Lob Option)

10x Side-Arm Pass

10x Underhand Pass

10x Behind-The-Back Pass

10x Off-Hand (Overhand Pass)

*perform all variations with a short run forward (north-south), east-west across the net, east-west dragging across the net, short back-pedal (north south)

*Dynamic Shooting Routine (Various Distances/Angles):

10x Overhand Shot

10x Side-Arm Shot

10x Underhand Shot

10x Behind-The-Back Shot

10x Off-Hand (Overhand Shot)

*perform all variations with a short run forward (north-south), east-west across the net, east-west dragging across the net, short back-pedal (north south)

General Instructions:

Beginners = Blocked Practice (AAA = Stationary Overhand, Dynamic Overhand - Run Forward, Dynamic Overhand - Across Net, Dynamic Overhand - Dragging, Dynamic Overhand - Back-pedal)

 

Progress to Intermediate (at 70% Mastery)

 

Intermediate = Serial Practice (ABC = Stationary Overhand, Stationary Sidearm, Stationary Underhand, Stationary Behind-The-Back, Stationary Off-Hand → Dynamic Overhand, Dynamic Sidearm, etc.)   

 

Progress to Advanced (at 90% Mastery)

**Advanced = Random Practice (ACB = Dynamic Overhand → Dynamic Lob → Stationary Underhand → Dynamic Underhand → Dynamic Sidearm → Dynamic Behind-The-Back → Dynamic Off-Hand, etc.)

**Mix up passing/shooting/footwork pattern each rep depending on what part of your game needs fine tuning

**Use a 1:1 (Offense) or 1:2 (Defense) work:rest ratio (i.e. hard effort for 30 seconds - 1 min active recovery)

 

Blog #2 | Beginner Lacrosse Drills: Don't Start With Passing & Catching!