Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Move the Ball

If you have ever been lucky enough to see the first nation players in action, one thing becomes evidently clear. Their game is about moving the ball, not making individual plays. Legend says the pass is a prayer and it is better to give one than to hold one.

I see kids hogging the ball at all levels, not seeing the field and carrying way too much. Here's a few tips to break those habits.

  1. Teach "move it off the ground". When we win the GB, teach players to banana cut to space and move the ball as quickly as possible. If you are off ball, find space, be an outlet, call for the ball and move it again whenever possible.
  2. Scoop-pass-pass. Create a culture of quick ball movement. This starts in practice. When you train youth players, teach them "SPP". When we get a GB we move it twice. When a player is taught this is the way the game is played, it becomes second nature.
  3. The three second rule. One of my favorite methods to teach up tempo lacrosse is to put in the three second rule. When a player catches a ball in drills or scrimmages, count out loud "one thousand, two thousand, three thousand". If the ball is not moved blow the whistle. It teaches not only move the ball, but get open off ball to help your teammate. Younger or less skilled players can get up to four or five seconds. 
  4. The best drill to teach youth ball movement is the four cone, three player drill. Set up four cones in a box, 8-10 yards apart. If you have 20 players make 5 boxes. Three players set up on a cone, leaving one cone open. The drill starts with a player adjacent to the open cone having a ball. The rule is simple, you have to move to a open cone to receive a pass. Every time a player moves to a cone it creates another open cone. Run the drill continuously for 8 minutes then switch direction and hands. Make sure they are always catching with their hands to the outside.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Play them UP !

Since 2005 I have dedicated my time to Club Lacrosse and "off season" training. I have been fortunate enough to travel around the USA to all types of tournaments. Today they come in all types of formats. I like to take a minute to inform newer people to the options with my take on them.

1. Tune- Up - These events are usually early in a season, kind of a preseason event. The are normally one day and feature a scrimmage atmosphere. Some of these events have no scores being kept, and some may even allow coaches are to be on the field to train players during games. They are also used for final roster placement and player evaluations in many cases. Coaches get to see what the have prior to a season beginning.These are usually low cost and the kids can play just to play and have fun. There are no brackets or palyoffs.
coach B Grade - A

2. Round Robin - These are events that run one or two days and feature a guaranteed number of games vs local, regional and in some cases national teams. Coaches chose a bracket (U19, HS A, JV A, etc.) and get 3-5 games vs. teams in there division. Coaches can play up in tougher divisions or choose the division they feel best suits there talent level. There are no playoffs, consolation or championships. The down side is when programs move teams "down" and play in divisions that feature inexperienced teams. Sometimes on purpose.
coach B Grade - B

3. Championship format - These feature divisions, brackets and playoffs. Teams will receive a guaranteed number of games in pool play the be seeded for playoffs day two. Criteria for seeding can be won/loss record, goal differential, goals for, head to head results, etc. The winners normally get a tee shirt, medal or trophy. Its a double-edged sword. Winning means you advance and finals are competitive and fun. The down side is  a few coaches will play down in lower divisions , add ineligible players or not play lesser skilled players in the quest to win the hardware. Some events feature bids to national events to winners
coach B grade - C

4. Team Showcase format - These feature players signing up as individuals to attend a tournament on a college campus. Kids may attend a first day individual camp to meet coaches, attend clinics or scrimmages and be evaluated. They are normally coached by collegiate coaches who work closely with their players. Some events allow club teams to come as a group and are scouted by numerous coaches. Either way, kids get to be on campus, stay in dorms and get looks.
The downside is sometimes schools send GA's or Assistants to coach instead of the HC. 
coach B Grade - B-

I hope this helps clarify the travel club options. My advise is to research events when you can as much as possible before committing. Many events today are all about creating revenue for themselves, not developing players. My clubs have attended all of the above formats. I like to keep younger teams closer to home to reduce travel and costs for families. We expand the choices with older kids adding out of state or championship events. We create a separate elite team for showcases and recruiting events.

In closing, if your travel team is crushing every opponent at events, you are probably in the wrong division. Winning a tee shirt by defeating a team 16-1 teaches kids nothing. Putting a sixteen year old on a U15 team is cheating and not OK. "the other teams are doing it" is not and excuse. I would much rather go 0-5 event with hard fought losses vs. great teams over a 5-0 championship with a 45-5 goal differential. "Playing Up" develops skill, exposes us to the next level and teaches kids the importance of playing their best. Hammering inexperienced teams teaches nothing, does not aid in the developments of players. 

Players who belong to clubs who consistently play down year after year eventually end up on the programs oldest team (U19, HS A, etc.) and in almost every case are not prepared or skilled enough to continue their success.

If you need more information, drop me an email at 313lax@gmail.com

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Creating better stick skills

I was lucky enough to have a chat with a local area HS coach, now retired, at a youth event in our community. His grandson was getting started in the game and he came to support him. I asked him to give me some words of wisdom, based on his vast experience which included a stop at the state finals during the 90s. His message was a simple one. "If you don't have a good stick, you don't play". In today's world of  playing time drama, and the unfortunate "entitlement" era being upon us, parents and players alike feel showing up is enough to get in games.
It's important to communicate to the parent and player precisely where their stick skill level lies.
These are students and understand grades, tests and being evaluated. We are doing every player a favor by evaluating and grading them. Giving players a goal and a plan always beats the "you need a better stick" comment.
The great news is lacrosse is one on the few sports that a lesser skilled player can catch up and even surpass fellow players with wall ball. It only takes three 20 minute sessions weekly to vastly improve and gain a spot on the next line.
There are plenty of great wall ball routines on line. You Tube for example is loaded with great routines. I like Casey Powell's stuff and Rhino Lacrosse, but there are numerous other great demonstrations to see.

Here is a wall ball workout I use. Print it, laminate it and hand it out. By the way wall ball is a great pre-practice drill, but I don't see cutting into practice time with wall ball. Teach players to do this on their own time. It why the great ones are great.

1. 5 yard drills
    a. quicksticks    b. one hand quicksticks    c. quicksticks changing hands with ball in midair

2. 10 yard drills    a. 1 hand throw catch and cradle    b. throw, catch, face dodge (don’t switch hands)

3. 15 yard drills    a. throw, catch, split dodge (switch l to r or vice versa)

4. 10 yard drills again    a. backhand (right hand high on stick, stick on left side,or vice versa)    b. throw behind the back, catch in front    c. fake overhand, throw sidearm (15 reps each hand)    d. Denvers (10 reps each hand)*

5. Try to learn some kind of new stick trick for about 10 reps with BOTH HANDS.

Now get on that WALL!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Breaking Bad Habits

"me ball". Thats the term I hear for kids who won't pass, play with their heads down and try to dodge two, three and sometimes even four defenders. Coaches complain about it all the time. I heard one story of a player who hogged the ball for an entire quarter, and when his coaches finally pulled him from the game, he quit the team at half time! Two days later he was begging come back on the team. Here is my view in the subject. The reason it happens is two-fold. Many players in "non-hotbed" regions of the country simply don't know good lacrosse, have never seen good lacrosse and have never played against good lacrosse teams. In many areas of the country kids start playing at all different ages, creating the good, the bad and the ugly on teams. This leads to the "studs" holding the ball and not passing to players who may cough it up. Many are just coached poorly by our peers who want wins and goals. When that becomes the priority, the "hogs" are rewarded by cheering parents and pats on the back from coaches on the sideline. The truth is, this isn't helping players prep for the next level. Although a great individual effort is commendable, I suggest we let kids know we appreciate the effort, but would like to see some assists and display of lax IQ instead. Here's a plan of action to kill the me ballers. First put in tempo in practices. Based on skill level, I put in the "three second rule". (make it four or five if the kids are younger or less skilled). In practice and scrimmages, I simply blow the whistle and reward the ball to the other team if someone holds the rock past the time limit. The ONLY exception, is if we are climbing the ladder to to dodge. Secondly stress "ONE MORE" in every scenario. Teach kids "dodge to feed" over "dodge to shoot". Lastly park kids who don't obey the concept. Taking away playing time works on the cement headed types. Make sure its a reasonably time off the field, not too short or too long. Make sure to reinforce why they are off, and they give their word to work the ball. One waring, do not put in the "get three passes in" before you shoot drill. This teaches another bad habit, passing when you are open and in the hole for a shot. We want kids to move the ball but also develop the IQ to know when to finish.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Train your goalies

I hear coaches all the time say " I dont know what to do with my goalies" The reality is most youth and HS programs goalie routine is ONLY a brief warm up then jump in shooting drills! Expect poor results from the keeper if this is you. Training goalies is not rocket science. You do not need to have played the position to be a goalie coach. Here some simple tips to give your goalies a well deserved daily workout. My regiment is based on the what I call the "P.A.S.S" system. Prepare, Agilities, Saves, Stickhandling. PREPARE- Goalies need to get some daily work in that does not involve a shooter ripping from 9 yards to start their day. I like to mix up some drills to get them prepared first. Yoga stretches, Tennis ball tosses, walking the arc, walking the line, mirror drills, and other non shooting drill can all be done without helmet and gloves before they suit up. AGILITY- The best goalie are extremely agile. No matter how quick you hands are, you need legs to "get there" first. Agility train every day, all season. Jump Rope is #1, ski jumpers, ladder work, squat thrusts, cone work, more cone work. Youtube has a ton of great stuff to build speed and agility. Create a program of drills on paper and mix it up daily. SAVES- A proper warm up is CRITICAL. It needs to be built up from a medium to hard shots over the duration of the warm up. Dont let players shoot on cold goalies. Don't allow shooters to rip inside 12 yards. At the next level outside 12 is on the goalie, inside 12 is on the Defense. Some coaches work on specific areas in progression (stick side high, off stick high, stick side hip, off stick hip, stick side low, off stick low, 5 hole,then mix it up.) I prefer high shots mixed, hip shots mixed, low shots mixed, 5 hole, bounce shots, and finally mix it up with some feeds from behind. It is EXTREMELY important to get feeds from behind and teach game like saves, blind saves, screens, in tight crease shots, in close garbage or hockey shots, rebound and saves, etc. If they get reps seeing all types of shots in practice, they will make saves on all types of shots in games. USE TENNIS BALLS for close in stuff, it saves on wear and tear on the keepers and creates soft hands, reducing rebounds. STICK WORK- Goalies need to pass and catch well, they need to work on both hands to build confidence and simply handle the stick. They need to know how to FACE DODGE, ROLL AWAY and throw ON THE RUN. They need to perfect "touch" passes and "frozen rope" passes. They need to throw to moving targets. Get them in SHOOTING DRILLS as a shooter. Its fun and is stick work in disguise. One other key point is COMMUNICATION. Work on building your goalies ability to run the Defense. He needs to be the leader. Calls should focus not only on Ball Position, but other important calls, such as "TURN HIM or HOLD" at GLE, "CHECK,CHECK,CHECK" when balls are fed into the hub, and even slide calls for a more accomplished keeper. I like Defense to call slides or even a coach on the sideline at the youth level. I have been working on my goalie e-book forever, I do promise to complete it one day soon. It will feature 50 goalie specific drills. Email me at 313lax@gmail.com to be put on the wait list or if you have any questions about the drills mentioned here or other questions feel free to drop me a note. B

Friday, February 1, 2013

Watching Lacrosse DVDs

I have to admit, I ve spent the rent money on Lacrosse DVDs. Some are outstanding, some are outstanding at putting you to sleep. Anyone new to the game can go to Championship productions and browse a huge library. A lot of them have excerpts on Youtube. If you go on the site and see one thats interesting, search youtube first to see if you can catch a preview. Out of respect to some great coaches who I pale in comparison to in experience, I will only list the ones that I have found useful. I’ve see approx. 40 different instructors (which is not all of them) to come up with a short list. #1 Jim Berkman, Salisbury - everyone of his are awesome. I ran a JV team an entire year with ONLY his drills and they improved ten fold. #2 Mark Millon (U Mass, Baltimore Bayhawks) - offensive wizardry- any one who plays offense, teaches offense or want to learn how to teach offensive skills needs this video. Its been out there awhile and is still unsurpassed. 3#Dave Pietramala (Hopkins) - Developing on ball defenders - A classic. Very basic, but if you watch it and really listen you will see what exactly is important in defense stance, footwork, and how to. Hopkins defensive drills, taught by the greatest defenseman that ever lived. I’ve watched literally 50 times. When I run a D clinic for boys, I mirror his DVD. 4# Anything from Starsia (Virginia), Danowsky (Duke) or Corrigan (ND) has merit and are worth the price. Starsia’s and Danowsky’s stuff are keen on fundamentals and techniques, Corrigan's show more of an advanced level of drills and terminology. If you have and extra $100 laying around the full access 3 DVD sets are really cool. You actually see a full practice run by the top lacrosse coaches on the planet. Again no disrespect to coaches I haven’t seen all of them...but I’m working on it. B

Monday, December 17, 2012

the TWO MAN game

The buzz at all of the latest clinics...the Two man game. What does it mean and how do I get a dose? The two man offensive game is “hot” in D1 lax with Loyola leading the way. Its simple to run, easy to teach, hard to defend and effective. Todays defenders are athletic, quick and recover well. On ball pressure and locking off adjacent’s used to be reserved for special situations. Now its commonplace. Coming from a basketball playing and coaching background, this concept is right up my alley. The concept is simple. Two offensive players work together to set picks on defenseman resulting in finding space and attacking the goal. Defense pays deeply for getting picked off on the perimeter. In basketball we worked on pick and rolls and slips. We set screened “off ball” to free up teammates for open looks. My favorite basketball coach of all time John Armstrong,(my 8th grade coach) had a great line we all LIVED by. After you pass “DO SOMETHING!” That meant set a pick or screen away. (He taught pick was on ball, screen was off ball)The terminology can be whatever you choose. Here’s some basics. 1. Start in what is called “pairs” Simply make kids aware of who their partner is. The simplest way to teach is in the 2-2-2 set in my opinion. The two behind partner, the two on the crease partner and the two top side do as well. When your partner gets the ball set a pick for him. If you pass to your partner set a pick for him. Thats simple enough. Make sure they are covered first. No use setting picks if a defender in not on a guy. 2.Teach what a moving pick is. Get reps in drills to eliminate moving screens. Unfortunately if you have inexperienced refs, they will be blowing a ton of whistles. In U15 and younger, I suggest talking to refs before the game letting them know you are teaching the two man game and asking for some warnings. As a rule I let opposing youth coaches know we will picking quite a bit, to prep them to teach how to defend and eliminate collisions that may get a kid blind-sided. 3.Run drills to teach the concept. I like pairing up kids and doing pick and rolls with no defense (skeleton). Make sure to run these drills from X, the wings and top side. Also 4 on 4 is an excellent drill for teaching the concept as well. Start with pick and rolls. Next blog I will talk about pick and pop, fade cuts, goal cuts, slips and how to defend the two man game