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Coaching Tips: Ways to Improve Your Team Practices

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - Leave a Comment

With University of Denver head coach and six-time NCAA champion Bill Tierney as your guide, learn some new strategies and drills for future team practices that can make a difference for your squad. The same tips and drills have been used by Coach Tierney and his coaching staffs for decades and have provided a foundation for success for his programs.

Organizing Practice

When organizing team practices, it takes thought, planning, caring, and commitment. First, you must think about what you are trying to accomplish – and this pertains to during the week, the game, the practice and for the entire season. Next, don’t plan your practices at the last minute. By planning ahead of time, your practices will move quickly and you’ll get a lot more accomplished.

Also, show that you care at all times. Your attitude will show through and your players will know if you care about this practice or not, and the same goes for games, too.  Whether you’re feeling good or not, you must walk out there each time and show that you care about the results of that practice.

Meanwhile, you must be committed to each practice. Stick with the plan and don’t get flustered. If things are going well, it’s okay to stop them. If things aren’t going well, it’s okay to stop them as well. Just keep the vision and the big picture in place, like winning or preparing for a specific team.

Drills

Drills are the best way to repeat skills. Plus, it’s important that your players have muscle and mind memory. Drills provide opportunities for more player involvement overall. For instance, first-string guys can get in there and get the job done and get out. Second-string guys can get in and prove they have a chance to play. Also, team morale is improved by more players participating and drills provide that for them.

Additionally, drills work on the repetition of teaching points and learning from someone else’s mistakes. If kids get bored then change things up. If you see a lack of effort, then it’s also time to change it up. If the kids aren’t performing the drill correctly, that’s the coach’s fault. Make the drills clear and understandable. Take the time to know what they are thinking and for them to know what you are thinking. If you’re getting good results, stop the drill and move on before it gets too old.

Later, we will go into detail about some specific drills, but it’s important to remember a few things when conducting them.

*Keep them fun

*Make sure they’re meaningful. You must get results and the players need to know why they are doing the drill.

*Drills should present opportunities. The players who aren’t starters can get a chance to show they deserve to play in the game as well.

 

Coach Tierney typically utilizes drills for the 11 most important parts of the game: faceoffs, ground balls, throwing, catching, shooting, riding, clearing, transition offense, transition defense, half-field offense, and half-field defense.

Faceoff Drills

Faceoff Drill 1: Take all of your face-off men and put them along the midline with a ball between each pair. Here, we are just asking the players to make their favorite move, whether it’s a clamp, lift, or something we are planning on implementing that week as a team.

Have all four pairs get down as the coach is about to blow the whistle. The only thing the faceoff guys are doing is an initial move. No matter where the ball goes, the guys should stop. This is not a competition drill, but rather a muscle memory drill.

Faceoff Drill 2: Take pairs and put them back-to-back and place a ball between them. On the whistle, the players should fight for the ball. This allows the faceoff guys to work on balance and getting down low. Plus, the lower they get, the better shot they have at coming away with the ball.

Ground Ball Drills

Scoop and Sprint: Break the team up in half and get four or five lines at either end of the field on the restraining line. Balls will be placed down and out in front of them. Players are then required to sprint as fast as they can while picking up the ground ball. Once they pick it up, they must cross the midfield line and put the ball down on the opposite side of the field for the opposite player in their line.

The drill goes back and forth. It’s a simple drill, but it makes players do their sprint work and also simulates what may happen in a game when chased by an opposing player. Go 2-4 times, depending on if conditioning is being implemented. Also, look to scoop with the opposite hand as well. While this is rare, it puts the pressure on the kids to learn the skill. The drill also stresses communication, getting low, moving through the ball quickly, and yelling out “ball” and “release” once in the stick.

2-on-1 Ground Ball Drill: The ball here is rolling away from the players, simulating a typical 2-on-1 situation. Here we have one player use his body to block out the opponent and let his teammate come through and scoop up the ball. Once the ball is picked up, the player should run away with the ball and yell out release. Then, his teammate rolls off the pick, throws back to his teammate and then throws back to the coach. If the middle player picks up the ball, the two men double-team until the ball is on the ground or the player gets it back to the coach.

 

Throwing and Catching

The Maze Drill: Break up the team into 8 or 10 lines. Start with the right hand and then move to the left hand. The ball starts out in the corner. The player throws to the opposite line and then follows to the end of that line. That player then takes the ball and throws a diagonal pass to the next line and he goes behind that line. Basically, every time you throw a pass, you follow and get behind that line. You follow a pattern of across, diagonal, across, diagonal, and so on. Then you can start a second ball and a third ball.

This drill really makes players concentrate as a lot of balls are flying and guys are moving. Once the ball gets to the last line, the player must throw a ball all the way to the first line in a full-field toss.

Pressure Passing: The ball starts with the goalie. A defender breaks out to the side and the goalie throws him the pass. Then an attackman goes out and puts the pressure on that defender. We’re not looking to intercept the pass or check the ball away, though. For the defender, we want them to get a feel for the game moments when an attacker puts on the pressure.

After the defender catches the ball, he will run up the field and then throw the ball to a cutting midfielder. Another midfielder will trail behind him and then put on the pressure. Next, he’ll turn to the outside, and our next middie is breaking across the midfield line with pressure on him as well. The middie throws the next pass on an angle to the awaiting midfielder. He then turns and heads towards the opposite goal where there’s an attackman waiting. The attackman makes a V-cut for an open pass (with a defender on him), the pass goes to the outside shoulder, and he catches it. With the pressure on, this player rolls and an another attackman behind the goal breaks to the goal, catches the ball, and makes a 1-on-1 move on the goal and gets off a good shot.

The drill comes up the entire length of one side of the field. As you get better, you can run the drill on both sides of the field. This is truly one of the most effective drills for your kids to run and throw and catch under pressure.

 

The clips featured above can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Championship Practice Organization for Lacrosse.” Check out additional videos in our lacrosse library that highlight practice organization and coaching tips.

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