John Desko: Yearly Scheduling Plans & Key Drills

In this week’s Lacrosse Insider series, Syracuse head men’s lacrosse coach John Desko reveals his yearly scheduling plan. From Fall Ball to the postseason, learn exactly how one of the game’s top coaches organizes and prepares for the season. Coach Desko also demonstrates two effective drills that are staples for his lacrosse program. Look to pick up overall tips, insights, and drills and see how you can implement them with your own program this season.

John Desko’s Yearly Scheduling Plan

According to Coach Desko, the players come back the first two weeks on campus and start their fall season. They go five or six weeks and do quite a bit, perhaps more than most programs, especially considering Syracuse’s long winter. The players get a lot of clears and rides in and do the things they might not be able to do on a full field in the early spring.

For post-fall activities, the team focuses on a lot of individual instruction. Then the last two weeks on campus is mostly about strength and conditioning. Winter break is about three weeks long and the players go home with winter workouts and runs.


When the players return in the spring for preseason, the team arrives three or four days before school starts and immediately gets into two-a-days (in the AM and then PM). In the AM practices, the team focuses on explanation and reviewing things we learned in the fall. It’s more of a mental practice and reviewing set plays, rides, special defenses, etc. The afternoon session is more of a regular practice and the players are really getting up and down the field, perhaps implementing some 1-on-1’s, scrimmaging, 6-on-6, and more. It’s all about putting to use the concepts learned in the AM session and then physically going out and practicing it.

It’s also a good time to test the players in strength and conditioning to see exactly where they’re at and use that as a baseline. We go for three weeks with regular practice while putting in some new elements or schemes — so more of a “re-do” of the fall.

Regular Season

After three weeks, the team gets into their first scrimmages and then that leads into the regular season. The regular season is a lot of scouting and preparing players for specific opponents. Since Syracuse now features one or two games a week, the team is still doing some strength and conditioning, but not quite as much as it did in the fall or preseason. The team is also doing more of a maintenance workout in the weight room. Overall, your week looks quite different. You have regular workouts on Monday or Tuesday. On Wednesday and Thursday you are lightening up a bit and doing a lot more scouting and walking through offenses and defenses plus match-ups.

The program has three mid-week games this year as well. Then there’s the postseason followed by summer break. The coaches let the players go for the summer but want them to relax and enjoy the summer and then gear up for the following year.

Key Drills

These drills can be applied at many different levels. Coaches, don’t just do these drills for five minutes and get frustrated. Put them to use and give your players some time. Coach your players through them. The more you do them the better you will get at them and you’ll see the benefits.

Spike Drill

This is a line drill but not in a traditional way. We are starting with five lines (all X’s). In this case, we only have two players in each line. The lines are almost in a star formation and the ball starts at the top. This player will run out and throw the ball to the left line. In this drill, you are catching and receiving the ball with your left hand and you will throw it across the front of your body with your left hand. Do not switch hands. You can do this drill with three or four lines and can add to this. Here we are using one ball to start, but you can use two or three if you want, depending on how you want to modify it. Then reverse direction and do the drill with the right hand. It can also be turned into a ground ball drill as well.


Tips: Timing is crucial in this drill. We like to break out 10-12 yards to catch the ball. You can shorten or lengthen this distance. We do this drill to help beat defensive slides. Often you will get a slide or double team to the ball and you want to pass the ball to the next player as quickly as possible. Otherwise, it gives the defense time to recover. So the quicker the movement, the tougher it is on defenses recovering to the find the open man.

Diamond Drill

We do this drill with four players at a time. You want 2, 3 or 4 players in each line. A player will start with the ball and start by passing. The adjacent player will break to the center and then back out towards the ball with his left hand (like a V-cut). Unlike the Spike Drill, here you will catch with your left hand, roll, and then throw to the next player in line with you right hand. We are changing hands. Timing is involved like before. You want the next player to receive the ball and come out and catch it at a distance that you appropriate (10-12 yards). When you do catch the ball, don’t switch your hands too quickly. Roll before you switch hands to protect the stick.


Tips: The ball bucket placement represents how far we want the players to break in. You can switch, for instance, by catching right, rolling, and throwing left. You can get a lot of reps with this drill and spice it up by denying the other player the ball. So you have the defensive players trying to shut off the offensive player and really pressure them. Offensive players must work really hard to catch and throw while being shut off. It’s a great practice drill for under two-minute scenarios (to practice stalling) like at the end of a quarter or game. Timing and effective cutting is key because you need that space to operate. Remember, don’t V-cut away. This only makes it easier for the defensive player.

The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “The Syracuse Way: Building a Championship Lacrosse Program.” Check out more program development videos by clicking here

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