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2 “Special-Situation” Lacrosse Techniques to Create Advantages

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, April 17, 2012

In the latest special situations & game strategies feature, we’ll focus on defensive substitution techniques and then wing play drills for face-off situations. Florida State men’s lacrosse coaches Bill Harkins and Matt Waesche will both lead you through the segments using whiteboard diagrams and live on-field simulations.

Efficient Substitutions: Defense Down the String

This drill recalls a scenario when you’re looking to sub out an entire defensive unit efficiently without allowing any fast breaks or other problems. However, you don’t want to bring out all three guys at once. Simply, if you lose the ball, it’s a 6-0 fast break the other way.

Meanwhile, your defensive unit also can’t afford to leave opponents open on the field any longer than they have to. Therefore, it’s key to slide defenders down the field and then get the new subs to rotate over. This enables you to still get good coverage of the entire field.


On the sideline, have your first sub defender ready to go. When you call “down the string”, your first defender on the field slides down the field (while watching the action) and the new sub works his way on. Our other two defenders come down the string and at the same time, our new substitute defender works his way all the way over to the opposite side to cover the opposite attackman. He should also be watching the action on the opposite side of the field in case we turn it over.

The other two players then slide down. The next substitute defender comes in, the other player comes off, and it repeats until all players have been changed (without leaving their attack uncovered).

Wing Play Drill

With the Wing Play Drill, get two face-off men ready to go at the X. Then get a long pole and a short stick set up on one restraining line, and another set of the same group on the opposite line. There will possibly be three balls in play simultaneously.


The face-off guys first battle at the X. Meanwhile, a nearby coach has two other balls and makes a decision as to how many balls will go in play. If he throws out two balls at once, one side of wing players go after a loose ball while the opposite side goes after the other ball, plus we’ve also got the two guys in the middle battling. You can even throw just one ball and have all the wing men fight for that GB. Or you can keep both balls in your hand and proceed like a normal face-off.

Tip: Look to get at 45-degree angles outside the circle for trail checks and opposite side traps.

With “hip”, this is a strategy when battling a fast opponent. It’s imperative to get your hip on your opponent and drive them away from the ball for two or three steps. This way, we should have an inside track to turn and get to the ball ourselves. Get leverage and go right to the ball.


The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “How to Run the Box: Substitution Schemes to Create Mismatches.” To check out more videos featuring special situations & plays, simply head over to our lacrosse library.

2 Fundamental Practice Drills for Lacrosse with Bill Harkins

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Through marker board demonstration and on-field simulations, Florida State men’s head lacrosse coach Bill Harkins leads you through two fundamental practice drills that will help prepare your players for game situations. Meanwhile, in addition to being practical and efficient, executing these drills at full speed will add a conditioning element to practices and should contribute towards an improvement in overall team endurance.

Weave Drill

Start with three lines of players, spaced evenly apart at the GLE. The ball can start in any of the three lines. The weave drill starts with passing. Simply throw the ball across to a player and lead your man. The man receiving the ball should give a good target. Remember: Always go behind the ball. So, we’re simply passing and catching all the way down the field (full length).

On the way back, players should follow the exact same format, except now implement ground balls. On the third time back down the field, players should stay in their own lanes while goosing (or “deflecting”) the ball all the way down the field. This is the only time that players won’t run behind the ball.


Three Line Clears

Start with a goalie to the right of the cage with plenty of balls and three lines to his/her left. Look to run this drill from both ends of the field. A coach should stand in the middle of the field and then blow the whistle three separate times, bringing players from both sides into action.

On the first whistle, the outside player sprints up field. Two seconds later, the middle player goes. Two seconds later, the third player breaks. As the third player breaks, the goalie passes to the inside and to this third player streaking up field. As soon as this player gets it, he throws a pass to the middle guy in stride up the field. As soon as he receives it, he throws a pass to the outside player in stride and up the field. When finished, they join the line on the opposite side.

As soon as a save happens, we want to simulate the goalie firing the ball up field as fast as he can and moving the ball up field, sparking a transition break and hopefully a scoring opportunity.

On the Field: At Florida State, the squad is constantly looking to get the ball up the field as fast as they can and attack. This drill simulates those situations when we just made a save and first player has broken for a fast break, the second player has broken, and third player has broken and is free. Then it’s a matter of progressing the ball up the field and to the front man who can attack the cage.

Don’t forget, you can also use long poles in this drill, too. Be sure to vary the drill by picking up the pace and using opposite sides of the cage.


The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Winning Practice Drills for Lacrosse” with Bill Harkins. To check out more drill-specific lacrosse videos, head over to our lacrosse library.

Substitution Techniques and Transition Drills with Florida State Lacrosse

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The latest “game scenarios and strategies” segment deals with how to substitute during odd situations and react quickly on transition breaks. It also highlights the Toomey Drill, a high-impact conditioning drill that works on quick transitions on offense and defense. Florida State coaches Bill Harkins and Matt Waesche both lead you through the segments, first with whiteboard diagrams and then via live on-field simulations.


This drill focuses on how to handle substitutions during odd situations. Let’s say we’re bringing off the field a guy who is not right for a scenario, but then the scenario quickly changes. For instance, we may have the ball on offense and we’ve got a LSM way up the field, but we don’t want them up there. That player will come straight to the sideline as we’ve got an offensive player waiting to come onto the field.

But all of sudden, we lose possession of the ball. Well, now we don’t want that offensive guy to come onto the field. We want the LSM on ball as soon as possible. In this case, we call a simple “Veto” and that cancels the sub. The guy in the box stays in the box and then the LSM circles out and sprints to the middle of the field, looks down field, and then quickly assesses the action.

We’re now ready to react quickly, and hopefully quicker than the other team – especially in transition situations. Remember, things don’t always go as planned. By teaching the players these concepts, we are still able to play lacrosse with the right personnel and in the right situation. It’s also a way to eliminate confusion and gain an extra advantage through substitutions.


The Toomey Drill

This drill works with three defenders and three offensive players. There’s also a goalie and a lot of balls in the cage. First, the offense goes against the defense for 10 seconds. The offense only has 10 seconds to shoot the ball. No matter where the offensive players are positioned, at 10 seconds the coach yells, “Shoot.” Next, no matter how the shot ends, the goalie takes the ball (or one from inside the cage) and starts a transition break down field. The goalie can’t carry past the restraining line. The defense now must break out immediately and the offense must ride immediately.

Once the defender gets out between the midfield line and the restraining line (about 40 yards), he will turn and throw the ball back to the offensive player. That offensive player will now streak back and press the cage on the transition break. That defenseman will be trailing him, too.

We now have a 3-on-2 situation with just two defenders back. First, the mission is to stop the ball first, then force a pass and give enough time for the trailer to come in and play defense. The drill will continue back and forth every 10 seconds. It’s also serves as a high-energy conditioning drill.

The goal here is that we want our players to understand that you often go from defense to offense and then back to defense again (and vice versa). There are a lot of quick transitions in the game of lacrosse and players must be prepared for these.


The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “How to Run the Box: Substitution Schemes to Create Mismatches.” Click here to check out more videos in our extensive lacrosse library.

3 Simple But Highly Effective Practice Drills for Lacrosse

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Florida State head coach Bill Harkins loves to incorporate drills that simulate game situations. Here are three drills from the Florida State repertoire that you can use during your next practice to get your squad better prepared for game action. As coach Harkins always says, remember to do drills with enthusiasm, speed and commitment. The goal is to push yourself to get better. Everyone is good in the first quarter, but the key is to be good for all four quarters.

Ground Ball Roll Outs

In this effective ground ball drill, once a player picks up a ground ball, he will sprint away from trouble, turn, free his hands and then quickly get rid of the ball. The goal is to simulate ground ball situations that typically happen during a game — and this is the ideal drill to work on them.


Riding Drill

In the Riding Drill, the ball will start with the goalie. After shouting, “Clear”, he’ll throw the both to a defender on either the left or right side of the field. From here, a low attackman will attack either side, and then a high attackman will follow suit. The goal is for the defenders to catch the ball, get by two riders (while staying within the restraining line) and then reach the 50-yard line.

This drill is perfect for working on rides and clears simultaneously. For the attackmen, once there’s a shot, it’s their task to immediately start riding, transition from offense to defense, and to get out and be physical. Remember to use the sideline as another defender. Getting a player out of bounds is as good as stripping the ball from him. As for the defense, they must know that the second a save is made, it’s all about transition and the time to get into an offensive mindset.


Osceola Passing Drill

The goals with the Osceola Passing Drill are to practice scooping ground balls, rolling away from pressure and making good passes out of a ground ball situation. It’s perfect for working on ground balls, passing and player movement, and even involves some conditioning as well.

The set-up has an inner-diamond of four cones and then outside of that, a larger box of four cones. Altogether, there will be one player at each diamond of cones and then one player at the outside box of cones. One player will start by throwing a ground ball out and another player from the diamond comes in and scoops it up clearly, rolls away from pressure, comes around the cone, and throws a pass back into the middle. This movement will come around the entire rotation of the diamond as players replace each other. Depending on your level, you can even work up to four balls at once in the rotation.


The following drills can be seen on the Championship Productions’ DVD “Winning Practice Drills for Lacrosse” with Bill Harkins. Check out the entire Florida State lacrosse catalog by clicking here.

Running the Box: Ways to Create Advantages Off Face-Off Substitutions

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, February 22, 2011

This week’s “Team Concepts and Strategies” segment highlights a little twist off of a standard substitution that lacrosse programs at every level can implement.

When the ball has entered the offensive zone just seconds after a face-off, the offensive team will likely have a few “specialty” players still on the field that they won’t want on the offensive end. This is the perfect opportunity to go into an “orange” substitution, which is the term commonly used by the Florida State men’s lacrosse team.

In other words, this substitution will see one defensive player go off the field and the new substitute move into the defensive player’s spot. This new substitute, which in this case is an offensive midfielder, can now get to the offensive side of the field once our specialty player crosses the midfield line. Then our preferred defensive player can replace the specialty player.

It’s substitution 101 for most lacrosse teams. However, here’s a variation on the orange substitution theme and a look at how you can take advantage off of a seemingly normal substitution.

Following a typical face-off scenario, it’s common for teams to substitute their long-stick midfielder off the field through orange. Well, instead of immediately getting this player to the sidelines, we’re going to take him to the offensive crease. It’s an unusual move and defenses often get confused.

With this in mind, we’re going to use this player to set a pick and create some chaos on the offensive end. First, we’ll get into our typical offensive set and then put our LSM right on the crease. Next, we’ll go through an orange substitution and have two defenders and an offensive midfielder waiting on the opposite side of the midfield line. At this time, we’ll have the offense cycle the ball around and then have the LSM set a pick up top for the top-side offensive midfielder. The offensive middie then works the pick, and as soon as the pick is set, the LSM sprints to midfield. If the offensive middie can’t get away a high-percentage shot off the screen, then the unit will cycle the ball around again before hitting the new — and sprinting — midfielder in stride for a quality offensive opportunity.

Through this, teams can attack the defense with speed out of a unique situation. If practiced and perfected, lacrosse squads can have a lot of success running this, and the play can become a very effective weapon, something the Florida State men’s lacrosse program can attest to.


This segment can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “How to Run the Box: Substitution Schemes to Create Mismatches” with Bill Harkins. Check out the entire Bill Harkins catalog here.


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