In this week’s edition of Coaches Corner, learn more than a dozen top lacrosse drills submitted by some of the nation’s most renowned NCAA coaches. From the likes of NCAA Champions John Danowski, Bill Tierney and Jim Berkman, the coaches dish out their personal favorites, plus a few player preferences, as well. The drills were compiled from Coaches Corner Q&A’s over the 2010-2011 season. Be sure to read through and see if you can pick up some new drills for your practices this season.
“It’s hard to pinpoint one, but I like doing some of the simpler drills that break down our overall scheme — like 4-on-4 and 5-on-5 drills that are controlled. By doing these drills, we get to work on dodging, off-ball play, communication, ball movement and even spacing. They allow players to add-lib and be decision-makers on the field, whether it’s dodging, sliding or recovering. Plus, it teaches a lot of the fundamentals and basics that are important to work on frequently.”
“My favorite drill is Mechanics Progression, which deals with your elbows, shoulders and hands and really focuses on the fundamentals of the game. If you can’t catch and throw, you can’t do anything in this game. There’s nothing more important than that. It may be mundane to our players, but it’s absolutely the cornerstone of our program.”
“It’s not brain surgery here, but we like to put people in tight spaces, especially around the goal. We’ll go 3-on-2, 4-on-3 and 5-on-4 a lot, not necessarily 40-yard sprints, but around the goal and look to move the ball under pressure and make good decisions. It teaches the guys how to protect and stick handle and make quick passes in tight spaces. It’s teaches defenses how to slide and rotate and I think it makes them better overall when it comes to on the field during a game.”
“My favorite is the General Drill. It’s a 1-on-1 drill and there’s an off-ball defenseman and an off-ball offensive player. Imagine you have a feeder who’s not in the drill standing at the goal line extended to the goalie’s left and about 10 yards wide. He’ll throw a ball to the top center or right to an offensive player standing 14-15 yards from the goal and the defenseman is at the top of the crease. They are both waiting for the pass and when the ball is passed, it’s live. They have to play 1-on-1 now.
The offensive player looks to gets the ball in a wind-up position, catching it in his shooting stance and hopefully only has two steps to a shot. And now it’s decision-making time. Do I have to dodge? Can I just rip it? How should I stand off-ball, move off-ball and make a move? We can do lots of variations of this too, anything to re-create a defense that has sagged in on the backside and the ball is redirected and we are forced to create.”
“Well it goes back to the concept that defense wins titles. My favorite drills are ones that put the offense at an advantage and the defense at a disadvantage. One is a 7-on-6 drill where we insert another player into it after a 6-on-6 situation and we work on slides and rotations. There’s also the 656 drill, where the offense is out-manning the defense 6-on-5 until the defender gets back into play, and this simulates a slide technique.
Then there’s the red-white drill. We go up and down 5 vs. 4 and can add a man and make it 6 vs. 5 drill. It’s great for transition play, ball movement and skill development for offensive players. There’s also survival drills like 2-on-2 perimeter drills where we force the ball inside so that two defenders have to communicate and switch. The bottom line is that we like to run drills that will simulate what we do in the game.”
“It’s called the Shoot as Hard as You Can Drill. It’s an offensive drill and we use it during pre-game warm-ups and even run it three or four days a week in practice. We get the guys right out in front of the cage and we teach them how to shoot as hard as they can without worrying about where the ball goes. We try to get in a lot of reps, focus on keeping your hands back, your momentum going towards the shot and having the players fall into the crease.”
“We really love 4-on-4 drills. It gives us three slides in defensive packages. We can move people around and simulate our offense pretty well with four people and the kids get a feel for where they belong. Plus, we can work on spacing, picking off the ball and defensively who will be the first, second and third slide. We can get so much done and there’s less people to worry about and look at on a daily basis.”
“It’s called the Scrapping Drill. We run it at the beginning or end of practice with the emphasis on picking up ground balls and keeping focused while under pressure. We’ll get two teams together with a goalie in net and have two players going up against one. The team of two has to figure out how to score. It happens very fast and is over sometimes in three or four seconds. It’s a high-energy and high-tempo drill that gets the guys amped up and often has consequences at the end of practice for the losing team.”
See the Scrapping Drill in John Danowksi’s new DVD, All-Access Duke Lacrosse, Volume II: Individual Skills and Full Field Drills.
“It’s called Full-Field Scramble. It goes from 4-on-3 to 5-on-4 the other way and then 6-on-4 the other way and then finally 10-on-10. The guys like that one because of the transition components. It’s good for conditioning and then ends up being a full field situation where the kids must make good decisions. They also must learn to fast break, defend in the box, come down and make the appropriate cuts, and then defend 6-on-6 and clear on the other end. It forces guys to make a lot of different decisions and really enhances the lacrosse IQ.”
Stay tuned this season for more Q&A’s featuring some of the game’s top lacrosse coaches. Also, be sure to sign-up for our bi-weekly lacrosse eNewsletter “Inside the Crease.”
In this week’s edition of Coaches Corner, Championship Productions’ editor Adam Warner sits down with legendary Salisbury head men’s lacrosse coach Jim Berkman. Now in his 23rd season at Salisbury, Berkman – the all-time winningest coach in NCAA men’s history – talks about his tenures as a lacrosse, basketball and soccer coach, details some of his favorite practice drills, and also reveals what keeps him motivated each season after already winning eight national titles.
Many lacrosse fans may not know this, but you also have quite an extensive history playing and coaching other sports – basketball and soccer to be specific.
“I was playing all three sports growing up in high school. It’s who I was. The one regret I had was that I didn’t pursue soccer. I had the skillset, but I just played basketball and lacrosse. When I look back on those days, I think I could have done it at St. Lawrence and I sometimes regret it because I enjoy the sport so much.
As for coaching all three sports, I was in situations when I was a young buck on the block trying to find a job and a new profession and back then you had to do a lot of different things and show other skillsets so that you could make yourself noticeable and the athletic department could thrive. At Potsdam, the basketball coach was also the athletic director and he knew he needed someone good at basketball to help him out, too. That was also a way for me to get my foot in the door.
Then I came to Salisbury, and it was about coaching lacrosse. But two things happened. Six weeks into my first semester, the athletic director came in and said that he needed a huge favor and their search had failed for the women’s basketball coach. He told me that he needed me to take over the program for the first year so they could continue their search. So I did that for one year. And then in the mid-1990s with Title IX, the school needed to start a women’s soccer program and they ask me to start it up before they could secure the money and resources to hire a new coach. I remained as coach for seven years. It was a neat experience to start a program from scratch. We went to the final four in my last game as coach and was able to take the program from nowhere and build it into a contender. That was exciting and I think it’s made me a better coach.”
You’ve won eight national titles as coach and achieved a number of coaching records over the years. What keeps you motivated each season now?
“It’s always a new group. There are always some returning players and some new players and you must mold them into a team and develop the players to get better. It’s always a new challenge. This year, our attack has been a work in progress. I have spent a lot of time working with the attack unit in practice. We’ve had to move around some player positions and we’ve had some injuries to deal with, and we’re trying to mold and teach them the game. I think we’re getting better because of the work. It’s a different make-up each year, and that makes it fun.”
What do you consider your greatest achievement to date as a coach?
“I always remember that first championship. That was the last year that Hobart was in Division III and we beat them 15-9 on the last day before they went Div. I. Also, I think our 2008 team that won the title was one of our better coaching jobs. We had lost every player on defense from the year before, including two guys that went on to play in the pros. But we came back and went undefeated the next year even with a tremendous turnover at personnel.”
Do you have any particular coaching habits or superstitions?
“I believe in our style and system. As soon as you get off the bus, we’re going to guard you and try to score as many goals as we can. We also have a set core of drills we use. We’ve been doing them for quite a long time now. It comes automatic at practice and we don’t waste time. We get a lot of reps in that way.”
How would you define your coaching philosophy?
“We want kids who want to find out how good they can become. That’s one of the first requirements we have. You must try and make people better and be open. We have been fortunate to get a lot of good players over the years, but they aren’t necessarily the best of the best. They have some dents in the armor and may be why they might not go Division I. Our philosophy is about getting a lot of lacrosse reps, from shooting and passing and wall ball and getting those dents out of the armor. Each year, a few Div. I coaches will say, “How did I miss that guy?” I pride ourselves on motivating them so the can strive to become the best and continue improving.”
What do you think are the key components to building a contending program year after year?
“It’s about knowing the game and knowing how to get the most out of each player. It’s about getting the players excited about the game and having fun so that they want to come back and do more. I believe that repetition is the key to learning. You can’t take the fun out of practice. Create your drills and style of practice and make it your favorite part of the day. When you do that, the players will prove it and will be your best salesmen. You must have good knowledge to set that up and give others confidence around you if they see that you make people better. It’s about believing in what you are instilling and being consistent in the fundamentals.”
Can you take readers behind the scenes a bit and explain what happens during a typical week in season with Salisbury lacrosse?
“If we usually play on Wednesday’s and Saturday’s, throughout the day, a group of guys will come in and lift. We lift throughout the season. Everyone on starting defense and defensive middies were in the weight room yesterday on their off day, three months into the season. They know the importance of strength training in-season.
We practice from the 3:30 to 5:30 slot. As for film study, guys are open to come into the office and watch at any time. Depending on the opponent, we can get film from a coach about a particular player, let’s say a face-off guy from another team. But the film has already been broken down for them, and it’s part of our repertoire. Before games, we’ll have a shorter practice. We have good, hard practices on Monday, with Thursday is more film and scouting reports and not much of a killer practice. Friday is another pre-game practice, and that’s the cycle.”
Talk about one of your favorite drills to run as coach over the years.
“It’s not brain surgery here, but we like to put people in tight spaces, especially around the goal. We’ll go 3-on-2, 4-on-3 and 5-on-4 a lot, not necessarily 40-yard sprints, but around the goal and have to move the ball under pressure and make good decisions. It teaches how to protect and stick handle and make quick passes in tight spaces. It’s teaches defenses to slide and rotate and I think it makes them better overall when it comes to on the field during a game.”
Is there a certain drill that your players get particularly amped up for or really enjoy?
“It’s called Full-Field Scramble. It goes from 4-on-3 to 5-on-4 the other way and then 6-on-4 the other way and then finally 10-on-10. The guys like that one because of the transition components. It’s good for conditioning and then ends up being a full field situation where the kids must make good decisions. They also must learn to fast break and then defend in the box and then come down and make the appropriate cuts and then defend 6-on-6 and clear on the other end. It forces guys to make a lot of different decisions and really enhances the lacrosse IQ.”
For a new coach out there, whether at the youth or high school level, what’s some of the best advice you can give them?
“Get as many reps in practice as possible. It’s practice for the players, not the coach. Some coaches talk too much. Your instruction should be to the point and then get the players back into drills. Make sure each player gets a lot of touches. It’s not brain surgery, but better passes and shooting makes a huge difference.”
Talk about the 2011 season a little bit. What’s different about this team than previous squads?
“Attack-wise, it’s a work in progress. We’ve got new players in new positions and some injuries to deal with. So we are going over the little things people take for granted right now. We posted double digit goals in our last three games, so I think we’re going in the right direction. With a bunch of off days coming up, we must get guys heeled and get in some good fundamentals this week and back to the basics with no scouting reports and just get up and down the field.”
Jim Berkman has teamed up with Championship Productions to produce a number of exclusive lacrosse DVDs. Click here to check out the entire catalog.
In this week’s edition of Coaches Corner, Championship Productions’ editor Adam Warner sits down with USA Basketball and Montverde Academy head boys’ basketball coach Kevin Sutton. On April 9, the longtime college and high school basketball coach will lead the 2011 USA Basketball Men’s Junior Select Team against the World Select Team at the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, Oregon.
In this exclusive interview, Sutton talks about his expectations for the ’11 squad, dishes out advice for players and coaches, and even reveals his rise as a prominent basketball coach from his days growing up in the Washington DC area and playing with the likes of Johnny Dawkins and Billy King.
Talk about your background and the transition to becoming a head basketball coach.
“I grew up in the Washington D.C. area of Falls Church, Virginia. I grew up in a basketball family. My uncle taught me the game and I loved it more than any other sport. I played against some outstanding players growing up, including Johnny Dawkins and Billy King. I grew up playing against some great talent and have always had a passion for the game. Including my father, who was my first coach for football, I’ve always been surrounded by coaches and they’ve all had a great impact on my life. They were great teachers and taught me life lessons through the game. After playing for Montrose Christain, I went to James Madison on a basketball scholarship and eventually became a student assistant coach in 1987, and that’s where it all began.”
How did you know that you wanted to pursue a career in basketball?
“Like everyone, you want to play at the highest level and I wanted to play pro. But that wasn’t a reality, so I wanted to stay and be part of the game. I thought that through coaching I could have an impact on players and on the game of basketball. I’ve been a student of the game. When I became a coach, I tried to impact the game as much as I could positively and give kids a chance to become productive students, athletes and citizens.”
How would you define your coaching philosophy and how do you implement the key parts with your teams?
“It stems from five coaches: Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino, John Thompson, John Chaney, and Stu Vetter. As for Coach K, it’s about his relationships with his players, to be fair and demanding and yet hold them accountable. As for Thompson, I watched him build that Georgetown program by doing things the right way and standing up for what he believed in. As for Pitino, he’s influenced me through his system and style of shooting. I took into account what I liked and I implemented that into my own style. Meanwhile, Stu Vetter for his defensive ability. They have all had a lasting impact on my life and the philosophy of making my program the best it can be.”
You’ve put dozens of players into college basketball from the high school ranks. What’s been the key to sustaining talent over time, rather than just a year or two at a time?
“It’s all about consistency. In life, you have to be consistent. You must define who you are and what success is to you. I try to offer this advice to as many coaches who are willing to listen. What’s the definition to you? It could be different. To me, it’s about doing the right things over time and impacting lives through basketball. For other coaches, it may be winning titles. Then from there, try to implement your philosophy and the things you are most comfortable with as a person.”
With so many added distractions these days for high school athletes, particularly for ones who are hoping to make the college leap (with media, rankings, etc.), what’s the key to maintaining focus and discipline at a young age?
“Today’s student-athletes have a lot of outside distractions, so what we try to do is create a culture and environment where everything we do is the most important thing. We work hard as a staff at defining the culture and growing the culture. We do a great job of getting to know our players and we do our best to make sure they are comfortable and we eliminate as many distractions we can. Focus is key and we expect it on a daily basis.”
This year you were named head coach for USA Basketball’s 2011 Junior National Select Team. What does the position mean to you?
“It’s an honor. I was the assistant coach the past two summers for the U-16 team that won the gold medal in Argentina, and also for the U-17 team that won the world championships in Germany. It goes back to the byproduct of doing the right things over time. I think my body of work speaks for itself. I am passionate about the game and I think it was important that we kept continuity with the team and the overall initiative. I take a great deal of pride in the position.”
You will lead Team USA at the Nike Hoop Summit April 9 at the Rose Garden in Portland. What are your expectations?
“I have high expectations. I have been in communication with the players all year long and I continue to develop a relationship with our new players. I think the guys are going to come out and work hard in preparation for the event and play to their potential in the game. This event will put an exclamation point on their high school careers. It’s their final game as high school students, so I tell them how it’s a great way to go out and for them to leave it all out at Nike before opening a brand new book at college.”
What’s some of the best advice you can give to a new coach at the youth or high school level?
“Define who you are as a coach. Define what is success and try to use the game of basketball to continue to teach life lessons to impact lives, and go out and develop young men into quality people. I believe that winning is a byproduct of doing the right things over time. Don’t sacrifice the fun just to win games and pad your record.”
What’s some of the best advice you can give to a young player who’s trying to improve his game?
“Develop a positive work ethic, allow yourself to be coached and become students of the game. I believe that basketball IQ is the newest talent. It’s not enough to be physically talented any more. Players must respect and study the game and respect the players before them. This will allow their own game to continue to grow. Make sure that you surround yourself with good people. You will be better served in the long run. Love the game and be passionate about it and don’t forget to give back to the game, too.”
What’s one of your all-time favorite drills?
“My all-time favorite one is the two-ball basketball series of drills. It’s where you use two balls and dribble in place. It’s a good drill that incorporates your ability to dribble and handle the ball with both hands, plus speed dribbling and using proper footwork. It’s practical and really improves a player in a number of areas.”
Do you have any other goals as a basketball coach left to accomplish? What can we expect in the years to come?
“It’s to continue to grow the game and impact it in a positive way and hopefully, leave it better than I found it.”
Kevin Sutton has partnered with Championship Productions to produce a number of basketball videos. Check out Coach Sutton’s entire catalog by clicking here.