In this exclusive behind-the scenes-glimpse, we visit Evanston, Illinois for a look inside a Northwestern University women’s lacrosse practice. Watch as head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller leads her squad through a variety of team drills and situational segments, including “Double Teams and Recovery.”
Shuffling Partner Pass
In this first drill, players work in partners shuffling down the width of the field and passing back and forth about 5 yards apart. Hands are going as fast as possible and players are getting low on their footwork while not rushing.
Coaching Tip: Slow yourself down if you have to. This drill is mainly about hand speed.
Next up, players get into weak hand feeds and double fakes. One player in the duo will just be feeding and doing so only with their weak hand. Meanwhile, the other person will work with their strong hand. So the process has players getting a quick stick, throwing two fakes with a flat stick, and getting the ball right back to the feeder. Look to get rid of the ball very quickly. Also, notice how feeder passes happen immediately after receiving.
To finish up, players move into fakes with the weak hand before switching up overall roles.
Double Team and Recovery
In this segment, defenders must force the offensive player right or left. Once the offensive player makes her move against the defender, another nearby defender must slide and step up into the play. Communication is crucial between teammates here.
It’s important that help defenders take a good angle at the ball carriers stick and lock that player down in a double team. If the offensive player pulls out of that, the help defender must then recover as fast as she can back to her starting cone. This should all be at a sprint, not a casual jog. Also, after a rep, players should switch up positions.
While this is a small slide and recovery drill, players should really be focusing on the little things here, such as communication, timing, and angle of slides.
Coaching Tip: When approaching with that slide, make sure players get a good angle. Anticipate where the ball carrier is moving to and slide to her stick, not her hips (or else the player will run by you and you will pick your own teammate).
After a minute or two of drill work, the coaching staff huddles the team together to discuss how players are dropping their heads and giving up on the play when beat. According to Coach Amonte Hiller, that mentality will hurt them in games. Instead, players need to be relentless to the end. You CANNOT give in.
In this month’s team concepts feature, Duke men’s lacrosse coach John Danowski lays out his plan for an effective clearing game. Read along as the two-time NCAA champion coach covers the essential rules and philosophies that the Blue Devils implement to perform successful ball transition.
Two Clearing Rules to ALWAYS Keep in Mind
In the live clearing game, which is any time the ball is in play, the rules say we have 30 seconds to clear the ball and get the ball into our offensive box.
Rule No. 1 – So if we have 30 seconds, this tells us that we need to be poised and relaxed in the defensive end when clearing the ball.
Rule No. 2 – On the defensive half of the field, we have 7 players to clear the ball and the opponent has 6 to ride. Therefore, we have an extra man. Spacing becomes really important now.
4 More Essential Components of Clearing
Quick Strike – Any time we make a save or pick up a ground ball, our first priority is “Quick Strike” (AKA fast break or let’s get the ball out of here). Here we must become proficient at looking up the field, getting the ball moving, and getting the ball to streaking teammates heading up the field.
Maverick Clearing – If there are no quick strike opportunities, then what? Coach Danowski teaches the middies to come back to the ball. We call this “Maverick Clearing.” Always look to break back to the ball, demand the ball, catch it, and turn to the outside.
Determining Clears to Use – Next, if we cannot break back to the ball, what clear is appropriate for our opponent’s ride then? What pressure is our opponent giving us? Well, this is where it becomes important to read the opponent and then be able to react.
For instance, is it full field pressure you’re up against? Three-quarter field pressure? No pressure at all? You must have an answer to whatever pressure you see out there. But no matter what the opponent is doing, the fundamentals of clearing must exist.
Common Principles of Clearing – Finally, what are the common principles or fundamentals of clearing? Coach Danowski preaches this over and over again in practice.
First, it’s about spacing. You want to spread the field and not have too many players super close to each other. Spread the field and get as wide as you can and make the opponent cover a longer distance.
Second, we want to be able to pass and catch.
And third, clearing is all about fundamental movements for each space on the field. But do the players know what to do when they get to those spots? It’s important to keep it simple so players understand each other well on the field.
Limestone head lacrosse coach J.B. Clarke reveals one of his most effective drills for practicing high-tempo offense in game-like situations. Follow along as Coach Clarke breaks down the drill for you in the film room before heading out to the field for live action with his team.
In “Lines to the Goal”, each scenario consists of an odd-man situation favoring the offense. For instance, in 3 Lines to the Goal, it will be a 2-on-1 situation. In 5 Lines to the Goal, it will be a 3-on-2 situation; and so on. Meanwhile, Coach Clarke’s team will practice these drills from all over the field, whether it’s behind, up front, or the sides, so there’s a great opportunity for variation here.
You may also put restrictions on the drills as well. For instance, if you do 5 Lines from Behind, it would consist of three offensive lines and two defensive lines below the goal line. Look to put cones down about five yards above the goal line so that players can’t go higher than that in order to score.
Coaching Tip: Make sure your players practice drills running into position.
A coach will generally start each rep by throwing out a ground ball. Players should look to pick up the ball and move it quickly. Do not carry the ball.
The action begins with “5 Lines to the Goal from Behind.” Cones are set up so players don’t go too high and get out of position. Each rep goes quickly and coaches should aim to get their players through each rep fast and efficiently. The more reps you can get in, the better. A major key here is to make things happen fast.
In the video clip below, notice how many offensive and defensive fundamentals and principles are at play here, which makes it no surprise to see why this drill is so effective.
Player Tips: For the offensive players, make sure you always have your stick ready to score. Get creative and work on your give and gos and fakes. Also, don’t forget to look back to where the ball came from. This can lead to a high-percentage opportunity. Finally, with an offensive advantage, don’t be careless. Make fast but smart decisions out there.
The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Unsettled Drills for Up-Tempo Lacrosse.” To check out more videos featuring drills and up-tempo lacrosse, stop by our lacrosse library.
Coach Jason Balistreri of Valhalla High School (San Diego, CA) has been using this lacrosse drill at the middle and high school levels for years and it’s always one of his team’s favorite drills. It utilizes team communication, field awareness and balance, scramble offense and defense, clearing and riding, and can also focus on specific coaching points.
Create Chaos Drill – Brief Overview
With two-time All American defenseman Brodie Merrill leading the way, learn about proper slide techniques and tips from one of the game’s most heralded defenders. Merrill walks through each scenario with you before putting on the pads and simulating the defensive techniques at full speed on the lacrosse field.
Although often overlooked, defensive slides are absolutely critical to a team’s overall success. Slides are all about communication, being on the same page as your teammates, being up-field from your opponent, having your head on a swivel, and having your stick and body in the right positions. Let’s run through a typical slide scenario.
If the ball is behind the goal with an attackman and you are guarding a man in the crease, you are the first slide. Therefore, you need to make sure your head is on a swivel and that you have your stick on your opponent lightly to get a feel of where they are.
If the defender has been beat, you need to slide and take a good angle, get your stick up-field from your man, break down, and get nice and low. At this point, you have two options. First, you could tell your fellow defender to stay and double the ball. The second option is to say, “Find One.” That defender will then retreat to the crease and bump that second slide back to his man, and you are all even again.
Check out some examples below of proper slides in action.
An adjacent slide usually occurs when there is no one in the crease. In this scenario, the nearest man must slide to the attacker that beats our defender.
In the video example below, Merrill is the “HOT” man. First, it’s key to be above GLE. Also, your fellow defender wants to be taking away the top side and force the offensive player inside.
Why inside? Well, if the player gets beats by the attackman, he will ONLY get beat into the help. Therefore with the adjacent slide, you will have to slide cross-crease while your fellow midfielder is sliding down to help on the backside. Remember to lead with the stick and follow with the body. Get as low as you can and power through.
Take a look at a few examples in the video clip below.
The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Brodie Merrill’s ‘Defensive Player of the Year’ Skills and Drills.” To check out more videos focusing on defense, click here.