Individual ball handling and ground ball drills are two staples of Notre Dame lacrosse practices. Often used at the beginning of each practice, the drills reinforce good habits and demand attention each day. The following drills — first diagrammed on the whiteboard and then carried out on the field — will allow your players to get a lot of touches on the ball, repetitions, and build a strong aerobic base.
The goal with the Ball Bag Drill is to give all players as many ground ball repetitions as possible in a short period of time. We can also give them some element of creativity and ownership of how to run the drill.
Typically used by Notre Dame at the start of each practice, the drill essentially consists of one player, one ball, and 10-15 yards of space. We use one half of the field and take our players and spread them out all over and around the goal area (on the sides, behind, out in front, etc.). Each person owns his/her own 10-15 yard area has his/her own ball. Players will roll the ball out in front, scoop it up, and then perform some kind of ground ball maneuver.
As a coach, look to position yourself in a place where you can see all of the players and coach them as they are doing it. On the whistle, they will begin the drill. There are three different increments: 15 seconds, 30 seconds, and 45 seconds. We will also test the players conditioning-wise to make sure they are still maintaining technique at the end of drill.
The job of the coach is to make sure the players are going full speed and are doing every type of iteration they can do with a ground ball, such as dropping at their feet, rolling away, kicking, using hockey moves, scooping through, scooping and backpedaling, scooping and changing hands, scooping and walking the dog to cut another player off, and scooping and walking the dog and rolling away to get the hands free to throw a pass to an open man.
Benefits: The key here is to give the players as many ground balls in the time period as possible. They can practice all kinds of ground ball situations this way. It’s also a conditioning drill, too. Notice that the heads of the players are curling, they are shielding their body from potential defenders, using their feet, and using the head of the stick – all things they may find in a ground ball situation.
The Yo-Yo Drill has similar goals as before: tons of reps, ability to be creative, and a great conditioner. Plus, the drill replicates scenarios the players will typically find in a game.
At the midline or top of the box, set the players up into pairs. Each group has a defined area (or lanes) so they don’t run into each other. You can set up 15, 30, and 45-second increments in this drill, too.
One player in each pair starts with a ball. Each time they will roll the ball out. They will first roll it out to 10 yards, then 15 yards. The ball will roll out and the defender in each group (D2) will chase the ball down. He will scoop, turn and make a curl, and each time he will turn a different way. He scoops, turns and throws a pass back to D1. After the pass, he breaks toward D1 and now D1 rolls the ball to D2. The partner now scoops and throws a pass or scoops and flips. After he gives the ball up, he circles around his partner and his partner throws another ball out, this time to 15 yards. And the drill continues like before.
Benefits: Heavy repetitions, strong technique, lots of changes, and builds an aerobic base.
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Hall of Fame lacrosse coach Bill Tierney firmly believes that coaches who are more organized with their practices are far more effective overall. When it comes to establishing practice plans, Tierney likes to break things down into four different areas; from a seasonal, preseason, weekly and daily standpoint.
Season Practice Plans
Your season practice plans should include long-range goals, personnel issues and “What If’s” such as injuries, weather and changes in opponents. Consider looking at your schedule and examining it, too. Mark down your definite wins, probable losses and question mark games.
Also, be sure to set realistic goals for your program. Is it a rebuilding year or a competitive season? As for Tierney, the current Denver head coach prefers to shoot for the moon and set goals high, even if he has a young team. Also, assess things to see how you can change some of those losses and turn the question mark games into wins.
And finally, predict what is happening with your players, from the stars to the kids that mature, to the kids who come out of the woodwork and to your practice guys.
Preseason Practice Plans
Consider setting goals by making a monthly calendar. Start from the back with the first game of the season as the goal. This is the time to work on things like conditioning. It’s really important that the players are in shape and ready for that first game. But remember, don’t over do it. This is also a time for teaching, from incorporating drills for riding and clearing, to implementing plays for man-up and man-down offense and defense.
Meanwhile, the preseason is a big evaluation period and be sure to include this in your practice plan. Coaches should mix things up and move around to best evaluate their players. It’s critical that players feel that they are being evaluated in a fair way. Play a lot of people in practice and scrimmages. It’s important that players feel that they are contributing, especially early on. You can also find out how certain players handle pressure. Don’t forget to allow younger players to compete for any recent vacancies, too.
Overall, the goals remain for everybody to improve and get better, and that includes the coaching staff.
Finally, keep in mind the reminder of time before the season opener. Keep it a tangible goal and it will keep the players excited. As for scrimmages, keep in mind the big picture. Use them as a step-by-step process and play everyone equally. Map out what needs to be done in that game, the whole preseason and that particular week.
Weekly Practice Plans
Start off by setting goals, whether it’s to upset an opponent, respecting each other or figuring out opponents’ strengths and weaknesses. Also, be aware of any player conditioning needs. Make sure to provide an opportunity for everyone in practice and keep the big picture in mind. For instance, don’t risk a player aggravating an injury by playing him in an easier game. Play someone else who isn’t hurt. It will turn out to be a dual positive.
Next, establish a six-day calendar and map out how the week will run. As for Tierney, the head coach uses Monday as a review day of the previous week to correct mistakes and highlight positives. Lifting is also frequently done on Mondays. It’s important to continue and maintain strength throughout the course of the season, so be sure to incorporate proper weight training schedules depending on your level.
On Tuesdays, Tierney uses this period to work on the scouting report of other teams. It’s now time to forget about the last game and get the next one in mind. Wednesday is a work day and then Thursday is a play day, a time for scrimmaging and getting the players up and down the field. When the kids work hard on Wednesday, they deserve rewards on Thursday. Finally, Friday is a light day, a time to stay loose and do simple shooting and just clean up any areas mentally before facing the opponent on Saturday.
Daily Practice Plans
Daily practice plans should always have goals and should keep in mind the big picture (which is typically the next game). Keep an eye out for players who are coasting, players who are ultra-motivated and even the players who are upset about not playing. This is where you should motivate the team. Design effective drills to get the excitement up and move at a fast pace and make everyone keep their eyes on the prize.
Consider listing each daily practice plan, including all the players by position and availability (some players may be injured, late, away, etc.). A coach must know who he has available. Next, every minute of practice should be scheduled, but be sure to plan for other factors as well.
Also stick to your schedule. If you have 5 minutes scheduled for a drill, stick to it and then move on. Keep things short and timely.
Finally, here’s a look at how Coach Tierney breaks down a typical daily practice:
Stretching – 15 minutes
Stickwork – 15 minutes
Full Field Transition – 15 minutes
Skill Drills & Lead In Drills – 20-30 minutes
Half-Field Work – 30 minutes
Full-Field Work – 30 minutes
Specialty Work – 15 minutes
Conditioning – 5-10 minutes
Shooting – Anytime
The previous practice plans and coaching tips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Championship Practice Organization for Lacrosse” with Bill Tierney. Check out more exclusive coaching resources by clicking here.