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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.
Follow along with Georgetown head women’s lacrosse coach Ricky Fried as he breaks down a highly effective 4 v 3 offensive drill. This particular “small” drill places an emphasis on good decision-making, getting solid movement around the goal, and improving fundamentals in compact scenarios. Coach Fried reviews the drill using whiteboard diagrams before moving out to the field for live simulations.
Get four attackers going up against three defenders. The offensive players will start in a box formation, with two players up top and two players down low near the crease.
As the player with the ball is getting ready to pass across, the low players should look to slide down and curl up. The ballside low player will make a C-cut or curl. Don’t go straight forward. The curl ensures you won’t cut right into the defender. Meanwhile, the offball diagonal player should stay tight to the crease. Move on a string together.
Next, hit the other up top player with a pass. As the pass comes across the top, attack the goal. Attack in a shuffling manor, not by squaring up. Shuffle towards the goal and read the defender. If no one comes at you, take the shot. If you can’t shoot, look to hit the diagonal. It’s all about reading the defense and making quick decisions.
Look to constantly stay in a box. This gives you an idea of the shape and spacing you want to maintain. Meanwhile, work on slides in and out as opposed to turning and running in straight lines.
Tips: Get movement down low. Don’t be stationary. Also, make quick, decisive, and direct passes, not lofty ones. Soft passes make the defense recover faster.
The big key to this drill is movement. While the low attacker curls up, the diagonal attacker sets up down near the GLE. As that top cross pass is being made, the low people are on a string. The low person slides down and the other one comes up. The group starts by passing and looking. Get the feel for the motion.
Every time you get the ball, think about shooting. Be willing to take that shot if the defense holds. Defensively, stay compact and rotate opposite.
The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Small Drills for Offensive Lacrosse Fundamentals” with Ricky Fried. Check out more skill development videos in our lacrosse library by clicking here.
Use these three effective drills to help your team make strides when it comes to offensive fundamentals. Eight-time national championship coach Jim Berkman frequently implements the drills with Salisbury to replace ball drills and replicate offensive schemes. It’s also a great way to get in numerous reps, whether shooting, passing, or moving with the ball.
The first drill in the group focuses on offensive concepts when you are stepping opposite of a teammate dodging, looking for two quick passes to the backside, and then delivering an accurate shot on net.
At the same time, you can tweak the drill to implement movements that are familiar with your zone or man-to-man offense. The goal here is to practice those schemes, movements, and fundamentals, and get a ton of shots in. According to Coach Berkman, the more you practice getting the ball to the backside and moving it quickly, the better these repetitions get in games.
Coaching Points: This is also a terrific passing drill. Remember to pass the ball to the ear, make two quick feeds, and deliver a quality shot on cage.
Next, we’re adding a cross-crease pass to the repetition. In other words, you’re looking to go wing to wing on the skip pass. Make sure that players get all the way to the outside on their cuts.
Coaching Points: Make your drills more than one-dimensional. Look to find new ways to do things that reinforce your offensive shooting drills and passing. There’s no substitute for an abundance of shooting.
Finally, start things up top with a dodge. From here, the pass will go behind the net to a cutting X. Next, there’s a quick pass out in front to a crease teammate before this player shoots on net. This drill is ideal for working on inside shooting, cuts, and plays.
Coaching Points: Get the ball high to low and look to spin the ball faster than the defense can rotate.
Know of any more effective offensive drills that reinforce offensive fundamentals? What specific drill works best with your team? Share with fellow coaches below or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The previous drills can all be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Shooting Drills to Reinforce Offensive Concepts” featuring Jim Berkman. To check out more videos focusing on offensive concepts, click here.