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Best of Coaches Corner: Drills of the Year

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, September 20, 2011

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.

Ohio State Coach Nick Myers:

“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.”

Tufts Coach Mike Daly:

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.”

Salisbury Coach Jim Berkman:

“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.”

Brown Coach Lars Tiffany:

“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.”

Click here to check out a full breakdown of the general drill (with video) in a previous edition of Inside the Crease. Also, check out Coach Tiffany’s DVD “Man-Down Defense: A Catalog of Drills.”

Denver Coach Bill Tierney:

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.”

Duke Coach John Danowski:

“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.”

Former Towson Coach Tony Seaman:

“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.”

Player Favorites

John Danowski, Duke University:

“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.

Jim Berkman, Salisbury University:

“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.”

Key Terms, Slides and Strategies for Building a Strong Defense

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, August 23, 2011

As a former two-time captain and starter on defense under Dom Starsia, current Brown head coach Lars Tiffany has a fundamental understanding of what it takes to be proficient on defense as a team.

Learn from one of the game’s sharpest minds as Tiffany highlights some key defensive terms, strategies, and goals. Also, Tiffany runs through some basic slide schemes on the whiteboard before taking to the field for some live simulations.

Team Defense and Communication

It’s vital that six defenders and the goalie communicate to each other while playing together in order to be successful and stop the opponent.

The goalie’s focus should always be on-ball. We want the goalie watching the ball and dodgers and talking to the on-ball defender (with terms like step left, step out, step in, etc.). It’s up to the defense when it comes to slides.

Next, we need the defense to say, “Who is the first slide?” At Brown, the terminology is “hot” or “hotman.” This person can also ask questions to build trust in the defense. For instance, things like, “I’m hot,” or “who’s my fill”, or “who’s my second slide?” Fill means to fill into the crease and take care of the crease and the insides first and foremost.

The hot player identifies the fill player. Those extra words really make a difference. Meanwhile, the third slide is “the three” or “crash” into the crease. There’s not always a third slide and getting there isn’t easy.

Okay, so the hot man is identified and has his fill, but when he slides, what does he say? At Brown, the saying is “go.” This player sends himself. If he doesn’t slide, he yells “stop” and he stops the slide scheme. Now you must get back to your man.

The final term is used in our recovery. Once we have slid, the man who has been slid for (the original on-ball man) – when he is flying into the hole – well, we need to talk to him and tell him where to go. In Brown’s schemes, they look to the crease first and find the open man. When looking for the open man, the defense can tell him where to go. If he hears “bump”, he goes to that voice. It tells the man who is beat to come to me and follow me back to my own man so we can match up quickly.


Key Terms

Here are some key terms to determine how the defense will slide. We can slide from different areas with the hot man. Then we can mix up where our fill slides come from.

Coming from the Crease: the hot man slides from the crease.

Crease, Crease: the hot man comes from the crease and the second slide comes from the backside crease.

Adjacent: We may come in hot from the adjacent defender initially. The second slide could be adjacent as well, meaning the first slide hot player and the second slide fill player.

Combo Packages

First Slide Hot from an Adjacent Defender, Second Slide from the Crease: The first slide is from the crease defender and the second slide is from the adjacent defender.

Sliding Cross Crease: When we are defending the ball on the dodge from behind the goal.

Cross-Crease Slide: When a defender slides across the crease from the backside.


Slide Scheme Development

Brown uses a variety of drills that start at the base level of 1 v 1 and eventually build that up to 6 v 6. The goal is to start with the fundamentals and then evaluate the decision-making skills of each player. The first drill here works on such.

1 v 1 Drill

One player will start in the middle with a ball up top and a defender on him. The hot man is on the crease with a coach nearby. This drill is indeed 1 v 1. The slide man is only a decision-maker. The coach will sit there and evaluate his decision-making. The coach will keep the hot man in there for 3-4 reps. Meanwhile, the dodger dodges 1 v 1. The Coach will then have the defender in a good open stance and ready to go. Next, the coach will ask the player about his decision-making. Should he “Go” OR not say anything? The coach has the same vision as the hot man and can give some good feedback right away.

On the Field

The team’s slide scheme development begins with on-ball play. This focuses on a few key principles, particularly being good 1-on-1 defenders. Here we’re going to work on some on-ball play with an offensive player dodging from up top. The cardinal rule for the defender on the 1-on-1 is to not give up the middle of the field. Remember, the goalie focuses solely on the ball and the on-ball defender.

This 1-on-1 drill can be run from up top, the side and behind the net.


The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “How to Create a Strong Team Defense” with Lars Tiffany. Check out similar defensive videos in our exclusive video library.

Man-Down Defense: The General Drill with Lars Tiffany

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The “General Drill” is one of Lars Tiffany’s favorite drills to run at Brown University. Not only is it effective from an offensive and defensive perspective, but it particularly emphasizes the movement of going off-ball to on-ball in a short period of time.

The drill starts out with one defender and one midfielder and then later adds an attackman at the crease area. Below, check out the locker room discussion with Tiffany followed by step-by-step simulations on the turf and see how you can incorporate the drill into your next practice.

General Drill – Overview
The drill starts with one coach standing about 5-10 yards to one side of the cage, with the role of feeder. Next, there’s one defender who starts right on the crease, plus one midfielder situated about 13-14 yards away from the cage up top. Coach Tiffany often gives rules for his defenders as to where they can stand to begin the drill, but often they will start with one foot touching the top of the crease. Figure out what works for you to get down the timing of the drill.

The drill begins with the coach throwing the ball to the midfielder up top. The defender can’t move until the pass is thrown. Once the pass is made, the defender then drop steps, turns, sprints and approaches the midfielder for a defensive breakdown.

According to Tiffany, this is a perfect drill to practice man-down because it’s replicating something that happens all the time in man-down situations. This is when the defense needs to suck into the crease, take care of the offensive players closing in, and they need to know how quickly they can get out there and not give up an easy shot.

On-Field Simulation
Remember, it’s key for players to get down into a good defensive stance, with the butt low and knees bent. Once the defender approaches his man, the offensive player now must make a decision. That player must decide whether he has to dodge to get a shot on goal or just fire a shot immediately on cage. As for the defender, it’s about how fast you can get out there, not turn away and duck your head, contest a shot and ultimately prevent an easy scoring opportunity.


Adding an Attackman
A second step to the General Drill is to add an attackman around the crease area. Now, the coach can either throw to the midfielder up top or to the attackman right in front. This is a way to keep defenders honest and is much more like man-down defense.

The first goal for the defender must be to take care of the crease first and then worry about an outside shot. The same principles from before will apply once again. Remember to open up, drop step, turn and then break down the offensive player. Meanwhile, look to knock down any skip passes as well, which is certainly a skill that a Division I program like Brown looks for in its defenders.


Meanwhile, check out a recent Coaches Corner Q&A with Coach TIffany from January which also highlights the General Drill.

The previous drill breakdown can be seen in its entirety on the Championship Productions DVD “Man-Down Defense: A Catalog of Drills.” Check out the entire Lars Tiffany catalog by clicking here.

Coaches Corner: Q&A with Lars Tiffany, Head Men’s Lacrosse Coach at Brown

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Now entering his fifth season as head coach of the Brown men’s lacrosse team, Lars Tiffany has compiled an impressive 38-20 overall record, notched an Ivy League Championship and earned a trip to the NCAA tournament. With Tiffany at the helm, the Bears have been a consistent force in Division I lacrosse. Even with competitive conference rivals Cornell and Princeton likely in the hunt this year, the bar is set high for Brown lacrosse once again in 2011.

In this week’s edition of Coaches Corner, Tiffany sits down with Championship Productions’ Editor Adam Warner and gives a full breakdown of his preseason practices, reveals his favorite all-time drill, and provides some practical advice for first time coaches and players.

Preseason begins February 1. Walk me through a typical Lars Tiffany preseason. What are the overall goals? What key concepts and philosophies are particularly stressed?

The first thing we do is define what it means to be a Brown lacrosse player. Even before we hit the field, we ask the players, “What does it mean to you? Who are we going to be?” We get the men to give us the answers. It could be work ethic, or physical responses or what will we do when a particular situation happens. We really try to define who we are before before we hit the field on February 1.

The first few weeks are more about fundamentals: shooting, passing, defense, and 1 on 1.  We don’t want to jump too far into schemes and strategy until we can prove we are good lacrosse players, so then we know we can execute the game plan later.

Also, we don’t need to have the whole playbook memorized before games start up. We map out the first six weeks of the season on the board in my office and we figure out when we will go over rides, clears, and other areas. Some things may not get done until mid-March, and that’s okay. Brown lacrosse is typically a bit more complex with some of our slide schemes and offensive systems. We lean on complexity and intelligent decision-making, but first, we have to recognize that we are a fundamentally good lacrosse program.

Take me behind the scenes during the preseason. What are the coaches doing to prepare for each practice, upcoming scrimmages, and ultimately, the regular season?

We have two new assistants this season with Scott Dalgliesh and Kip Turner. We’re at a point where we’re still learning about each other. We’re spending time together talking about X’s and O’s, talking about philosophies, watching film and sometimes, not even Brown film. Recently, we attended a Brown-Quinnipiac basketball game together and watched from a defensive and offensive perspective. This is a learning year for the three of us and one where we can be more comfortable sharing ideas.

Can you provide readers with a breakdown of how a typical Brown practice is organized?

We start with a base of 12 minutes for shooting with the offense and defense doing stickwork, clearing, outlets and some scheme talk. It’s mostly active, but there is some talking involved as well. The next 12 minutes is the dynamic warm up, things like high knee exercises, skipping, and static stretching.

Now, we’re ready to be more physical and we go to stations. I love stations. Each coach will oversee a station and we’ll have the guys spend 4-5 minutes at each one. The first might focus on 1 v 1, another might be ground balls, and the other stickwork, keep away or 4 vs. 3 in a small area. Of course, we can do a variety of things with the stations and we change them up each time. Next up is typically a water break followed by stickwork drills. We do full-field drills where we emphasize player development and there’s 8 minutes of that.

In the second half of practice, we’re now just starting to do scheme-oriented things, transition drills with fast breaks and full field transition drills. It’s not always 6 vs 6, either. Sometimes it’s 4 vs. 4 actually — one with an offensive coach, and one with a defensive coach. And we’re doing 3 on 3 drills and working on slide packages as well. There’s 15 minutes of that.

Then there’s 40 minutes left of rides and clears and we go 6 vs. 6 at one end. After that, we scrimmage for 10-15 minutes. The key here is that we re-create decision-making in our drills — game-day decision making. You can do that in a small picture, like a 3 vs. 3 format, but sometimes you have to go to a 6 vs. 6 format because that’s what a game is like. We are a bit more structured than others and we try to stick to the plans by the minute.

How do you get your team in playing shape during the preseason? Walk me through some highlights of your conditioning program.

Right now it’s all about the legs and running. Interval training is very important. We often do fartleks, which is a Swedish term. For instance, we’ll run hard for two minutes and then do 30 second jogs. We try to create a constant variation of speeds. Another is a 300-yarder, but we go 25 yards 12 times. It’s about how quick can you do that with those 11 change of directions. That’s a big test for us. We time the players and they’re tested against each other.

Explain to young players why it’s important to be in the best shape you can possible be?

It’s all about injury prevention. I’ve been coaching for 20 years and the men who arrive out of shape to the first practices — and those first practices are grueling — are the one’s who get injured. They may be carrying too much weight, for instance, and so there’s additional stress on the joints and lots of shin splints. The body just isn’t prepared for the pounding.

Also, you want to know where your breath is coming from. You don’t want to have to worry about how much gas you have left in the tank. In college lacrosse, guys are at home for 40 days without us after final exams. Talk about trust and self motivation — it’s huge. While we run all year long and send the players packets with weight training info, the onus is on our men and we have to rely on them to get it done.

What’s a favorite drill of yours over the years?

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.

What’s a favorite drill of your players?

There’s one we do at the end of practice called the “3 v 2, 4 v 3, 5 v 4.” It starts 3 v 2 and the team with the advantage starts behind the goal. It starts out 3 v 2 and then something happens, a goal, a save or a turnover. After this, a new ball is thrown in at the top and two new guys enter, and now what was once a 3 v 2 is now a 4 v 3. The offensive turns into the defense and then something happens. After this, two more guys enter from behind the goal, and it’s 5 v 4. We keep score and the drill has evolved into some trash talking with no rules and we let the guys have fun and play loose.

Is there a specific play you’ve used over the years that’s been particularly effective?

I’m a big fan of the “Hidden Ball Trick”, or “Fake Flip Play.” Our attackmen will come together behind the goal, flip the ball in the air and you’re not quite sure whose stick it falls into. We do this in man-up. There’s less pressure and the guys can come together without getting banged and can create deception and the defense doesn’t quite know who has the ball.

We’ve scored some goals over the years using this. We always emphasize to the guys to carry out the fake. Keep on cradling. If just one guy falls for it, it still works. We practice that and have the guys come together and act a little “Hollywood.” It’s a fun play I’ve taken with me everywhere I’ve been.

As a Division I college coach, what do you look for most in recruits?

There are so many factors, but athleticism is No. 1. You have to be quick and athletic. It’s hard to be successful at Division I without athleticism — the speed of the game is so much faster. We are always looking for that.

But you just can’t be athletic, it’s more about stickwork, lacrosse IQ and savviness. Size is great, too,  and probably third or fourth on the list. I’ve been successful having smaller men, so it’s not absolutely necessary.

Another big part that we can’t see sometimes is toughness and heart. That comes from talking to coaches and finding out if a particular player is someone that, during tough situations, steps up and takes the lead or is leading more towards negativity. A positive attitude is key.

What’s some of the best advice you can give to a new coach, whether at the youth, middle or high school level?

Stay positive. Be a positive coach. Think about the coaches you played for and have enjoyed playing for and you probably think of the coach who was tough but positive and fun.

Enjoy it. Externally, push the men and have big expectations that the team will get better. Internally, keep your expectations low. Remember, it’s not the national championship. There’s nothing that big at stake. The mission is to develop young men and help them be better athletes, but also better people, too. As a coach, you have a huge role in that. You have earned respect early on, and you either lose it or keep earning it.

Don’t lose sight in the fact that you can mold behavior, things like proper etiquette, competitiveness and doing the right thing. For the new coaches, do the research and become a lacrosse aficionado and learn the game. Be a positive force, a hurricane of positivity so that the kids will want to come back to practice each day.

What’s some of the best advice you can give to a rising player, whether at the youth, middle or high school level?

Don’t specialize. Play all the sports you want to. You will be a better all-around athlete playing those sports. Lacrosse-wise, continue to push yourself. Also, it’s critical that you become a two-handed player. Look in the mirror and practice and really work on that weakside.

You were in talks with Penn State last summer to take over the head coaching position but ultimately decided to return to your alma mater. What were the key factors in making that decision?

It was a hard decision. Penn State is an incredible institution for academics and athletics and there are a lot of great people there. Ultimately, it came to that I’m an alum at Brown and I couldn’t say no to my alma mater. For me, there’s a lot of brown in that blood. It’s who I am.

What’s the outlook for Brown Men’s Lacrosse in 2011?

All I know is that we will get together on that first day and depending on how good of shape we are in, that’s how quickly we can get to work. If we are focused, then we will be right into it and we can build this program, build the foundation from last year and take it to the next level.

With sports, you don’t know the ending. Nothing is guaranteed each year. Our motto is, “Expect nothing, earn everything.”

Lars Tiffany has partnered with Championship Productions to produce several lacrosse videos. Click here to see the entire Tiffany catalog.

3 Effective Man-Down Lacrosse Drills to Boost Defensive Play

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, November 30, 2010

This week’s player development feature focuses on man-down defense and three key drills that can help boost your team’s overall defensive play. Led by Brown University head men’s lacrosse coach Lars Tiffany, the drills featured in this segment will also help coaches evaluate which players have the intelligence and stick skills to knock down crucial passes in 6 v 5 situations. They also simulate game-like situations, make players go at full speed and are easy to implement in practice.

Knock-Down Drill

In this drill, a coach will stand about 10 yards in front of the crease and face the cage while one defender stands off to the left side of the cage. There’s also a goalie in net.

The coach will then fire a pass at the net as hard as he can. Meanwhile, as soon as coach winds up for his pass, the defender will sprint in from the left side with his stick in the middle of the passing line to try and catch, tip or knock the ball down. If the ball goes through to the goalie, or if the defender catches it, they will throw back to the coach immediately after. The defender continues on, moves to the right and clears out of the play. Next, another defender steps in and the drill continues on as the coach winds up and fires on net.

The key to this drill is that the defender looks to knock down the pass and disrupt the offensive flow. Also, coaches should be sure to change the direction of the drill and work from the right side. Right-handed defenders will now have to reach across their body with the stick in order to disrupt a pass.


Knock-Down Drill With an Outlet

In this drill, defenders will now use a drop-step and open up to anticipate a pass. The drill begins with the goalie who has possession of the ball. The goalie throws a pass to an outlet player on the left-side wing, about 10-15 yards away. The defender, who started out facing the goalie with the ball, must now open up to the pass and see the outlet and then approach that player as he would in a normal situation with his stick out and backside down.

Next, the outlet player will pass across to the coach, who is standing in front of the cage about 10 yards away (similar to our previous drill). When this pass occurs, the defender will now drop-step and open up towards the ball/coach — never turning his back on ball — and then sprint into the middle region above the crease. The coach then fires the ball at the goalie and it’s the job of the defender to disrupt the pass like the drill before. When the simulation is finished, the next defender immediately jumps in and is ready to carry on with the drill. Be sure to change directions and use the opposite side of the field, too.


4 vs. 2 Drill

In this scenario, A, B, C, and D are the offensive players and are spread out in a box formation in front of the net. There are two defenders (D1 and D2). D1 starts out covering A with the ball and D2 is in the middle of the box.

The A player then throws a pass over to B. At this time, the D2 defender then moves from his off-ball position to on-ball and approaches B. D1 now opens up, drop-steps and sprints into the middle of the box in order to get into the skip lane between B and C.

This drill can continue if B doesn’t force the skip pass to C and decides to pass to D on the side. D1, who was in the middle of the field, now flies out and approaches D with the ball. D2 must now drop-step and get to the middle and anticipate the skip pass. The defenders are essentially always switching here from being on-ball to being off-ball.

Remember, always be aware of that skip pass. Coaches should also encourage offensive players to force the ball a lot, Plus, put plenty of balls behind each offensive player to keep up a fast pace and then rotate personnel in accordingly.


The drills featured in this article can be found in the Championship Productions DVD “Man-Down Defense: A Catalog of Drills” featuring Lars Tiffany. For more defensive-oriented videos featuring Coach Tiffany, click here.


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