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In this week’s chalk talk segment, we’ll break down key offensive principles for high scoring attacks. Follow along as Virginia associate head coach and offensive coordinator Marc Van Arsdale runs through essential team principles, individual responsibilities, and off-ball responsibilities for an overall effective offense. By incorporating these tips and techniques, you’ll be able to put your players in the best position possible to be successful on the offensive end.
When we talk about team offense, we start with team principles. It doesn’t matter what set your team runs. These principles can be applied from the youth level and all the way up to the college game.
You want the entire field to be covered by the defense. For this example, we’ll attack out of a 2-3-1 set from the top. We’ve got two midfielders up top, a midfielder on the crease, and attackman on both wings, and one attackman behind the cage. This set up is balanced, spreads out the field, and allows you to maintain proper spacing on the field.
Note: With younger players, they have the tendency to crowd the ball. But we don’t want too many guys in one area. This makes it too easy for the defense to double team or prevent you from throwing passes to teammates.
We want to get the ball across the middle of the field and essentially use all four quadrants of the field. Every time the ball crosses a quadrant line, it changes which side is ballside and which side is weakside for defense, so it makes everything more complicated for defenses in terms of sliding. When it does cross that line, it’s a great time for re-dodges, cuts, seals, and feeds to the inside.
For instance, if the ball starts in the top left quadrant, the shot may generate somewhere on the bottom left side. We like the ball moving from the front to back and back to front. This makes defenders turn their heads. In lacrosse, there’s a fair amount of area behind the net to attack, so we want to occupy that space by moving the ball front to back and across the middle of the field. There are many ways to do that and hopefully find the weakside for a high-percentage scoring chance.
The key is that we want to be able to get the ball through to the backside.
This puts the short sticks into a sliding position and it reduces one of the long sticks that may be in one of the passing lanes. This means you are also putting the ball into the hands of your best players.
Within all of these concepts, there are many responsibilities for the individual.
The ball carrier has two options. First, they can make a hard penetrating move to the goal. Or second, they can move their feet to make a pass. With younger players, it’s important to remember to run while you are looking and look while you are running. Don’t stand still. Also, don’t catch the ball and then put your head down and charge. If you do this, you aren’t seeing the field. Remember, you are a dodger and passer at the same time.
First, you can prepare to clear space. Don’t crowd the ball carrier. Move your feet and create some space for the new ball carrier. Second, make a simple cut or prepare to make one, like a give and go. Third, pick away. If you are a midfielder up top, you can pick away for another midfielder. It creates space for teammates to move into. You can also pick for the crease man and create a chance for him.
Fourth, although it’s not recommended for younger players, you can pass the ball and be in a position to go pick for the ball. This way, you can work more of a two-man game (and this is becoming far more prevalent today as well). However, to do this, players need to have very good stick skills, otherwise it’s a bit dangerous to run at a younger level due to high turnover rates.
The first responsibility of an off-ball player is to make space for the ball carrier (like a backdoor cut). Don’t just stand there and call for the ball. Create some space so your teammate has the chance to attack the cage. It also forces the defense to make decisions as well.
Second, you can V-cut to receive the ball. Read the body language of the ball carrier. This will determine where to go from there.
For the crease player, his job is to maintain a relationship where he is away from the ball. This creates lanes for cutters and makes slides a bit longer. You can lengthen those slides as much as possible. Each time the ball moves, the crease player moves. It gives him the opportunity to read a slide. Look to find an open area and move away from where the slide is. Then back away into the open space to receive a pass and finish on the inside.
Legendary women’s lacrosse coach Cindy Timchal has produced eight national titles and more than 400 career wins during her illustrious career. So what’s been a major key to her success over the years? The current Navy head coach credits the “House Offense” for producing some potent attacks and getting the most out of players.
Through whiteboard diagrams and on-field demonstrations, Timchal breaks down some of the core elements of the offense before showcasing key drills that support this offensive approach. Look to incorporate this highly effective offense with your squad and take away a few competitive practice drills as well.
It’s key to be organized on the offensive end. This takes some time at practice and there’s a number of drills to help break this down. Basically, this is a 7-on-7 offense or “House” because it’s in the shape of a house, with a box in front, a player behind, and players working inside. A major goal here is to establish great balance.
Meanwhile, stickwork skills are extremely valuable. Players should keep their sticks close to the body, tuck them in, and work on snapping moves in order to get more effective with their scoring abilities. It’s also key that they are constantly working in tight quarters and under great defensive pressure, just like in a game situation.
Spacing is also very important with this offense. Players can’t be too tight. This allows the defense to mark them more effectively. Too often the offense is spread out, making the passing lanes too far away. Proper spacing is critical to success here. Depending on the defense, the set-up is going to line up between the eight-meter and 12-meter lines.
The House Offense allows coaches to put players in positions to excel and utilize their strengths and role-playing abilities. If you have a lot of great players on your squad, you can really mix it up in order for them to respond.
Also, always challenge the defense by attacking both sides of the cage. If you bring the ball down the right side, you should also want to be able to get it behind and to the opposite side, as well. This puts the pressure on the defense and forces them to play on both sides of the field. At the same time, it helps you find openings all over the field, hopefully leading to easy goals.
Start with two dodgers at the top and just inside the 12-meter line. They are looking to go hard at the net and dodge. Drive aggressively and find that angle to the cage. A lot of teams will crash and double right away as a dodger goes to the net. If this happens, look to get the ball behind. This behind-the-net player (let’s call them A3) will really want to take off strong and attack the other side of the cage.
All the while, two post players on the inside (A5 and A6) can post up for each other, go with the left hand or the right hand, among many other options. These players can also come off picks and look for the feed inside from teammates behind or down the alley.
If A3 curls around the left side, A4 (the player on the top left side of the offense) can look for the backdoor. Players can also reposition from here as well. A key here is for players to demonstrate patience and poise instead of being hurried, rushed, and forcing passes.
Look to work in triangle formations as well. This way, there is always support on both the right and left sides of the field. Players can also work in triangles together up top and down low.
Begin with a three-on-three formation. Start with two offensive players up top and one behind the cage. The first player will look to drive and force the double team. Eventually, the ball gets behind and then back up top on the opposite side. Now this up-top offensive player looks to drive. If she gets doubled, the ball goes back behind again. And the drill continues like this. Work quickly and make constant movement. Players with possession should always be moving aggressively.
Get four corners of players set up in a one-one-one format. Two offensive players will be behind the goal and two others start out up top. The goal here is to develop one-on-one moves. Start the ball behind the cage and look for the first player to go one-on-one to the cage and get a shot off. Then move to the top and have the next offensive player drive to the net. Keep moving around the horn until all players have taken reps. Look to work on inside moves in tight and get off quality shots.
Finally, this effective box drill is a 4-on-3 drill that works on offensive ball movement and defensive rotations.